Monthly Archives: June 2017

Ya Gotta Look Somewhere!

 

 

The other day the New York Times ran a column in its “Modern Love” segment of the Style section headlined “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” The author realized that the ownership of her body was in question when, in her senior year of high school, she went to buy a bra and discovered that she had big breasts:  “Around then I realized that, in this world, there would be many instances when my body would not feel like my body.” Those instances were when men who were strangers ogled, groped, and asked her provocative rhetorical questions like “Are those real?” Groping and sexually provocative utterances are definitely unacceptable behavior, but is eyeing an attractive woman in the same league? I think not.

I recently exercised at a gym where a sign was prominently displayed saying “Please do not stare. It bothers other members.” Stare means “to look fixedly” and ogle means “to eye amorously.” I guess a woman can tell when she is being looked at fixedly, but being eyed amorously, it seems to me, is in the mind of the beholder (unless the alleged ogler is simultaneously drooling).

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Art Carey once speculated that if it weren’t for the invention of spandex tights or leggings, few of the 36,000 health clubs, gyms and fitness centers in the country would exist. In other words, for young men and women, the health clubs are only partly for exercise and mostly for seeing and being seen by members of the opposite sex. I agree that the proliferation of women in tights (that often leave little to the imagination) is a major factor in the success of the exercise business.

I know that spandex tights provide support for a woman’s back, hips and legs in workout sessions, but now you see women in tights everywhere. I know that this is a horrible question to ask, but why is spandex the attire of choice for so many women? I would anticipate the answer that spandex is comfortable; it stretches. But you see lots of women wearing spandex tights in hot weather despite the fact that spandex, which is made from chemicals, is hot and itchy. At the risk of being called a male chauvinist, I suspect that women wear spandex tights everywhere and in every kind of weather because they want to be looked at, stared at, and perhaps even ogled.

Getting back to the author of “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You.” Does she really wish she had smaller breasts and thus were less worthy of others’ attention?  She says that her breasts elicited jokes but also “compliments from female [my emphasis] friends, promises that [her] future boyfriend or husband or lover would have plenty to be happy about.” But she is offended by such compliments. Seems to me that “owning your body” means not sharing it with another or others, which makes for a lonely, loveless life. Is that what she really wants, or is she so marinated in feminist ideology that she really doesn’t know what she wants? True believers tend to be that way. At the same time, you often hear older women (and men) complain that they now feel  sexually “invisible” and miss the attention that others paid to them when they were young.

As for me, I must admit that one of the pleasures of the gym is staring at (if not ogling) attractive women in spandex tights. One of my favorite movie lines is in one of the Harper films in which Paul Newman plays a private detective. In one scene, he is grabbed by some bad guys and thrown into the back of a limousine. Lying on the floor, he looks up and sees a beautiful woman who says, “It’s not nice to look up a woman’s dress.” Newman (as Harper) replies, “Well, ya gotta look somewhere!”  Yes, you do have to look somewhere, so you might as well look at something pleasing, like women in spandex.

 

Welcome to the Sisterhood, Mr. Comey

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Yesterday, the New York Times finally reached the summit of silliness. They ran not one, but two pieces in the same edition that compared James Comey’s White House meeting with Donald Trump to an episode of sexual harassment. Nicole Serratore, in a column titled “James Comey and the Predator in Chief,” opens with the following paragraph: “As I listened to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, tell the Senate Intelligence Committee about his personal meetings and phone calls with President Trump, I was reminded of something: the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.”

Serratore, identified as a New York based theater critic and travel writer, recapitulates Comey’s version of the meeting and then all but declares Comey a victim of sexual harassment: “The victim of sexual harassment is constantly haunted by the idea that she said or did something that gave her persecutor encouragement. Serial harassers, of course, have an intuitive sense of this, and are skilled at manipulating and exploiting it..Mr. Comey, you are not alone.”

Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor at the Times, transforms the six foot eight former FBI director into the left’s version of Anita Hill: “A man is being publicly grilled about why he was alone in a room with someone he felt was threatening him. Why didn’t he simply resign if he felt uncomfortable with what his boss was asking him to do? Why did he keep taking calls from that boss, even if he thought they were inappropriate? Why didn’t he just come out and say he would not do what the boss was asking for?…Sound familiar? As dozens of people noted immediately on Twitter, if you switch genders, that is the experience of many women in sexual harassment cases.”

She also invokes former Fox News right wingers Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly along with the now disgraced Bill Cosby (who had previously wandered off the liberal plantation by urging black people to behave more responsibly). Curiously, she doesn’t mention Bill Clinton or Jack Kennedy; she probably forgot.

Most likely Comey wanted it both ways.  He wanted to keep his job, so he kept silent when Trump, according to Comey, tried to pressure him about the Mike Flynn investigation. Immediately afterwards, he wrote down his account of the meeting. Then when Trump fired him, he gave his notes to a fellow lawyer at Columbia Law School and instructed him to give them to the always eager New York Times. Not exactly a  profile in courage, you might say. But nowadays it is much more fashionable to be a victim than a hero (too masculine), and the Times is nothing if not fashionable.

Yes, Mr. Comey, you are not alone. Welcome to The Sisterhood.

The Puzzle of Bernie Madoff

 

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Robert DeNiro as Bernie Madoff

Last night I watched The Wizard of Lies, the story of the Bernie Madoff disaster. It may sound cold, but I never could work up all that much sympathy for Madoff’s victims. Even a dumb guy like me knows that you don’t give your life savings to one person. I thought of the words “caveat emptor, which the dictionary defines as “a principle in commerce: without a warranty the buyer takes the risk.” In other words, buyer beware.

Those who lost their life savings with Madoff could only have been motivated by a reckless greed inspired by the phony performance of his fund which only went up, never down. You would think that any sentient person would know that something that defies the laws of gravity is obviously too good to be true, but the victims were obviously blinded by the belief that they were getting rich (or richer) quickly and easily. The movie wisely concentrates on Madoff and his family rather than “the victims” of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

The question that Wizard of Lies poses is: What kind of man would place his family in such moral and legal jeopardy? And what a horrible price Madoff’s wife, sons (and their wives and children) paid for his crime, and I don’t mean the loss of their wealth. To be sure, Madoff was insatiably greedy, sociopathic, psychopathic and whatever other mental illnesses you could ascribe to him. But it is the total disregard for his family that is so remarkable and disturbing.

Robert DeNiro, who plays Madoff, does not try to imitate him by using “Jewish” mannerisms as, say, Dustin Hoffman might have done. De Niro is recognizable as the big city Italian he is, but it doesn’t matter, for he skillfully portrays Madoff’s maddening lack of self-awareness, his astounding egotism, and his total unconcern for the lives others.

Madoff obliterated the self-worth of his sons and his wife by insisting that they be totally dependent on him, so when the storm hit, they were emotionally helpless to deal with it. Eventually, Madoff’s wife and one of his sons came to understand who the real Bernie Madoff was, and they broke off all relations with him. This allowed them to go on with their crippled lives with a modicum of dignity.

In the end, Wizard of Lies doesn’t come up with an answer to the question it poses that is commensurate with the enormity of Madoff’s willing destruction of his family. In the last scene, a reporter who is interviewing Madoff points out to him that if he had died before his Ponzi scheme was exposed, his sons would have been the ones in prison for the crimes of their father. Madoff quickly dispenses with the reporter’s argument by speculating that they would have been acquitted anyway. Then the camera closes in on DeNiro’s impassive face as he says: Let me ask you a question. Do you think I’m a sociopath?

So, we are left with the understanding that Madoff couldn’t have cared less about his wife and sons. It was all about him. Madoff’s story is like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, but it is impossible to think of Bernie Madoff as the tragic hero.