Posers and Poseurs

Butting Heads

THE FIRST WORD in the feminist Women of the Ivy League magazine is "Playboy," and that says a lot about the mentality of its editors. Locked in a mindset that makes every encounter with men a confrontation, they exist only in opposition; by their own admission, their Women of the Ivy League is nothing but a pleading reaction to Playboy.

In Women of the Ivy League--not the Playboy pictorial, but the alternative response--some Yale feminists make it loud and clear that women can bitch and moan enough to fill up 32 pages. That is, as long as men make them mad enough.

What's more, they can ponderously lament that they have been cursed with big breasts, thrust into a society that won't listen to them and terrorized by men.

Consider "Sonnet for a Father and Daughter," remotely Plathlike in subject. This fringe anger piece describes a woman whose father beats her because she has sex, inappropriate behavior for her ostensibly because of her gender. "Papa Don't Preach" said it better--and it rhymed.

Men are a necessary part of women's lives, and they're not all bad, actually. Their conspicuous absence from the photographs is no more than an editorial cop-out, unless perhaps a further reflection of these women's unwillingness to see themselves as part of, and not apart from, the rest of the human experience.

Women need to show that they are capable of more than bemoaning their victimization. Why are there no political articles in the magazine? Why is there no humor? Where is the fiction? The cartoons?

The Yale Women of the Ivy League offers no more than obscure references to puberty anxiety, body image and isolation. Except for two or three poems which do not deal with the anguished plight of womanhood, these women tell us that being female means being miserable, misled and misunderstood.

It's easy to wallow in one's own victimization--that's why we've got so many "artists" and "writers." What's harder is saying no to victimization, and going beyond it in your work. Harder, but not impossible. Harder, and not done here.

There is more to being a woman than dealing with male conceptions of female bodies. Women of the Ivy League not only dignifies the Playboy pictorial by responding to it, it reinforces the limited and sexuality-oriented conception of women that makes Playboy possible.

Positive conceptions of womanhood are not fostered in society by complainers. They do not come from lesbian photography, from confused and obscure poetry that pits women against men or gratuitous sniveling.

A proper response to Playboy would have been no response at all.