I have a deep affection for talented and interesting women. Especially, accomplished and unreasonable women who are catalysts for change. That being said, there are wannabes who swear up and down that they’re game changers, though, in actuality enforce the status quo. Just this past week, feminist professor Katie Roiphe made an appearance at the New York Public Library to promote her latest collection of essays, In Praise of Messy Lives. On the opposite end of town, Cat Marnell, former XOJane and Vice blogger, was nominated for a Paper Nightlife Award. Both women are media savvy enough to know that image counts. So what in the heck were they thinking when they got dressed this week?
Katie Roiphe, was interviewed by the Financial Times in a piece entitled, Is This the End of Men? She and Hanna Rosin, a party pal and fellow feminist, joined her in heralding in ‘the death of the king.’ The interview took place at the Cipriani while the feminists ostensibly interviewed the young and future cads of Wall Street on their imminent ‘demise’. Strangely, Roiphe and Rosin thought it completely appropriate to be dressed in tight off the shoulder and shimmery outfits that would seem more at home on fifteen year olds going to a homecoming dance. I’m sure I’m not the only person who read the article and thought, ah, is this a tongue-in-cheek joke? The photos underline a certain ludicrousness of their position. Worse, the article parrots waitstaff gossip that the women who come to Cipriani are only either girlfriends or escorts. The photos seem to suggest cougars are welcome as well. (Go hard-hitting FT journalist!) Lucy Kellaway, a regular columnist for the Financial Times, has written a review of Roiphe’s latest work. Interestingly, she comes to similar conclusions about Roiphe that I did as a reader of her interview. Roiphe comes across as startlingly lacking in self-awareness and steeped in a feminist narcissism that completely blinds her to the fact that while she levies harsh criticism on someone like Maureen Dowd, those criticisms could also be fairly applied to her, as well.
On the other hand, Cat Marnell decided to go in the opposite direction. She’s bright and sharp. Her writing is clever but with enough self-awareness to have teeth. She’s awfully pretty, too. I imagine if Zelda Fitzgerald were living today, she’d run with the likes of Cat Marnell. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and Rolling Stone to name a few. She’s a known pill-poppin’ glamazon, and her talent is too hard to ignore. So when I saw the Page Six item in the Post, with smeary lipstick and playing up a half-baked Halloween druggy look, I thought, WHY? Too careful in her own Twitter photos, why does she clown herself out and play to the worst stereotypes the media has created around her? (I’m hoping her makeup is a reference to 90s club kids or something that’s cooler than how it actually appears in print.) It dawns on me that she’s done an anti-Roiphe. Instead of trying to make herself as sexy as possible to show herself off at her ‘best’, she’s downplayed her beauty to promote herself at her ‘worst.’ She seems to want to acceptance for herself, as an individual, and not a mere pretty young thing, which is far more radical than cougaring about in Wall Street boys clubs and lamely trying to convince yourself you’re not the butt of your own feminist joke.