For reasons that escape me the femosphere is up in arms about Kristi Coulter’s article about modern First World women, or better, the Twenty-Four Hour woman.
Women have objected strenuously to the fact that Coulter seems to be blaming it all on the patriarchy, because, after all, who does that anymore?
For my part, never having bought into the women-can-have-it-all silliness, I was more interested in the quality of the writing and the great story that Coulter tells. As it happens, she writes exceptionally well and much of the time seems to be, as I would put it, “in character.” If you were reading a cri de coeur by Holden Caulfield, you would not be thinking that J. D. Salinger was speaking his heart. You would understand that he has created a character that has a specific way of seeing the world and of making his way through it. Why should we not afford Coulter the same consideration?
For my part I have the greatest appreciation for great writing. I do not really care whether Coulter agrees with me or echoes my thoughts. There is not enough really good writing out there and those who produce it deserve our respect and praise. Laurels for Kristi Coulter.
Coulter is describing a young woman who has stopped drinking and who has gained a measure of sobriety. Naturally, she sees alcohol everywhere. She sees temptation everywhere. She sees Sirens inviting her to take a drink. And she sees that far too many other women are more than happy to drown their lives in booze.
When you are a recovering alcoholic and when everyone around you seems to be drinking, the world does not look very friendly and inviting. And besides, you feel like an outsider, a misfit, a traitor to your gender.
And you are likely to feel some considerable anger. At the patriarchy, of course, because you have been taught—I wonder where?—to blame the patriarchy for everything that has gone wrong in your life. But you are also, fairly obviously, blaming yourself for having bought the story about today’s modern liberated woman.
You are likely to be angry because, however much you would like to blame the patriarchy, today’s modern women do not, as a point of pride, take advice from any member of the male sex. At which point it becomes increasingly difficult to blame it on men.
True enough, Coulter rails against the patriarchy. She is learning how to be sober in a world where women drink themselves into oblivion because they have set unrealistic goals for themselves, and where they tend to blame others when they cannot ply the world to their will. Or better where they believe that the only options they have are either to be everything or to be nothing. That way madness or alcoholism lies.
The notion that women can be everything and can have everything does not come down to us from the patriarchy. Not at all. It comes down from second-wave feminists who set up an unrealistic expectation in order to seduce young women into joining the cause. Join the cause and you will have everything.
It did not work out that way, of course.
Is it really that hard, being a First World woman? Is it really so tough to have the career and the spouse and the pets and the herb garden and the core strengthening and the oh-I-just-woke-up-like-this makeup and the face injections and the Uber driver who might possibly be a rapist? Is it so hard to work ten hours for your rightful 77% of a salary, walk home past a drunk who invites you to suck his cock, and turn on the TV to hear the men who run this country talk about protecting you from abortion regret by forcing you to grow children inside your body?
Evidently, Coulter does not have warm feelings toward men. One might say that, to some extent, the feeling is reciprocated. We live in a world where the cultural environment is hostile, even toxic. And it is not just hostile toward women.
Rather than say anything about second-wave feminism, Coulter blames it on a pefume… one that I do not recall. The perfume commercial promised women that they could be everything, that they could have everything. It was addressed to women who were breathing in the fumes of the new feminist revival. To blame it on the perfume maker is really to miss the point.
Do you remember the Enjoli perfume commercial from the 1970s? The chick who could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man?
I blame that bitch for a lot. For spreading the notion that women should have a career, keep house, and f**k their husbands, when the only sane thing to do is pick two and outsource the third. For making it seem glamorous. For suggesting it was going to be fun. And for the tagline she dragged around: “The 8-Hour Perfume for the 24-Hour Woman.” Just in case you thought you could get one fucking hour off the clock.
The passage shows the damage done by unrealistic expectations, by the notion that a woman can have it all. For my part I agree with Coulter that a woman should choose two and outsource the third. It’s brilliant antidote to the have-it-all mentality.
Coulter continues that these unrealistic expectations have caused women to lose touch with their natures by marinating their bodies in alcohol. It’s not the same as liking your body. If that is their strategy that suggests that they are simply not very happy to be women. Call this yet another a consequence of the feminist revolution.
In Coulter’s words:
But knives and booze, yoga and booze, 13 mile runs and booze? What’s next to be liquored up: CPR training? Puppy ballet class? (Not really a thing, but someone should get on it.) Is there nothing so inherently absorbing or high-stakes or pleasurable that we won’t try to alter our natural response to it? Maybe women are so busy faking it — to be more like a man at work, more like a porn star in bed, more like 30 at 50 — that we don’t trust our natural responses anymore. Maybe all that wine is an Instagram filter for our own lives, so we don’t see how sallow and cracked they’ve become.
Perhaps, women are busy faking it. But, the question is: who told them that they had to be all these things? For the record, it was not I.
And Coulter does not conclude that she should be angry with the patriarchy. She concludes by being angry at the women and with herself. She describes a moment where she overcomes her anger and begins to see things more clearly. She is recovering and regaining her bearings. As I said, she is writing in character:
I am very angry with women that summer and then I’m very, very angry with myself. And I stay that way for months, trudging through my first sober Christmas and job change and flu and birthday and using that anger at every turn as a reminder to pay attention and go slow and choose things I actually want to happen. By the time summer comes back around I realize I no longer smell like eight-hour perfume.
The story has a happy ending… and not in the way you are thinking. It shows Coulter sitting around a pool with her friend Mindy, watching a group of women on the other side of the pool having what they think is a great time drinking pomegranate mimosas.
And, she is happy that she is not one of them. She prefers her side of the pool:
Then Mindy slides her Tom Ford sunglasses back over her eyes and says, “All I can say is it’s really nice on this side of the pool.” I laugh and my heart swells against my swimsuit and I pull my shades down too, to keep my suddenly watery eyes to myself. Because it is. It is so nice on this side of the pool, where the book I’m reading is a letdown and my legs look too white and the ice has long since melted in my glass and work is hard and there’s still no good way to be a girl and I don’t know what to do with my life and I have to actually deal with all of that. I never expected to make it to this side of the pool. I can’t believe I get to be here.