Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kevin Myers on Women and Victimhood

Kevin Myers: Women's obsession with victimhood exalts failure and generates nothing but excuses

Helen Mirren recently declared at the annual Women in Entertainment Awards in Hollywood: "With all due respect to you many brilliant and successful women in the room, really not too much has changed in the canon of Hollywood film-making that continues to worship at the altar of the 18 to 25-year-old male and his penis.

"Quite small, I always think."

And this highly original, extraordinarily witty, positively Wildean profundity, was greeted with whoops of joy and exultant cheers by Mirren's female audience, just as you might expect. For after 40 years of feminism, we must conclude that women's gatherings will always be women's gatherings. Even a Junior Cert teenage-anthropologist reading a gender-neutral account of the verbal interaction between a group of individuals will know their sex by the things they say and do.

What do women say and do? Well, they certainly complain. They complain to one another about their breasts and their bums and their hips and their latest diet and their hair colour. When they complain about their lives, it is usually called feminist-politics.

At the cheaper end of the she-spectrum, where Helen Mirren clearly belongs, the girls will behave like the participants at a downmarket Anne Summers party after the third Bacardi and Coke, and they'll start saying how horrible men are, and then they'll cheer themselves up by making jokes about penis size, and then they'll whoop and shriek, and say how wonderful it is being a woman. Followed by more gales of laughter, and tears, and consoling hugs, and yes, it really is so meaningful and rewarding being a woman . . .

Of course it is. Which is why females behave differently from males. A young woman visiting an old girlfriend will usually arrive with a little present and when it's bedtime, they'll both don T-shirts and knickers and get into bed, and chat and read magazines like 'OK' and 'VIP' and 'Hello', and swap showbiz gossip. Groups of women in a restaurant (ask any waitress) will spend hours dividing the bill -- "I had the tiramasu, which cost €2.01748, but you have the profiterole, which cost €2.11783" -- and then leave a tip of three farthings and a peseta one of them found in her handbag. And talking of handbags . . .

Science has not yet discovered what women who meet in supermarkets talk about. That is perhaps the penultimate great secret of the universe (just before the Great Secret of Fatima, also female). This conundrum is re-enacted whenever two female acquaintances meet at the intersection of the busiest aisles, and placing their trolleys like a roadblock on the Unter den Linden in Berlin, circa 1945, they enter into a deeply intense conversation for no less than two hours.

What does such fervid talkativeness portend? A moonshot? New revelations about dark matter? The origin of the universe? No one knows. No one will ever know: even the participants will forget, because at the end of their conversation, if they were to embark upon another circuit of the supermarket and then were to bump into one another again, they would instantly start another mystery immersion in the dark arts of the female conversation.

Helen Mirren bemoaned the lack of film parts for women in their fifties. And what recent film parts have come the way of Richard Dreyfuss and Mark Hamill and William Hurt and other male stars of the 1970s and 1980s? Not that I'm trying to analyse Hollywood for Helen Mirren. I don't need to. The clue is in the location of Hollywood: it's in the city of LO$ AN$E$E$. Film studios are not organised around some gender agenda. They follow the buck, and that in turn is generated by the marketplace.

Whoever delivers a handsome return on an investment gets to collar the dollar, regardless of orientation, sex, softness, usurial skills, car-bumper, Magimix, repairer, or Fine Gael leada: bender, gender, tender, lender, fender, blender, mender or Ender.

But Helen Mirren's tiny-penis jibe does give us a hint why women, as a group, have still not succeeded in acquiring serious power. Her audience of "very brilliant female colleagues" (her words) could have jeered and hissed her tired and pathetic remarks about men's body parts. They could have shouted out: "Hey, Helen, what would you say of any male actor who publicly made jokes about women's vulvas?"

But instead, like teenagers, they whooped and cheered and laughed, and later probably cried a little too, and picking up their handbags, they went off to the loo together, and checked their make-up in the mirror together (meanwhile, secretly compared their busts and butts) before returning to the she-gathering for more uplifting grievance-swapping and scrotum-knocking.

And that's where the she-problem lies: for this female obsession with victimhood exalts failure, and generates more excuses and yet more victims. Did Katherine Hepburn complain about poor parts, or did she continue to win good ones well into old age?

Most of the highest paid actors in Hollywood today are actresses -- Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz. Do you hear male actors of their age whingeing? The answer in tinseltown is the same as it is life. Don't complain: compete.

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