“The internalization of representations of the female body by women is fundamental to the formation of feminine identity, but this process is not straightforward and unproblematic. It is by mapping the way in which the body circumscribes subjectivity that feminists can begin to describe how gender is constitutive of identity, while, at the same time never determines it completely.” -Lois McNay
I watched Marilyn in Manhattan on Hulu while cooking yesterday. Of course everything has already been said about Monroe, but watching this made me think again about the topic of the first blog post I wrote about in terms of femininity, dress, and identity. Watching this just made me feel very sad. Marilyn Monroe, it seems to me, represents sort of the “ideal” of femininity in Western culture, wispy, passive, not very smart (or at least represented that way), blonde, white, and always very beautiful. A line was repeated in the movie a few times something like “she was transformed from actress to goddess.” And I think that’s right. She represented achieving the ideal of femininity, something unreal, a goddess-and she was “crazy” to boot-another trope of Western femininity. Of course, though, I feel like, Monroe’s devastation, her utter tragicness (also, in a somewhat-unrelated-note see women artist can only be successful if they’re tragic) in death and unhappiness mainly comes from this constant state of sexual objectification (among other things). She was shown much like every woman that a great form of power comes through being sexual, being sexy, conforming to a symbolic male gaze. She found love, acceptance, power and made a living off of this sexual exploitation, and it probably made her crazy. How can you really trust anyone when you’re in the vulnerable position of being wanted for sex, always, this idea of sexiness, and never knowing if it’s really you, or your looks, and how can one even separate that? Super tough and confusing to navigate. When one is taught to revere, pluck, manage, cultivate one’s body image constantly, to always make oneself conform to some goddess ideal, and privilege this (possibly alienating, because one constantly has to remove, maintain what is naturally occurring, as if it were dirty and shameful) representation of self over every other aspect of her personality in a constant battle against fluids (sweat, blood, tears, rain) as it could ruin the carefully constructed image of self. A super hard thing to do, that is not without a lot of effort. It made me think of this poster by the Guerrilla Girls:
Because even if your just trying to talk about feminist issues, or any issue for that matter, how a woman looks, what her status is in relation to being normatively sexy is, is always on the table. It’s always thought about, and often gets in the way of what she’s trying to say. I mean just look at the way Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton were treated in the media during the campaigns. I also stumbled across this lovely piece today…Anyway, my larger point is that this has a lot to do with my first blog post about identity and femininity. Dress, and fluidity. Happiness and sexual objectification. I think you can tell from the disorganisation of this blog that I’m still working all of this out. But thanks for bearing with the stream of consciousness/generalizations while I work it out. While I work out why Marilyn Monroe, specfically, is representing all this to me in an iconically symbolic way.