The Clare Spark Blog

January 19, 2016

“New York values”

New-Yorker-NY-Daily-News-side-by-side-CruzWhen presidential aspirant Ted Cruz accused his rival Donald J. Trump of professing “New York values” (ultra-liberal sponsorship of gay marriage and “pro-abortion” sentiments) I immediately took offense, for I recognized the latent antisemitism in that remark. Not so on Fox News Channel, with the notable exception of Geraldo Rivera, whose mother is Jewish.  Last  night (1-18-16) Irish Catholic Bill O’Reilly sharply distanced himself from the Geraldo diagnosis, perhaps  oblivious to his semi-conscious feelings. (As a culture warrior, O’Reilly blames “secular progressives” for assaulting Christmas. His [deicide] guests from that ostensibly atheistic faction have had “Jewish” names, though O’Reilly has not been an obvious antisemite.)

This blog goes over old ground, for since 1986 I have been studying both latent and explicit antisemitism, and I will be very specific.

Cruz’s characterization of “New York values” evokes the rural hostility to “Cain’s cities” that, in the [Iowan] agrarian argot signify violence and decadence. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/17/melencolia-i-and-the-apocalypse-1938/.) Moreover, New York has always been a target of politicians for its Jewish population, and it is accurate that “liberal” Jews have, since they were supposedly agents of ferment hostile to WASP America, risen in the socio-economic scale, and arousing fear of “the Jewish vote” (see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/17/the-famed-jewish-vote/).

But consider the two policies specified by Senator Cruz: “pro-abortion” and “gay marriage.” First, no feminist (female or male) is in favor of slaughtering babies. That expression “pro-abortion” evokes the blood libel, an ancient fantasy that Jews murder Christian infants for their matzo-flavoring blood. (Some feminists may refer to “abortion rights” but I prefer the notion of “choice.”)

“Gay marriage” offends some ultra-conservatives, because it evokes androgyny, blurring the sharp separation between male and female that, it is believed, are necessary ingredients for abolishing poverty in the (restored) patriarchal family. Hitler (in Mein Kampf) referred to the “feminized masses” who, in my reading, were oddly both gullible and too curious about the affairs of their betters. Hitler, like many historians, abhorred “mass politics” pandering to the base instincts, unlike the displaced aristocracy.

Caruba/Flickr in Reason.com

Caruba/Flickr in Reason.com

Close reading is necessary to decode propaganda. It is unlikely that Ted Cruz intended to vilify Jews. But when sharp eyed and sensitive students of stereotypes call him out on at least latent name-calling, it behooves him and all politicians and journalists to wise up, as O’Reilly likes to say. (Update: I found the Leipzig postcard under Google images for “mass politics”; i.e., the loss of the “good King” opens the door to the “special interest group” that divides and ultimately conquers “the body politic.”)

German postcard (1906): Leipzig special interest group

German postcard (1906): Leipzig special interest group

 

 

 

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September 12, 2015

Why is gay marriage a hot button issue for religious conservatives?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Alabama protest

Alabama protest

The culture wars have overtaken the 2016 political campaign, as the Kim Davis incident in Kentucky, along with the overwhelming importance of “faith” now becoming a favorite topic on Fox News Channel, and no one, including Fiorina, seems to know how to analyze Donald Trump’s put down of Carly’s “face” that he blatantly describes as un-presidential (and indirectly as ugly).

This brings me back to misogyny, and the taboo against excessive androgyny (or blurring of male and female characteristics, apparently the case in ambitious Carly F., who dares to invade male turf).

First, misogyny. It is not widely acknowledged (though obvious) that women compete with other women to snag the most desirable males, and both model and resent gorgeous women, who simultaneously “plain” women strive to emulate, putting themselves through time consuming and expensive regimens of perfect hair, makeup, and recently, toned bodies as desirable as Greek goddesses are imagined to be. Pre-nup agreements guarantee that powerful, successful males can dump their wives with minimal consequences, while competition with younger women adds compulsion to wives striving against the inevitable status of “crone” as she transitions from middle to old age, keeping plastic surgeons busy.

Is it any wonder that social conservatives strive to perpetuate heterosexual marriage as a sacred obligation? Is it any wonder that many women find mothering and housework to be a desirable alternative to competition in the workplace, either as workers or professionals trying to balance the multiple demands of home and work, all the while fearing that husbands will “work late” with presumably more attractive women?

No one is free of some misogyny, unless s/he has worked through ambivalent relations with Mother. As more and more women gained status in the modern world, the rage against MOM became overt for reasons I outlined here (https://clarespark.com/2015/05/09/monster-moms/).

Second, on gay marriage: No other issue, other than abortion, has aroused so many negative emotions in persons of “faith.” I have known gay men and lesbians ever since the 1970s, and have never seen a gay relationship that was free of similar power struggles common to heterosexual relationships. (https://clarespark.com/2013/03/27/power-in-gay-andor-heterosexual-attachments/.)

It has been the contention of this website that all human relationships are problematic and ambivalent, and that no amount of religious conviction can erase the difficulties between even non-sexual contacts. Yet, social conservatives continue to live in denial, imagining that sex-role polarization within the heterosexual family (fathers are the warriors, providers, and disciplinarians, while mothers offer an unconditional love that may be associated with Jesus, hence his notorious “feminization” in the 19th century) can solve the problems of unemployment and illegitimacy in urban minority communities. (This issue is apparently too hot to handle, see https://clarespark.com/2015/08/08/the-moynihan-report-march-1965-and-instability-in-the-black-family/, one of my least read blogs).

hc-christ-sacredheart21

I admit to being androgynous, like many other writers or artists, for I do not concede to males a monopoly on intellect, rationality, or insight. When I was in college, my zoology textbook described males as rational and women as irrational; an assumption that I didn’t protest at the time. That was the late 1950’s . Can we move on, please?

gaymarriage

January 18, 2015

Is antisemitism ‘rational’ or ‘irrational?’

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
The Big Sleep: Bacall and Bogie

The Big Sleep: Bacall and Bogie

This blog continues the theme of my last blog: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/15/antisemitism-vs-anti-zionism-is-there-a-difference/.

There is a hot debate among academics over whether antisemitism is rational or irrational. My own position is that antisemitism is both “rational” and “irrational.” Above all, it is the intellectual combativeness of “the Jews” that makes us eternal wanderers, moderns avant la lettre, hence threatened with extinction. https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/.

The “rational” position: Historian Alfred S. Lindemann, author of Esau’s Tears: Modern Antisemitism and the Rise of the Jews (Cambridge UP, 2000), comes perilously close to antisemitism when he demonstrates through statistics that newly emancipated Jews were over-represented in the European professions and businesses. I have seen this over-representation argument before, as if adherence to standards rather than bean-counting was a Bad Thing. But Lindemann, now emeritus, taught at UC Santa Barbara, and the UC system is not noted for its Jew-friendly atmosphere, unless its “Jewish” professors are on the Left.

Lindemann’s book is not that different from Hannah Arendt’s linking of European Jewry with the Rothschild family, whose grossness presumably rubbed off on them—a detail in The Origins of Totalitarianism that I have not seen challenged, even among Arendt’s critics.

rothschildschoice

A somewhat less obnoxious position would be found in Christian antisemitism: that Biblical Jews remained guilty of deicide; while after the Reformation, those unwilling to convert were a constant threat to the credibility of Christianity in Europe. Uriel Tal pointed this out in Christians and Jews in Germany (Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 1975): 16 on post-Reformation class anxieties. Tal describes two strategies to deal with the corroding skepticism fostered by persistence of the obdurate Jew: one should either convert them or humiliate them so that their “abject state” testified to “the triumphant religion of Christianity.” (It was not until after WW2 that “the Judeo-Christian heritage” was devised to reconcile Judaism with Christianity: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Christian. By emphasizing the Ten Commandments, the drastic differences between the two religions were erased, and a measure of organic unity was achieved, notwithstanding some differences over immortality and worldliness.)

II. Irrationalist explanations:
In British press coverage of The Wandering Jew exhibition in Germany (der ewige Jude, linked above), journalists frequently described Goebbels as the gentlemanly “moderate”, relegating Streicher to the extremist pile. It is most peculiar that the Western press could have separated Goebbels from Streicher; in the spring of 1937, Goebbels propaganda department distributed a pamphlet to students and party leaders, calling for the recapture of “a lost identity” (to overcome the skepticism and despair of an industrialized world). Uriel Tal wrote, “political faith needs an anti-hero,” a scapegoat, a devil. Indeed it was the Jew who “having been a degraded sufferer for ages” was supposed to make the myth somewhat tangible and acceptable. Through the “universal conspiracy of the Jew” as well as the “defilement of his blood” the Jew brings about “the systematic decomposition of the Aryan race and the Germanic Folk.” In “Political Faith” of Nazism Prior to the Holocaust” (Annual Lecture of the Schreiber Chair of Contemporary Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, 1978): 19. But would such appeals have had any impact unless they benefited individuals and social classes in material ways?

wandering_jews_daughter

Finally, George Orwell, to my dismay, knew little about antisemitism in his wartime essays, but considered antisemitism to be a “neurosis,” hence irrational. To this day I wonder why he gave his Trotsky character the name of “Emmanuel Goldstein” in his masterwork Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949). Perhaps Orwell, the anti-“totalitarian” par excellence, was unaware that his politics were populist, hence opposed to the evil “money power.” I can’t account for his hostility to Jesus (a.k.a. Emmanuel), however, for he lamented the modern loss of faith in immortality, which vitiated the distinction between good and evil, encouraging the search for power as an end in itself.

evilstyle.net

evilstyle.net

All scapegoating explanations for antisemitism are irrationalist, assuming mass political emotions to be instigated by demagogues and the mass media who facilitate them. I have written about “projective identification” here: https://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/. The illustration for this blog emphasizes the seductive mother, who has too much power in the modern world. Both men and women may be troubled by this usually unexamined ambivalent bond. Is Woman the Jew of the Home?

December 18, 2014

“Rape culture”

rape-culture-imageThis blog is about “rape culture” (supposedly an invention of such “man-haters” as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon in the 1970s, and carried on, controversially, by such as misogynistic, yet Romantic and quixotic Aaron Sorkin: see http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/14/newsroom_finale_did_aaron_sorkin_forget_how_to_write_a_tv_show.html), http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-newsroom-crazy-making-campus-rape-episode, “The Affair” (a Showtime series), and postmodern treatments of the battle of the sexes.

The second wave of feminism did not turn out well, although some of the chapters in The Shock of the Global (Belknap Press of Harvard U., 2010), state or hint that feminism was the most lasting of the 1970’s “human rights movements” that displaced the “Cold War consensus,” going so far in its chapter on Rock Music to claim that groupies were sexually liberated, like androgynous rock stars, making a lasting contribution to the war against the puritanical 1950s. That a woman wrote this chapter, inverting freedom and slavery, should not surprise us. The second wave of feminism was sex-obsessed and most of the activist women I have known would hate this blog.

I have written earlier about the unwinnable and inevitable “battle of the sexes” for all research and personal observation show that men and women are put together differently, and no amount of activism, cross-dressing, or preaching will change these biological differences. (I wrote about androgyny here: https://clarespark.com/2014/01/23/androgyny/.)

DavidBowie

Thus when postmodern feminists of either sex try to contrast male and female perspectives on events in a marriage or an affair, they get it only partly right, as for instance, the contrasting views of recent events in Noah vs. Alison in “The Affair.” (For instance, Noah initially sees Alison as a femme fatale, a perception reiterated in the Fiona Apple death-obsessed song “Container” that heads each episode; whereas Alison sees Noah as the more aggressive of the pair.)

What is missing is any depth of insight into the difficulties in maintaining the romance in any relationship. Also MIA is the attraction that all mature adults feel for the unspoiled beauty of young children, who we imagine to be “innocent” of the animal urges that torment us in attempting to maintain a monogamous relationship, especially a relationship with children who may arouse contrasting and incompatible feelings in fathers versus mothers. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/06/16/woody-allen-and-the-myth-of-the-artist/.)

Most public speech is heavily censored, much of it by ourselves, as we fight to maintain our idealizations of those we love or admire. So we count on poetry and fiction to illuminate the “dark” side of our impulses, but authors, no matter how talented, well-intentioned, and “conscious” may have the same limitations as readers. For we are all populated internally by “ignorant armies that clash by night.” As I have maintained often on this website, we are to an unknowable extent prisoners of our contexts.

This blog has been abstract and vague for reasons of privacy, or perhaps not. For as Herman Melville famously observed in his “crazy” novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), “It is impossible to talk or to write without apparently throwing oneself helplessly open.” (Note the qualifying word “apparently”; this is how Melville hooks the reader, laying traps wherever he wanders. On the ideological misreadings of Melville’s oeuvre see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

“NO TRUST.”

notrust

January 23, 2014

Androgyny

marlene Start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFyPtCOEq8Y.  I queried my Facebook friends yesterday about what they thought “androgyny” signified, and got only a few answers. Perhaps it is a sensitive subject, particularly since many Americans believe that the second wave feminism and the gay rights movement were out to destroy the nuclear family, with its traditional division of labor between the father-disciplinarian-breadwinner, and the unconditionally nurturing, domesticated mother.

Many Americans across the political spectrum have not thought deeply about practical matters involving power between partners in either gay or heterosexual attachments (see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/27/power-in-gay-andor-heterosexual-attachments/, also https://clarespark.com/2012/05/10/androgyny-with-an-aside-on-edna-ferber/) , let alone what constitutes an ideal environment for raising children, or other relevant concerns that lie outside the realm of religion. To even mention Freud’s theory of “polymorphous perversity” is to raise many eyebrows and inspire dizziness, for we ask people to question their own upbringing, which could force them into dangerous, anxiety-provoking, territory.

This is how I see “androgyny.” My parents, being the children of Eastern European immigrants and preoccupied with earning a living, the Depression, and WW2, were oblivious to the challenges of child-rearing. But since there were only two girls (a baby brother died in infancy), and since I was the elder daughter, my father treated me in some respects as if I were a boy with male ambitions to excel at a profession outside the home.  And my mother, absorbed in her own preoccupations, never taught me how to be “girly” (as they say nowadays). I do recall her warning me that men desired their love-objects to be like “cows,” and that women should be interested solely in propping up the male ego. But with all her negligence, it was my mother who urged me to apply for a fellowship at Harvard, and she was ever proud of my independent mind, even when I was vaguely on the Left, which she never was.

So for me, androgyny, meant seeing my brain as an autonomous entity, no worse than the male brain, and with great effort, occasionally superior. Indeed I took pleasure in graduate school in overcoming obstacles to my scholarship whether the professors be male or female.

I never saw myself as torn between male and female roles. During my marriage, I took delight in pregnancy, child-rearing, and homemaking, but then I had help after my second child was six months old, which made all the difference. When the women’s movement erupted in the late 1960s, I was convinced that these were “unnatural” women, and held myself aloof. It never occurred to me that I was subjugated or socialized away from intellectual pursuits until after I was divorced, and especially after I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Indeed, it took me many years to assert myself appropriately, and it was a long, painful, and gradual process, with which I still struggle.

I shall end this too short blog with this observation: it is a characteristic of authoritarian societies that male and female “roles” are sharply delineated and polarized. And it remains an open question as to whether gender identity is determined by the genes or chosen in the context of a particular life experience. I tend toward Freud’s view that Eros is a powerful drive or instinct that manifests itself variously in different individuals depending on specific life experience and the circumstances of their times.

tildaswinton

March 27, 2013

Power in gay and/or heterosexual attachments

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:02 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
Gay marriage opponent Leonard Gendron, a local pastor, holds a sign reading "Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons" outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston March 11, 2004 where the Massachusetts Legislature is debating an amendment to the state's constitution banning gay marriage.  On November 11, 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state must issue marriage licenses to gay couples.       REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Gay marriage opponent Leonard Gendron, a local pastor, holds a sign reading “Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons” outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston March 11, 2004 where the Massachusetts Legislature is debating an amendment to the state’s constitution banning gay marriage. On November 11, 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state must issue marriage licenses to gay couples. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The media are embroiled in the gay marriage debates as arguments are delivered in the Supreme Court this week, with persons opposed to gay marriage and those supporting it rallying in the nation’s capital. [This blog is not about the pros and cons of legalizing gay marriage, but about the bureaucratic categories that are imposed by the State and that we are expected to view as legitimate categories that exist, unproblematically, in the real world.]

So far, the media are guessing whether a national law will be passed legalizing gay marriage in all the states, or whether the matter will be returned to the states, and “democratically” worked out over time, with citizen input (as if some rational consensus will make itself obvious!). One concern is the effect on children of gay couples, a matter that is held by such as Justice Kennedy to be in an early experimental stage. He too expects a rational consensus, susceptible to statistical evaluation in the future.

This is a rich subject for me as a student of human behavior and social movements that are either radical or conservative in their objectives. As usual, I will complain bitterly about the bureaucratic approach to questions that are highly controverted and which are unique to individuals and to their specific relationships. And as usual I will complain about the black and white categories we assign to the parties in a conflict. In short, I will argue that “gender” assignments are either unstable or so variable that any laws grounded in clear boundaries between the genders betrays the variation not only in men and women, but in the institution that the laws purport to either protect or liberalize.

Here in outline form are just a few of my concerns and objections to the media coverage, including what I have seen posted on some conservative websites where “traditionalists” face off against “neocons.” (For instance, Roger Simon, a former New Leftist, brought up the subject of “marriage” as such yesterday, and was then challenged by indignant readers who reminded him of the sacred character of the institution, one which was not susceptible to modification in any way. This is a typical culture war confrontation.) My own objections follow, and will necessarily neglect religious considerations, as I am not qualified to discuss sectarian religious differences, and assume that in a pluralistic country, there is room for both secular and religious approaches to the subject of all institutions that engage us today.

  1. Too many persons jump into marriage while still wet behind the ears. Sadly, our biology lags behind emotional maturity. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/.) The mass media sell sexuality, princess weddings, and adorable babies to the detriment of a rounded intellectual and emotional development in adolescents. Young people are deprived of instruction in those values and skills that make for solid marriage (or non-marriage) and competent parenthood. Why? Because there is no consensus. Where is the borderline between what subjects are under the purview of parents and what may be taught in schools? The whole field of mental health is off limits because of the fragmented history of this country, divided as we are on the most intimate questions.

2. What is “masculine” and what is “feminine” are culture-specific. It is generally thought by adherents of democracy that the sharp differentiation between sex roles is typical of authoritarian or undeveloped societies, with much depending on technological advances. Since there is sharp ideological conflict in the US over what consists of “masculinity” and what consists of “femininity” there is no universal model of “marriage” or competent parenthood for that matter. As for “androgyny” that is more likely to be found in “artistic” types, and is perhaps more tolerated in bohemian circles than elsewhere.

3. There are power struggles in every relationship, whether these are between husband and wife, romantic lovers (straight or gay), parents and children, siblings, friendships, or political clubs. These struggles are not easily put in boxes, such as correct male conduct or correct female conduct, with a consensus over what is rightfully a male prerogative or a female prerogative. Couples in gay relationships may strive for equality, but be settling into stereotypical male or female roles. In heterosexual marriage, the husband may be femininely submissive in some situations, and dominant in others. Such matters are highly individualized and not susceptible to bureaucratic rules. Sadly the law is a meat-axe, not a scalpel.

Princess Grace 1956

Princess Grace 1956

4. Finally, keep in mind that adolescence is a moment in human development that is closely watched by order-loving elders whatever their political orientations, for teens are likely to be reactive to parental rules and examples, and may drift off into attachments that are anathema to parents. It is no wonder that romantic comedies, like formulaic fairy tales before them, end in a glorious marriage ceremony. What are excluded are the fading of sexual passion, the diversion of libido toward infants in many women, or the multiple other disillusionments as reality impinges upon fantasy. And I have not even mentioned adjusting to in-laws, who have their own mishegas. Two people may embark upon marriage, but it is a much larger group of people who find themselves engaged with a not-so-private relationship. And upon this subject, the law, like ideology, fails us. We are on our own, and only in retrospect should we survive into older age, may we wonder or cringe at earlier choices and conduct.

The better novelists, playwrights, and artists,  are not so naïve as our legislators, Supreme Court justices, pollsters, or other authorities on the misnamed “body politic.”

androgynous girl

May 10, 2012

Androgyny, with an aside on Edna Ferber

Kleo, by Kremena Ivanova

“Receptiveness is a rare and massive power, like fortitude; and this state of mind now gave Deronda’s face its utmost expression of calm benignant force—“  [Ch.24,  Daniel Deronda, 1876, by George Eliot, nom de plume for Marianne Evans]

I read a lot, but rarely does a sentence such as George Eliot’s stick in my mind as a life lesson. I’m not sure we mean the same thing by “fortitude” (its religious meaning is to soldier on as vessels of God’s will), but if she means a kind of courage and honor that women usually attribute to men, then I am with her in her suggestion of androgyny. For every artistic person must combine the qualities often assigned either to men (fortitude) or to women (receptiveness).

In reading and teaching the literature of the past, militantly gay academics, journalists, and critics, have detected closeted gays in 19th century literature. We were not there, so cannot evaluate such annexations to the (male) gay project, but in the case of Herman Melville, it is possible that he was simply androgynous, blending the receptiveness and fortitude recommended by George Eliot. Melville’s British admirer, James Thomson (“B.V.”), was thinking of Eliot when Thomson wrote his famously pessimistic poem “The City of Dreadful Night”: the Queen who ruled this godless, desperate place, was none other than Eliot! See my essay https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/, where I quote an interchange between Thomson and Eliot, also from his poetry. For misogynistic images linking Gorgon, vagina dentata, and androgynes as Pierrot figures, see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/assorted-degenerates/.

In the past month or so, I have been reading some of the major novels of a 20th century successor to George Eliot, the famed best-selling author Edna Ferber (1885-1968) who, unlike George Eliot, never shacked up with a man (Eliot’s love was Goethe biographer George Henry Lewes, 1817-1878). Indeed, Ferber’s spinsterhood is in doubt among some younger critics, who deduce that she must have been a lesbian. But in the case of Ferber, it is crucial to go back to her texts and to her autobiography in order to evaluate her status as a feminist and antiracist avant la lettre.

I have read in this order, Showboat (1926), Giant (1952), So Big (1924), and her first autobiography, A Peculiar Treasure (1938), also Ferber (1978),  a semi-debunking biography by her great niece Julie Goldsmith Gilbert, who reveals her as a closet racist, and a mother- and-sister-hater, as well as a probable lover of several men. In the 1938 autobiography, though she has been writing as a regionalist and a friend to the “common man”, she suddenly comes out as an indignant ueber-Jew, furious with Hitler for Kristallnacht. And yet, she rejects her father, the small businessman (of Eastern Europe extraction and owner of a dry-goods store) in favor of her German Jewish ancestry through mother, which is ever so much more aristocratic in their tastes. Her most appalling villain is a New England Puritan (with all the Hebraic characteristics assigned to them), “Parthy”—Magnolia’s penny-pinching mother in Showboat.

It happens that aristocratic women in Europe were not only educated, but were influential behind the scenes, if we are to believe the 19th Century novels of Benjamin Disraeli, who glorifies and adores them (see https://clarespark.com/2011/05/04/disraelis-captive-queens/) . Similarly, in Ferber, her female heroines are remarkably persevering, outspoken, and progressive in all their social views; they are autodidacts like herself; they also are not great beauties. But most remarkably, they conquer their hidebound conservative antagonists with wit, compassion, endurance, and the power of their arguments, i.e., they are admitted to boy’s clubs to take off the rough edges. Would that all outspoken women were so persuasive, or all plain women so beloved by men.

In real life, Ferber adopted all the traits of the traditional woman eager to please various establishments: she had a nose job, was a fashion plate, threw herself into home decoration, gourmet food, and grand dinner parties; but most importantly, ingratiated herself with the leading WASP progressives and assimilated Jewish businessmen-artists (such as “Dicky” Rogers or his half-Jewish collaborator Oscar Hammerstein II, whose lyrics could not be more traditional in the subordination of women to men). As an aesthete and a moralist, Ferber lived out the European tradition of the aristocratic woman who pulls the strings behind the scenes. Or was she the puppet of social forces and inner drives that she had yet to master? (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/24/the-subtle-racism-of-edna-ferber-and-oscar-hammerstein-ii/.)

On the illustration: the two white lines on the right of the image are probably damage to the post card I scanned, advertising a student art show at El Camino College.

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