Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Expensive Way to Make a Living

Former editor Emily Gould is clearly the woman of the hour. Her skewed portrait graced the cover of the Sunday New York Times Magazine this week.

Inside Gould wrote her own profile, explaining how she learned that it is not such a good thing to wash your dirty linen in public. Her conclusion: if you have to expose your intimate life, make sure you have a way to delete it.

Have you ever noticed that the most famous of the self-exposure junkies are women? There seems to be no market for the intimate secrets of a Julian Allison or a Stephen Klein. There are no lines of eager adolescents waiting for the latest version of Boys Gone Wild.

So, women in particular can make a living by exposing intimate details about their bodies and their selves. Who knew?

But why was Gould so hellbent on blogging her private life? Her response: "I had the right to say whatever I wanted." Not only that, but: "I was being creative...." In her blog she could exercise maximum expressive freedom. Her blog was: "a public place where I would always be allowed to write, without supervision, about how I felt. Even having to take into account someone else's feelings about being written about felt like being stifled in some essential way."

For reasons that escape me she calls this "empowerment." This means that the term has largely outlived its meaning.

Of course, Gould's reasoning is a rehash of the pseudo-wisdom offered up by the therapy culture.

As we know, many people pay lip service to these phrases and then go on with their lives. Women bloggers like Emily Gould and Julia Allison take it a step further. They make it their mission to show us what happens when you make them rules to live by.

Express yourself freely without concern for anyone's feelings and you will, as Gould attests, turn your life into permanent psychodrama.

Much is wrong with Gould's reasoning. First, she errs by couching it in the language of human rights. True enough, she has the "right" to say what she wants, and not just in her blog. But, so what.

You also have the right to do things that are rude, crude, and lewd. Does that mean that you ought to do them? I think not.

You also have the right to humiliate yourself and to rain emotional abuse on your friends, your family, and your neighbors. Does that mean that you ought to do it? Unless you want to suffer the mental anguish that Emily Gould describes in such arresting and painful detail, I would recommend that you avoid such forays into unbridled self-exposure.

Second, Gould seems to believe that when she is tempted to be considerate of her boyfriend's feelings, she is "stifling" the free flow of her intimacy onto her blog.

The compulsive blogger will inevitably hurt other people, but if those unenlightened others object it must mean that they do not love her enough.

When Gould humiliates her boyfriend by sharing his private thoughts, feelings, or actions she is abusing him emotionally. To call it creative self-expression is simply a culturally-sanction delusion.

She might feel that she is connecting with the world, but that world is either laughing at her or is pleading with her to stop.

After all, it is painful to see talented young women selling their dignity for the aleatory thrill of fame.

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