Barbie’s book?

by Yule Heibel on September 8, 2003

An interview in The Atlantic Online with Virginia Postrel, author of The Substance of Style, columnist for the business section of The NY Times, and blogger. Here’s a question from the interview, followed by Postrel’s answer. All I can say is I couldn’t disagree more:

Given your observation that personal style is becoming increasingly important to a person’s success in life, do you think there should be an explicit focus on teaching kids about self-presentation while they’re young, so they won’t have trouble in that area later on?
I think it is a good idea. I think we should teach kids about making themselves look good and about presenting their ideas well. They should have speech training, and there’s nothing wrong with teaching them how to use aesthetic tools like Power Point. All of these things have to be done well. It’s like teaching people to write.

Help! For a bracing counterpoint to Postrel’s assessment of Power Point as an aesthetic tool (???), see Edward Tufte’s article in Wired Magazine: “Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials.”

Needing a break from the chirpy joys of “aesthetics” as described by Postrel and the grim sterility of technology as described by Tufte, I dove into this review, Snatch Squad, of Catherine Blackledge’s The Story of V: Opening Pandora’s Box. The aesthetic imperative of lovely packaging that Postrel espouses resulted in the 19th century genre ideal of the The Nude (always without pubic hair, until Manet put in a 5-o’clock shadow and Courbet painted the clinical but furry Origin of the World) that seems still to thrive in the endlessly groomed of today. The Story of V (nice pun on that of O) probes deeper:

The vagina has been explored by gynaecologists, sexologists and pornographers, but rarely, if ever, has its every cultural, historical, anthropological and anatomical facet been probed with such exhaustive – and exhausting – dedication. In our liberal era, we think we’re all frightfully frank, but the vagina remains a far more taboo subject than we realise. Indeed, what goes on down there is still misrepresented or shrouded.
(…) The crux of The Story of V is the role of the “intelligent vagina”. Blackledge gathers together a body of evidence showing that the idea of the vagina as a reproductive “passive vessel” is one of the greatest scientific mistakes of all. In fact, it acts as a sorter and screener of sperm via an obstacle course of hairpin bends, chambers, and a finely balanced acidic eco-system that bounces away the weedier genetic specimens before they can get anywhere near the egg. Orgasmic contractions then hasten the selected sperms’ journey. The vagina, therefore, is an active participant in successful conception.

Ok, try to fit that into a substance of style agenda or into a PowerPoint presentation….


Joel September 9, 2003 at 2:56 am

Speaking of presentation, Gender Genie says that you’re a man. See my page. 🙂

Yule Heibel September 9, 2003 at 3:04 am

Oh great, another thing to worry about!

Wendy September 9, 2003 at 9:47 am

Yule, the Gender Genie can’t decide what I am, and I’m pleased about it. I don’t like being predictable. 🙂 Here’s to hair!

Yule Heibel September 9, 2003 at 5:15 pm

Hey, maybe that’s why I’m feeling the need to grow my hair long again? Or are we talking about Manet’s & Courbet’s represenations of …hair? Hmmm…. Now you’ve got me thinking about the lyrics to Hair:

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

Oh say can you see
My eyes if you can
Then my hair’s too short

Down to here
Down to there
Down to where
It stops by itself

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