- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Post-feminist fantasy

“If network television could invent the consummate porn for women, it would probably feature a gorgeous prince on a white horse with a bouquet of roses tucked under one arm, a fabulous Los Angeles hair-colorist tucked under the other, and whatever appliance it takes to fix the … garbage disposal wedged into the back pocket of his Levi’s.

“Female fantasy, particularly in the post-feminist era, is a complicated blend of escapism and pragmatism. We’re not so much interested in ditching our lives as we are committed to living them — but perfectly. There’s a whole Real Simple Industrial Complex devoted to helping us achieve this goal, and most of us believe we may actually get there.

“Now along come ‘Wife Swap’ and ‘Trading Spouses,’ two TV shows that cater to a woman’s need to both escape her home and family and make them over. While appearing to be throwbacks to pre-feminist notions of domestic hierarchies — both shows feature a wife and mom switching place with another for a few days (and both assume that fathers’ jobs are too important to fuss with) — they are, instead, the curious outgrowth of the post-feminist dilemma.

“Having learned the hard way that women just can’t have perfect homes, kids, and jobs, we’re offered a chance to escape our own impossible choices, and an opportunity to completely remodel someone else’s.”

Dahlia Lithwick, writing “Girls Just Wanna Be Swapped,” Sept. 30 in Slate at www.slate.com

Soi-dissant ‘dissident’

“To his admirers, [MIT professor Noam Chomsky] is more than a mere critic of American policy; by dint of a penetrating intellect and a dedication to honest scholarship, Chomsky, it is said, has been able to grasp truths about the United States that elude other radical analysts, not to mention those of more conventional mentality. …

“Chomsky is often called a dissident — ‘the most prominent intellectual dissident in the Western world,’ in the words of one admiring account. That is an odd label for someone who writes political commentaries in an open society, where opinions of every conceivable stripe can win a hearing.

“But Chomsky himself has contributed to this grotesque misperception by depicting the United States as an enemy of intellectual freedom, one that has achieved the Soviet Union’s goal of thought conformity without having to resort to the overt repression that gave Communism a bad name.

“Thus, he suggests, while American dissidents need not fear the concentration camp, they are likely to face marginalization, a more efficient and less messy way of smothering inconvenient ideas.”

Arch Puddington, writing on “Chomsky’s Universe,” in the October issue of Commentary

Male un-bonding

“As they age, guys lose the interest or ability to make new guy friends. Maybe they peak in high school or college, friendwise, and then they might have a few friends from work, or from playing or following a sport, or they make friends with their girlfriends’ friends’ boyfriends.

“The recurring theme, I’ve noticed, is that men seem to meet up for the express purpose of not talking — to catch a few moments’ peace from their wives, girlfriends, bosses, or kids. …

“Aggressive friend-making and expansive emotional availability are part of women’s optimistic contract with the universe. Women want to be liked. Connecting with other people validates their reason for being here.”

Rory Evans, writing on “Love Ya Man,” in the October issue of GQ

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