Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Double standards

Sylvia Plath didn't like them:
She didn’t want boyfriends to think she was ‘fast’. But what was so bad about showing love and affection?
The double standard particularly angered her: if a girl said she was going steady with a boy, he could still do almost anything; whereas if a girl dated lots of guys she was considered loose and cheap. 
On the other hand, she claimed to have had hundreds of boyfriends. All of this according to Andrew Wilson, who has written a book called Mad Girl's Love Song about Plath. The article at the length is also supposedly written by him but it seems to be more of a hasty and poorly done cut and paste job from something else, possibly the book in question.

Where does one draw the line between a reasonable number of boyfriends or girlfriends and too many? Somewhere before "hundreds" no doubt. Even allowing for hyperbole, Plath is not credible on this (actually, she isn't very credible generally speaking).

The long life of Sylvia Plath mythology is puzzling. Her poetry is really good at times but not particularly special even by the low, low standards of the 20th century. The chief limitation of it is that it often tends to be about Sylvia Plath and while Sylvia Plath was clearly an object of endless fascination to Sylvia Plath she was a shriveled, miserable mess of a human being.

Yet, while her life is boring and pathetic, there is little industry of books about her, a little community of people who like to wallow in that pathetic life.

Here is something to think about: although double standards angered her, she had one of her own and it's a lulu:
It was obvious from her poetry that Sylvia thought herself in love. Yet Perry had a rather different perspective. ‘It was all incredibly innocent. Our dating comprised of just getting together and talking or bicycle riding. I viewed her as a tremendously appealing person, but I never recall ever being romantically attracted to her, which puzzled me because she was so pretty.’
Perhaps one of the reasons was Sylvia’s emotional inconsistency. Whereas she assumed a boy would remain fixed in his feelings for her – to remain in awe – she felt able to flit from one heart-throb to another.

She never grew out of this capriciousness. She was forever in a state of emotional flux, yet assumed those around her to be fixed, their gaze directed towards her alone.
Is it too rude to point out that there is nothing emotionally inconsistent about that attitude? To the contrary, it's very consistent, you might even say pathologically so. (It is one of the fond fantasies of intellectuals to imagine that the narcissism that is so prevalent in our culture is driven by commercialism but it is far easier to find its roots in high culture as here with Sylvia Plath.)

Does some odd drug switch off intellectuals brains when they read or write about Sylvia Plath. She "assumed those around her to her to be fixed, their gaze directed towards her alone." Does that sound like someone to admire and study? Is anybody even a tiny bit surprised that a woman who thought this way might commit suicide after discovering that her husband had an affair with another woman? Is anybody really shocked that a man married to such a woman would have an affair? (That is once we get over the surprise at his having married her in the first place.)

Her physical attractions, by the way, were considerable. There is a shot of her in a one piece bathing suit with the straps down at the link that is worth clicking on the link just to see. I'm sure that has nothing to do with anything about her character though.

No comments:

Post a Comment