Thursday, December 13, 2018

The great pocket conspiracy

It's a conspiracy against women:

If you watch this notice how often the video attributes things to "fashion" or "the fashion industry". At other times, the video slides into passive voice such that things happen to women without anyone being responsible for it. At 3.01, "... from there, women's jeans fell victim to fashion over function." It just happened!

The video does allow that putting larger pockets into "skinny" jeans would cause them to "bulge out in ways that are unflattering for many women". Well, that's kind of a problem isn't it. It's a matter of contradictory desires. To have one thing, you have to sacrifice another. And that is kind of women's responsibility isn't it?

There is another wrinkle to this jeans issue and wrinkles have very much to do with it. The tiny pockets do something else too. They make it possibly to make women's jeans fit much closer around the crotch. Anyone think that's an accident?

What makes this aspect of fashion fascinating is that no one admits it's going on. It's esoteric: women seek to send erotic messages but don't admit they are doing it, perhaps not even to themselves. And it is precisely because no one admits that women do this that videos like the one above are possible. The one place where the mask slips is when the French historian Ariane Fennetaux is interviewed. Being both French and serious historian, she speaks of the struggle as between two groups of women, those who favor practicality and those who want to use fashion to make erotic display. That erotic aspect is not openly discussed in the video but it is implicitly acknowledged.

Here is why I think this is a problem. That struggle still goes on. There are women who want to make erotic display and pick jeans that will help them do this and there are others who don't want to do this. And there more than a few women in the second group who would like the first group to stop. They are powerless in this because the first group, while not the majority, are still a large group and they buy a lot of clothes.

And yet we act as if women's choices have nothing to do with this, as if small pockets are something forced on women by an uncaring fashion industry. As a consequence, we drive this erotic aspect of life underground; it becomes truly esoteric.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Virtue signalling

Rod Dreher shares a post today about a father who made his daughter walk to school after she got kicked off the bus a second time for bullying. You can read it here. Dreher praises the father for this action. Then, at the closing of the post, he says this:
(Though I wish he hadn’t shared this on social media.)
Me too. No loving father would subject his daughter to humiliation like this. We now know where she learned how to be a bully.

Those brackets are Dreher's by the way.

A fundamental moral question is this: am I really interested in virtue as a goal worth pursuing or am I really acting for other's consumption? To put it another way, am really I trying to be a better person or am I seeking attention, approval and acceptance from others?

Virtue signalling is not evil. Everyone does it. But virtue signalling is also not a virtue.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"... so convinced that women need wiles and arts ..."

That is from Le Divorce as quoted in my post from last week. There I repeated a claim I make often, that seeking to be loved for yourself is empty and narcissistic. That is the opposite of what is usually claimed. And that usual claim is at least credible. Isn't being loved for who I really am more honest than being loved for what I can do? To which I reply, only if you think what you really are is so darned good that you are entitled to love.

Suppose we flip it around and ask what we should give others. And here we return to the subject of Isabel lying to herself. She sees all these cultural treasures of French womanhood as mere "wiles and arts" as opposed to ways of becoming someone better, someone who can give attention, approval and acceptance to others that those others will think worth having.

And, surely, we wouldn't want to respond by saying something like, "What about the attention, approval and acceptance that I need?"

After this remark, Isabel starts sharing scenes. That is, she tells the story as if it were a series of scenes from a movie. Isabel, of course, could not have been present for some of these scenes. She tells us how she imagines the scene would be presented in film based on what she was told and what she assumes must have been the case, supplemented, perhaps, with a few educated guesses. The very first scene is Isabel's sister Roxy discovering that her husband is leaving her. And the obvious question, one that Isabel doesn't answer directly, is why?

Roxy we are told, is very American, going about dressed in jeans or "those awful flower-child clothes". But it's more than clothing. Roxy is someone who seeks to be loved for herself.

At first glance, we might think that the issue is whether Charles-Henri is leaving Roxy because she wasn't a good enough wife. It seems likely that this is a question that troubles Roxy herself, although she doesn't have the courage to ask it directly. It soon becomes obvious, however, that Charles-Henri has acted in an indefensible manner. He is an empty man, no one we need take seriously. And yet the question remains, did Roxy fail as a woman? (After all, she married him in the first place; why didn't she see his weakness?)

What does this mean? I think we can approach the issue of "wiles and arts" in two ways.  At first glance we might, along with Isabel, assume these wiles and arts only about pursuing a man. But at a second glance they are really about the art of living rather than the art of seduction. And here we have the real theme of the novel: Isabel, faced with French culture, has to treat the art of living as a serious moral issue and she has somehow avoided that before coming to France.