I did not love I Love Dick


When a book’s cover touts it as “the best book about men and women written in the last century,” you nominate it for your book club.

Or at least that’s what I was thinking when I put forward Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick for my own. It’s what I was thinking until about 50 pages in, when I realized I’d made a huge mistake.

I really wanted to like this book. A semi-fictional retelling of Kraus’ IRL obsessions with professor Dick Hebdige, the memoir/novel follows Kraus as she and her husband Sylvère meet an artist named Dick and, after an objectively uneventful dinner, become obsessed with him. They begin writing letters to Dick, which Kraus ultimately presents to him as an art project of sorts. While the Dick obsession eventually takes its toll on Kraus and Sylvère’s marriage, and Kraus and Dick do eventually sleep together, the majority of ILD is devoted to these awkward encounters and ambiguous exchanges, and to Kraus’ increasingly cringe-worthy attempts to get Dick’s attention.Kraus’ book was recently adapted into an Amazon show, starring Kathryn Hahn (of Transparent) as Kraus and Kevin Bacon as Dick. The show, while equally cringe-y, is at times laugh-out-loud funny; in its slightly altered plot, Kraus is a hopelessly awkward artist who finds herself stuck in Marfa, Texas, with Sylvère, who has a fellowship at the local college (in the book they go on a road trip).

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Lena Dunham, GamerGate and [insert SEO keyword here]


A few weeks ago, after handmade pasta and a few too many specialty cocktails, my friends and I got into it over Lena Dunham. Empowered by that special brand of self-righteousness unique to personal opinions about popular things, we loudly and enthusiastically debated the merits of the Dunham Phenomenon—two of us against and one (me) in favor, with a fourth maintaining a wishy-washy neutrality that belied the definitive nature of Dunham’s fame. Indeed, if we’ve learned anything from the post-Girls age, it’s that one is either pro-Lena or against, impressed by her or annoyed, on the same page or reading a different book entirely. There is no Switzerland when it comes to Dunham.

Without even touching on the specifics of her body of work—wry stories of self-involved 20-somethings fumbling their way through adulthood—it would be hard to overstate the size of Lena Dunham’s zeitgeist footprint. She became a household name seemingly overnight, at first because of the critical reception to Girls—both good and bad—and later because of the critical reception to Lena herself: Why so whiny? Why so frequently naked? When clothed, why so much like a toddler? Over time, Dunham’s fame became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and talking about being so over talking about Lena Dunham morphed into the cultural high ground, like hating Uggs or giving up on post-1990 Saturday Night Live.

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A Lean In addendum, or why partnering with Cosmo is bullshit


A few weeks ago, I reviewed Sheryl Sandberg’s lady-empowerment book, Lean In. My reaction to the book was cautiously pro—I feel Sandberg has some great points about conducting oneself in the workplace and, for females in particular, not getting caught up in the kind of insecurity that might prevent one from securing a promotion or taking on a new project.

My objections, however minimal, were not to Sandberg’s status as a gainfully employed and happily married wealthy person, someone with the resources and support system to truly balance work and family. (For the record, I find this criticism—that Sandberg is only speaking to fellow rich people—off-base, and think people who latch onto it are missing the point. Sure, many of the things Sandberg has done personally to achieve a work/life balance are feasible because of her perch atop Facebook, but just as many of her overarching themes apply to women of myriad financial means. To disqualify a successful person from making suggestions to those of lesser means is senselessly limiting, especially as people like Sandberg are in a unique position to effect real change.)

I’ve also found myself ambivalent about the revelation this week that a Sandberg PR person laid into former Facebook employee Katherine Losse for writing a tepid review of Lean In. Yes, using the infamous “special place in hell” quote on someone who was simply less than thrilled with your boss’ book is a dickish move, but if we’re really going to have a conversation about feminism and gender equality—the conversation that Sandberg, whether you agree with her approach or not, is attempting to initiate—it serves no one for us to get sidetracked by Internet-fueled cat fights.

But I do have a sizable objection to one facet of the Lean In roll-out, which in addition to Sandberg’s book includes a website, Facebook page (natch), media partnerships and about a zillion public appearances. My objection is this: In a society struggling to move past judgments of females based on their appearance or relationship to men, I find it more than a little hypocritical to peddle your feminist message through Cosmopolitan magazine.

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Sheryl Sandberg wants women to grow a pair


The woman of Sheryl Sandberg’s world is a timid creature. She’s smart but not savvy, ambitious but afraid to appear so, confident and driven but plagued by self-doubt. She’s wary of participating in meetings, wary of asking for promotions, wary of taking on new assignments. And don’t even get me started on motherhood—this woman has been ruminating on the work/life balance basically since she learned where babies come from.

For this woman, Sandberg has a wealth of advice, which in its entirety boils down to the central conceit of her book: Lean In. This woman—this hyper-sensitive, underutilized and challenge-averse woman—needs to stop sitting in the back row at meetings, stop taking flak from colleagues, and stop turning down opportunities because she’s unsure about her abilities. She needs to build organic and mutually beneficial relationships with coworkers, and worry less about being liked and more about being respected. She needs to speak her mind with colleagues and bosses, and if and when she decides to throw a bun in the oven, not start sacrificing her career the second she realizes she’s pregnant. She could also stand to snag an understanding, supportive and equally driven husband, who won’t hesitate to pitch in on 50% of the child-rearing and housework. In short, Sheryl Sandberg wants this woman to sack up (which, incidentally, would have been a way better book title.)

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