ricardienne: (augustine)
Ross Douthat, seriously???

At times, as the French writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry recently suggested, this side of sexual revolution looks more like “sexual reaction,” a step way back toward a libertinism more like that of pre-Christian Rome —anti-egalitarian and hierarchical, privileging men over women, adults over children, the upper class over the lower orders.

I mean, yeah. As we all know, the kyriarchy ceased to exist with the domination of Christian sexual ethics in the 5th century CE. No one was ever ever exploited again until the 1970's. The fact that the sexual politics in modern America are (still) terrible definitely does not have anything to do with cultural habits and mores and beliefs that pre-existed the "sexual revolution."

I'm not going to quote the part about "the bizarre modern ideal is sexual freedom for everyone where coercion and harm are prevented by things like age of consent laws and contraception and "regulations about initiating intercourse" (exact quote: this is apparently ReligiousRight for "enthusiastic consent and not raping people"). Because...Yes? And the fact that some of this has become reality is a good thing! And don't worry, Ross: same-sex marriage and enthusiastic consent were definitely *not* features of ancient sexual ethics. It's okay: it's possible to have sex that St. Jerome wouldn't approve of without also e.g., being a brutally hierarchical slave society where girls are married at 13. And the former is what we're going for here.

(This was the part where the essay reminded me of just how different the moral universes are that Douthat (it's really tempting to type "Douchehat") and I inhabit. Is there even any point to me posting this, for example? There's really no point, except that it made me ragey and I need to get my rant out before I go finish my dissertation (ulp).)

Or the part where he suggests that liberal feminist sex-positive types are criticizing 50 Shades of Gray because it's portrayal of BDSM isn't realistic enough. Obviously, the fact that most of the criticism is actually about how it depicts a completely traditional abusive relationship would undermine his point about how liberals don't understand that modern supposedly "liberated" sexual culture is still newly unequal.
ricardienne: (library)
Look. I know that making fun of most NYTimes op-ed columnists is like shooting fish in a barrel, but Nicholas Kristoff (already pretty content-free as a rule), is really stretching things today with a piece about a new theory about the location of Homeric Ithaca:
FOR a nation like ours that is seeking its way home from 10 years of war, maybe there’s a dash of inspiration in the oldest tale of homecoming ever — “The Odyssey” — and in new findings that shed stunning light on it.

Homer recounts Odysseus’s troubled journey back from a military entanglement abroad, the decade-long Trojan War. “The Odyssey” is a singular tale of longing for homeland, but it comes with a mystery: Where exactly is Odysseus’s beloved land of Ithaca? Homer describes Odysseus’s Ithaca as low-lying and the westernmost island of four. That doesn’t fit modern Ithaca, which is mountainous and the easternmost of the cluster of islands in the Ionian Sea.

A British businessman, Robert Bittlestone, working in his spare time, thinks he has solved this mystery — and his solution is so ingenious, and fits the geography so well, that it has been embraced by many of the world’s top experts.
“The Odyssey” is particularly relevant to us today as we recover from our own decade of war. How sweet it would be to discover, after three millenniums, that Odysseus was not imaginary but a product of these rocky hills, olive trees and beaches on an obscure Greek peninsula — an example of how the ordinary can inspire the extraordinary.

I have no particular thoughts the location of Homer's Ithaca, and Paliki is a plausible as any. It doesn't have any bearing on the historicity of Odysseus, though!

The idea that "finding" or "proving" Odysseus not only matters but could somehow revitalize a dispirited America is ludicrous (I suspect the latter part was only thrown in to make this op-ed seem like serious political commentary and not just bloggish squee). But -- if I may put on my wild overgeneralization hat for moment -- it's probably related to an obsession with authenticity in our culture. Memoirs, true crime, reality tv, "based on a true story," even the trend of novels coming with long afterwords and appendices laying out the author's research, and detailing what is 'based in fact' and what isn't. If we (somehow) could know that someone named Odysseus lived, would that change anything about how and why people find (or imagine that they have found, even though they haven't reread it since high school English days) the Odyssey to be so fundamental a story about humanity? Nope. It really wouldn't.

Some other questions about Kristoff's piece:

1. Does the NY Times stylebook really mandate "milleniums" instead of "millenia"? Doesn't the former just sound weird?

2. Does Kristoff know that "ingenious" is not a positive descriptor in academia?

3. What kind of "inspiration" does Kristoff think "war-wandering" America is going to draw from having found out where Ithaca was? Is the idea that this will spur us to reenact Odysseus' homecoming by, say, slaughtering the suitors/government and especially punishing the nation's women? -- kind of sounds like the platform the GOP is running on. Or are we supposed to take inspiration from the process of discovery, realizing that we should be putting all of the military budget into archaeology?

4. Just to carry the Odysseus analogy further: does Kristoff not remember that as soon as Odysseus comes home, he starts a local war and then has to set out voyaging again? Where does that fit into the metaphor?


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