A Double Standard

April 26, 2011

 

IMAGINE an article in a mainstream newspaper celebrating the freedom of heterosexual men to obtain sexual gratification outside normal relations with women. I have never seen a mainstream ad or newspaper piece ooh-ing or aah-ing over male use of prostitutes or pornography. And, yet it is now normal to read about how wonderful sex toys and auto-eroticism are for women. 

This recent piece in The New York Times about the marketing of vibrators in drug stores and online sites is a case in point. This puff piece would have been unthinkable 50 years ago – but that, we are told, is good. There is not a single cautionary word in the entire article. No acknowledgment of the potential for sex addiction in women. The past was one long siege of repression and now women are liberated to achieve sexual ecstasy outside intercourse or even a relationship with a man.

Vibrators come in perfume boxes and can be programmed by an Ipod. Who would ever have thought that giving one to a teenager daughter was anything less than generous? “A woman who has thoroughly explored her own body, both alone and with or without whichever toys she finds interesting, makes for a significantly better lover.” The vibrator is neat, “an ongoing source of fascination,” the road to freedom after millenia of darkness, not a crude device that subverts love and creates hours of easy, impersonal sex that is immoral and undermines appreciation of the real thing.

Women have traded love and early marriage for bedtime with a dime store contraption. Read More »

 

The Streets of John Atkinson Grimshaw

April 26, 2011

 

THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY British painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is known for his urban scenes with the moon glowing on dockyards and city streets or the amber glow of shop windows visible in the sooty nightfall. His paintings, 50 of which are now on display in a gallery in London, are unusual in the poetic beauty they ascribe to industrial settings. As Hermes Westbury wrote:

John Atkinson Grimshaw was fascinated by modern industry, frequently painting the commercial centres of Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Scarborough and Hull. He painted at night, using moonlight to transform the sooty reality of the industrial North into an image of romance and mystery: air thick with pollution becomes an atmospheric mist enveloping the dark figures; moonlight reflects off cobbles, glistening with recently fallen rain; long shadows are thrown across the foreground by the golden lights illuminating the shop fronts.

Grimshaw’s works now fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The painter, however, was not rich. His wife gave birth to 16 children, ten of whom died in childhood, and he struggled to support his large family.

 

Liverpool, John Atkinson Grimshaw

Liverpool, John Atkinson Grimshaw

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Misquoting the Queen

April 26, 2011

 

marie17a

IN A 2007 post at her blog Tea at Trianon, Elena Maria Vidal explored the origin of the phrase “Let them eat cake,” widely attributed to Marie Antoinette with little basis in fact. Vidal wrote:

Marie-Antoinette never said any such thing …. One theory about the origins of the legend of the phrase “Let them eat cake” is that it is the misunderstanding of a passage from the memoirs of the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII), the brother of Louis XVI. Provence and his wife escaped from Paris to Coblenz by post-chaise in June, 1791. They stopped to eat and had meager provisions. Provence makes the allusion to a remark made by the queen of Louis XIV, Maria Theresa of Spain, in this passage: Read More »

 

April 26, 2011

 

The Housekeeper, John Scarlet Davies (1858)

The Housekeeper, John Scarlet Davies (1858)

 

Teaching Stupidity

April 26, 2011

 

AT the website Minding the Campus, Mary Grabar writes about her experience at a major convention of college-level composition teachers. She reports:

After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested in teaching students to write and communicate clearly. The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against “marginalized” groups and restrict self-expression. Read More »