Friday, September 16, 2005

Sex, Prada style

Look what turned up in the pages of GQ. An interview with Miuccia Prada.
GQ: You know that show Sex and the City? MP: Embarrassing! I was thinking New York is like that. I have the impression that the people are like that—the women, the bitchiness. GQ: The thing is, too many women see that show and they think that’s how their life should be. Rather than create their life, they imitate a stupid show. And that’s the worst thing you can do. Right? MP: Oh no, it’s terrible. Also the way of total and sure unhappiness. It’s what I say all the time to my girls in the office here: The more they dress for sex, the less they will have love or sex. These girls throw away so much energy in this search for beauty and sexiness. I think that the old rules were much more clever and better than the rules now. The trouble is, most people are not so generous. Everybody wants love for themselves. I hear this all the time from the women I work with. I hear them say, “I want, I want.” I never hear them saying what they want to give. GQ: Do you tell them that? MP: Yes, of course. They don’t listen. With women, the more unhappy they are, the more undressed they are. This is true. Dignity’s another very important part of this. Sex and the City is the opposite of dignity. You have to have dignity for your body—this is with men and women. You need to have dignity towards how you are, how you dress, how you behave. Very important. Men are always much more dignified than most women. GQ: Why? MP: Because women have the stress of being beautiful, of age and youth. Men don’t have all that. And with women, that stress causes a lot of mistakes and bad choices—a lot of not being their true self. You know, the older I get, the more I prefer to talk to old people. Old people or kids.
How horrible. How dare anybody speak the obvious like that? I'm referring to the comments about Sex and the City, of course. I'm a lot less sure that men are always more dignified. That has to be qualified. Men who are thirty plus but still look, sound, and act like eighteen year olds are not at all dignified and I'm under the impression that we turn out more of them today, especially in North America, than we used to. I blame a value system that is obsessed with power and money. You want power and money don't you? Then you'll have to go to school until you're 36. Don't even think about getting serious about marriage and children until then. What happens, however, is that 15 years of adolescent living and 'dating' arrangements leave a groove on your character that's hard to get out. You can get the same effect by skipping college and working obsessively on a career in sales or some such. A man who surrenders to something noble, however, grows in ways that are difficult to explain or anticipate. Someone who writes (very dryly and humorously, I have to add) under the name Spengler, suggests that a woman's struggle with dignity is at least in part due to our inability to look beyond her form and see her as fully human:
Sexual objectification... makes women paranoid. Whether this is a cultural quirk subject to eventual remedy or a characteristic of humankind since the Fall is a different matter. Adolescent girls suffer the most. The therapists talk of "low self-esteem", but this amounts to uncertainty as to what features of a developing form will attract the opposite sex. If a woman succeeds in manipulating a man on the strength of her value as a sexual object, she never can be sure that another woman will not (or has not already done) the same thing with greater success. The most attractive woman in the world is a miserable creature, as Giuseppe Verdi's Princess Eboli lamented, because her physical presence will overwhelm any other perception of her in the eyes of men. When age eventually destroys her beauty, she will be left with nothing at all. Chemical imbalances in the brain doubtless explain paranoia in many cases, but so can adverse circumstances. Some forms of paranoia represent an attempt to gain power over a world in which the paranoid has no real power at all. Political paranoia, eg, conspiracy theories, flourish among the powerless. By the same token, sexual objectification leaves women without direct power in a man's world.
If Spengler and Prada are on to something, and I think they are, our fashion and entertainment industries are deeply unfriendly to women, and need to be resisted. The clothing and lifestyles they promote make it difficult for a women to be seen for who she is, rather than what she is. Energy that could be put to use experiencing and living an interesting life is spent in diet books, treadmills and fashion magazines with the result that she's harried, paranoid and dull, dull, dull. If she has always been trading on her looks alone, she will rapidly find herself in a loosing position. It doesn't have to be that way. If grown men are indeed more dignified, it can be blamed on their obtuseness. A man's break from the froth of pop culture may be due to no more than his obliviousness to the more subtle clues of social disapproval. Women, often better able to pick up on such cues, are more likely to be ensnared by them. The way out is to stop playing a loosing game, the kind in which the house always wins, and drown out those cues that are not worth listening to. Turn off the pop and find your true north, and then give yourself to it. Invest in who you are, not what. Get good and experienced at it and you gain power and confidence (and loose the paranoia). Recognize only men who recognize what you've wrought. Viola, dignity. See here for an example of terrible pop advice being rejected.

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