Women who do not respect the schemes imposed by society, fall, make mistakes, find it hard to get up. Women who show their vulnerability. And that, for this reason, many love to watch their defeats, as he tells in Break up (Tlon editions, 2022) the American writer Jude Ellison Sady Doyle*. A powerful and passionate essay that opens the doors of a veritable gallery in which celebrities of every era – from Charlotte Bront to Miley Cyrusfrom Mary Wollstonecraft to Taylor Swiftfrom Britney Spears to Hillary Clinton – they paid the blame for not respecting the limits that the patriarchal culture had imposed on them. Released for the first time in the US in 2016, the book is an exploration of the social phenomenon of trainwreck, railway metaphor that indicates the derailment of one’s role from the tracks. Let’s start from the end: this book, first of all, an attempt to consider the figure of the woman who stumbles, and the fascination she exerts on usto learn from mistakes and make the world a fairer place for those who live there, Doyle tells La27 Now. Instead, I tried to tell the way in which the public destruction of a woman – and let’s talk about white women – turns into a source of entertainment. Tearing it apart is seen by some as a form of “justice” because it has somehow hurt our concept of femininity. Such as? Showing herself too sensual, emotional or both, without respecting – as she is asked – the guardian of morality, pure, sweet, compliant, a reflection or extension of a man’s desires and not hers. In a society that demands that pain be silenced, women who show their suffering aloud are punished for failing to measure up.
A condition that, with social media, has gone to an extreme: even scarier, because when we destroy someone on Twitter, we tend to choose people who aren’t famous or rich, or don’t have public relations experts or bodyguards to defend them. By now as we were used to seeing the shame of others transformed into entertainment. as if we don’t even realize this is happening to real people until we become the victim person, she adds. It is not surprising then to find among the characters mentioned Britney Spearsa singer whom we learned about in 1998 as a winking student in uniform in the video for Baby One more time. I am the same age as Spears, I also came of age in the 2000s – she remembers -: we have known her as pretty, sexy, Christian and virgin. A girl who loved America and supported the GOP (Grand Old Party, the Republican Party, ed) and wrote his thoughts in a diary every night. The instant she deviated a little from this ideal, we tore her apart. Britney was the first great trainwreck of the 21st century because she came of age with the Internet, but also because she was considered more of a symbol than a person. Like her, too Miley Cyrus, pop icon who as an angelic girl and Disney star (with the debut of the television series Hannah Montana), strayed too far from the rut with the album Younger Now (2017) and now seen as anti-value: I like to point out how we can change celebrity reputations very quickly: we also think about Taylor Swiftwho went from “heroin” to “bad” and back to “heroin” since I wrote the book, underlines, recalling how it was fundamental to have talked to many peers, in particular related to the way of creativity and music who were scared from the idea of becoming known on a large scale and therefore being able to be torn to pieces or put to the saloon.
After all – continues Doyle – at 20 we are all aware of making mistakes of youth, like everyone else. I’ve seen many young people come to understand the experience of womanhood – and the cost of a *** – through Lindsay Lohan or Amy Winehouse or Britney, and it was really informative for me. They made themselves smaller so that no one would have a problem with them, making it clear how the purpose of the trainwreck and also convince women – and good girls – that the cost of excellence is too high for them, and that they should remain hidden. A phenomenon that concerns the world of entertainment such as that of politics, as demonstrated by the chapter dedicated to the figure of Hillary Clinton, a woman who became a symbol through which America globally challenged second wave feminism as a whole. Her GOP hated her because she was ambitious and career-oriented, and she decided to keep her maiden name. The question that everyone was asking when they saw her was: “Can women with power be trusted?”. She and she were the victims of an absurd conspiracy theory that became a collective hallucination: we came to accuse her of being violent and devouring children. Only death, paradoxically, allows us to be lenient and redeem a person from having defied our expectations. When a woman dies, we are allowed to like her again, as happened with Winehouse, Lady Diana or Whitney Houston. A dead woman cannot tell her story or be angry with us: we can tell ourselves that we are good people because we feel sorry for her, but she can no longer defend herself or demand anything from us. There is a fetishization of the beautiful, doomed, passed away woman, which is incredibly disturbing. We are willing to make them become martyrs, rather than see them live and disappoint us over time.
Queer author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle
Also for this reason, Doyle chose to delve into the past, to give the right weight to these more contemporary media dramas and to tell that it is not a phenomenon of today. We think about Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley, a very atypical woman for the time she lived in, who is very easy to dismiss as a non-serious figure: the details of her sex life have been published without her permission – the same thing that happens with the diffusion of stolen photos, which often show women in their intimacy. Her reputation was thus torn apart. The most beloved character of the past by the author remains, however, that of Theroigne de Mericourt, revolutionary feminist. A minor figure of the French Revolution. Her feminism about her and her gender nonconformity – she wore a men’s uniform wherever she went – were so startling that her contemporaries hated her. Her image of her was far more powerful than her: she was publicly whipped by other women, as a means of expelling her from the movement. She was nearly killed and ended up with her days in a psychiatric institution. An example, her, of what she represented in the past – as today – being a woman and holding some positions of power. The phenomenon of derailment – Doyle is keen to emphasize – does not concern men: They can go through a process of public defamation, but they remain marginalized like blacks: Michael Jackson, Kanye West and (most recently) Will Smith they have all been turned into media shows. But they will never be subjected to what happens to women. Then, thinking of white men, they must actually be caught doing something extremely violent before there is any form of push back from the community. And even in this case, these are always minor actions: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen they have all received awards, praise and work even though they are publicly recognized as abusers. Louis CK admitted to having suffered sexual assault and then won a Grammy.
To the woman, on the other hand, “Just” deviate from the standard of an acceptable and ideal femininity. And, inevitably, every human being sooner or later finds himself losing his way and shipwrecked. What message must we learn, then, and why must we oppose the widespread complicity in witnessing the fall of women? I think one of the most important things is to say that feminism does not exist to claim to women what the concept of morality means, and it is not tied to a concept of woman as being exceptional or perfect. Women deserve to be subject to rights because they are human beings, endowed with the same flaws and vulnerabilities as anyone else. Many times, our impulse to be cruel to a breakdown or a fall comes from our empathy: if Winehouse loses control because she has drunk too much, or if Britney deviates from the model of the perfect daughter, many may think: “well , at least it doesn’t just happen to her “. And, pointing to a person who is worse off, they are better off. Instead, she serves find compassion for ourselves and our defects or traumas, accept our own humanity and vulnerability. Here is the lesson: learn to see the falls of others without feeling the desire to punish those who feel them. We can be who we are, without shame. All enclosed in the fear that many have of women, and for this reason they see them as monsters.
* Jude Ellison Sady Doyle, born in 1982, queer, non-binary and transgender author (in 2020 he embarked on a transition path). He asks for the use of the pronouns he / they, which is why in Italian we have declined it in the masculine. His signature appeared in The Guardian, Elle, The Atlantic and in Medium’s GEN magazine, which hosts a weekly column. He has published the female monstrous with Edizioni Tlon. Patriarchy and the fear of women (2021). Spezzate originally released for Melville House in 2016, under the title Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear … and Why.
May 10, 2022 (change May 10, 2022 | 18:20)
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