Over at the Huffington Post, Miranda Frum wrote a kind of odd response to my piece from the homepage today. She said it was “out of reality” (is that a thing?) and catered to “the elderly and bitter.” Her critique is, um, interesting, so here’s a quick perusal.
Frum kicks off her piece with a discussion of my delusional old-folk up-sucking, then goes off about how it is hard to get a job (she mentions the opening scene of Girls, which I also mentioned in my piece), which she follows with what appears to be a tangential little two-paragraph anti-hook-up-culture screed — I hope someone’s got Hannah Rosin on speed dial. After those generic complaints about society in general, she gets to the good part, where she says we live in “this terrible, hurtful, lawless world where no one trusts each other anymore.” She follows this up by trying her hand at mind-reading, with underwhelming results: “Woodruff, for her part, believes that modern women should hearken back to the outdated and disproven ideals of the Second Wave feminism of the 1970s.” I wish Frum would follow me around and help me out by making such confident pronouncements whenever I have a crisis of belief — it would have made college a lot easier.
But two serious responses to her assertion that I miss the ’70s: First, I did read my piece all the way through (which apparently makes one of us), and didn’t say anywhere that it was some magical Decade of the Woman that we should all just pine away for as we weep salt tears about boys’ not taking us out for coffee. Second, if things right now are so “terrible, hurtful, [and] lawless”, then is it possible a bit of nostalgia might theoretically (maybe) be a little defensible? I mean, she describes the present as this Hobbesian dystopia, but then turns around and acts like anyone who doesn’t love love love it is a Luddite/octagenarian/atavist. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little weird.
Listen, I’m very happy to live in 2012 instead of 1979. But the whole point of the piece was that feminist ideals have changed since then (Frum agrees) — and, in my opinion, for the worse. I wrote that empowerment is something women should claim for themselves, not gratefully receive from our benevolent president. I also argued that when contemporary feminist voices like Dunham’s encourage women to expect the federal government to take care of them, they don’t empower said women at all.
I also think it’s a little funny that a Huffington Post writer is defending the lifestyle portrayed on Girls, which is such a blunt depiction of childish behavior by overindulged upper-class twentysomethings that it almost feels like a propaganda piece against white privilege. But that’s not Frum’s reading of the show; she says it’s “about women who are trying to grow up in a world in which economic prospects are dim; a world in which men and women can’t seem to connect meaningfully or trustingly with each other at any level.”
What’s the most tactful way to say “duh”? Of course that’s what Girls is about. The point I made in my piece — a point Frum seems to have missed — is that part of growing up is taking care of yourself, and that taking care of yourself is a good thing, and that when Lena Dunham makes a case for the president’s reelection that’s predicated on her expectation of him to take of her and her peers, that’s a problem.
I like Girls. I think it’s a good show. I said that in the piece. What I don’t like is being told that I’m getting ripped off when I take care of myself.