How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
If you replied, “That’s not funny!” you need to get with it.
The correct answer is “the hot tub.”
That’s according to The Atlantic’s Sandra Tsing Loh in a widely discussed (and derided) piece in that magazine’s October issue.
Called “The Weaker Sex,” it’s subtitled “How the new gender economics has more and more professional-class women looking at their mates and thinking: How long until I vote you off the island?”
Magazine writing hasn’t been a glamorous, well-compensated career since the end of the Harold Hayes era at Esquire. Nevertheless, I’m a female writer-for-hire and therefore one of the “weaker sex” myself. Forgive my pangs of professional jealousy, but when did the once prestigious Atlantic start hiring writers who use TV catchphrases dating back to the days when you could still get a chicken sandwich at Windows on the World?
Tsing Loh goes to great lengths to inform us that, well, I’m not sure exactly, but it has something to do with a dinner party at which she and her mostly divorced female friends commiserate with the only one of their number still married, name of Annette.
Annette, we’re informed, “is a working warrioress, a high-level administrator who makes mid-six figures at a major foundation.”
Having made exponentially less than that while working at a household-name nonprofit, I couldn’t help but speculate darkly on that particular foundation’s cost-revenue ratio.
Although I have to admit, that “mid-” was a cute touch on Tsing Loh’s part. I presume she and her friends are meant to represent a statistically significant slice of the population. Otherwise, this epochal new trend she’s stumbled upon would be no such thing.
Alas, unlike Tsing Loh, my girlfriends and I do not dine regularly on “white sangria” and “pesto hummus…from Whole Foods.” (In my lower-rent postal code, we call it “Whole Paycheck.”) We also don’t sarcastically toast our ex-husbands (we don’t have any) and then—you think I’m kidding—retire to “the hot tub, in candlelit darkness.”
(Another revealing little touch on Tsing Loh’s part, although this time unintentional: That hot tub’s “the,” as if every American just happens to have one gurgling away somewhere on the premises, in walking distance from “the oven” and “the fridge.”)
At this juncture, I was reminded of SCTV’s “Bill Needle” and his description of the feminist play “I’m Taking My Own Head, Screwing It On Right, And No Guy’s Gonna Tell Me It Ain’t.” To wit: It’s about how “women who don’t have any problems sit around talking about their problems.”
Which brings us, at long last, to that lightbulb.
Within living memory, Frank Sinatra had a cold. Fast-forward to American magazine writing 2012 and behold, Annette has a burned-out lightbulb.
When Tsing Loh’s only married female friend arrives at this hyper-hormonal Whole Foods hot-tub hoedown, she takes a slug off her “stiff vodka diet tonic with a wedge of lemon” and unburdens herself of a lengthy tirade—we’re talking hundreds of words—about her husband Ron.
Ron, you see, still hasn’t changed the burned-out lightbulb in the garage, even after she complained about it for the “FOURTH NIGHT???” in a row (capitalization and punctuation in the original).
Before you ask: Yes, Annette has full use of both arms.
This outrageous alternating-current atrocity is supposedly indicative of the horrific conditions which Today’s Modern Woman is expected to endure. Perhaps future feminists will come to refer to it in somber tones as the Holobulb.
Tsing Loh’s article accidentally illustrates the last point she’d ever actually dream of making consciously: that women are stupid, fickle, and lazy and have little business cluttering up the workforce.
Have you ever noticed that the biggest proponents of women’s employment outside the home have always been women writers? (Who else is in any position to propagandize for that cause—or any other?)
I’ll be the first to attest that writing—meeting deadlines, shooting out “friendly reminders” about overdue checks—can be challenging at times.
But writing isn’t real work. Nothing you can do in your pajamas is real work. (Although given some of the getups nurses waddle around in these days…)
No doubt Tsing Loh would disagree. Despite not grasping the obvious lesson of her very own article, she’d insist she worked really, really hard on this multi-thousand-word grocery list cum journal entry, and she’s got the check from The Atlantic to prove it.
And that’s what’s not funny.
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