22 April 2004

look at this article about the harlem club, a "private social club" for african americans in new york.

could it be more thoroughly, unreconstructedly awful and dehumanizing? i'm not sure. maybe the men who founded it could have objectified the women slightly more -- perhaps by forcing them to wear costumes or price tags, or simply auctioning their naked bodies. maybe, instead of simply putting the club out of the reach of non-wealthy folks, they could have organized club outings involving spitting on poor folks. maybe they, as african americans, could have founded a whites-only club, then spent their evenings peering in its windows and doors.

point being, i'm not sure that it could be worse and still be realistically possible.

it's just so...so...so...third wave of them. and yes, i realize that i'm taking third wave's name in vain here. but that sort of feminism symbolizes for me the breakdown of any and all solidarity between people who belong to groups that have been, in one way or another, disadvantaged. the story seems to be: well, i'm not struggling. therefore the struggle is over! third wave feminists write for "women's" magazines (no, i do not mean bitch or ms.). they are "empowered" to conform to conventional beauty standards, obsess over the opinions of their (implicitly male?) partners, and generally ignore the politics surrounding gender. in general, they are women who are privileged (by wealth or conventional beauty or what have you) within the status quo. they wish to be "feminists" without questioning their own position, and the every-woman-for-herself individuality of third wave is the best way to do it.

i know very little about race politics. let that be said. so it is almost certain that i'm missing a huge piece of this puzzle. however: to use the lamentable situation of many african americans in new york -- which can be attributed reasonably directly to the system in which harlem club members have apparently done well -- to excuse the formation of a club to further benefit socially and financially elite males, a place expressly designed to ignore present social realities and to objectify african american women, seems to me just...really...heinous.

the spokesperson for the club notes that he didn't marry his wife because she was nice. he married her because she was attractive "for him." it seems to me that there is something particularly insidious and nasty about requiring accomplishment and then willfully ignoring it. i guess successful women are the most fun to bring to their knees, huh?

the women in the piece, moreover, come off as self-deluded, willing partners in their own mortification. you are an accomplished woman. you have a degree, a career, and a measure of financial independence. so you decide to become a member of an outfit where wealthy men, whose money you do not need, ogle your body while ignoring your achievements? yeah...sounds like a great strategy to me. i understand the part where it's hard for successful women to find equal partners, but the fact that someone has a nice job title and an even nicer car doesn't so much make up for the total absence of integrity that membership in the harlem club implies.

[laurel: "waiter? this society is crap. i want another one."
amelia: "yeah, this one has too much gristle. not enough meat on the bones. it's just unacceptable."]