Disparate Thoughts on Marilyn, Feminism, and the Weight of Such

Most of my life I’ve been inordinately thin.  At mid-life (at least I hope this is mid-life, who knows?) I’ve jumped a size in the hip area.  Jeans no longer fit.  Skirts I once loved are now too tight.  If I wear these pre-weight gain clothes, I will have trouble digesting a meal.  The beauty of this weight gain is that I feel suddenly much more feminine than I ever have.  I love it.

This weekend I reunited with girlfriends from the late 80s.  I wore (new) jeans and a t-shirt with Marilyn Monroe on it.  My girlfriends ranged from not having children to having more than the average two.  Of the mothers, there was a mix of stay-at-home moms and working moms, some having been both.   Some of us are caring for an aging parent; others are raising toddlers.

Dr. Lois Banner, historian and gender studies professor, has released a new book on Marilyn, The Passion and the Paradox.  Banner makes the case that Marilyn was ahead of her time; that she was a Third Wave feminist.

Third Wave feminism has no all-encompassing single feminist idea.  Likewise, it has no one definition.

Marilyn Monroe’s size is often debated.  Whether a British 12 or an American 8, my niece, Megan, who just turned 8, pointed at my t-shirt this weekend and said, that’s Marilyn, right?  There are 78 years between the birth of Marilyn and the birth of Megan.

Third Wave feminism seeks to encompass all women — not just white, middle-class, heterosexual women.  Third Wavers celebrate the many ways of being a woman, from lesbian to sex kitten to intellectual to soccer mom or any mix of such.  It even recognizes that some women cannot even speak about feminism because they are simply trying to survive.

Why do I wear a t-shirt with Marilyn on it?  Why do I sometimes wear a pink t-shirt (a shade too small) with Barbie written in cursive on the front?  (These are rhetorical questions).

I want Marilyn to be more than a curvy body, the ideal sex pot.  I want her to be more than a woman who was forced to use her body to gain her celebrity.   In fact, I want to make peace with body and beauty and sex and brains and a visual society that never closes its eyes.

Marilyn read Rilke.  She was married to Arthur Miller, who wrote unflattering things about her in his journal (which she shouldn’t have read to begin with).  She had leftist tendencies. She studied her craft seriously.  She also wore fuzzy sweaters and slept in her bra.

An iconic presence absorbs the projections of its audience(s).  Marilyn has had multiple audiences.  As the single member (yet made of many selves) of the Rosemary audience, I project onto her what I want her to be, regardless of scholarship and sometimes in conjunction with. If I wear that t-shirt and I’m a role model as an aunt and a mother, then I’ve layered the iconic status of Marilyn with my own self for other females.

Actions carry weight.

It has been argued that Marilyn is the ideal postmodern subject material.  All of her fragments do not come together in a nice, neat whole.  What happens when we weigh the fragments of Marilyn?  All of her selves?  The truth plus the projections, plus the theories?  We end up with more than just perfume.  More than a sexy ass and ample chest.  We have weight.  If we make Marilyn just a sex kitten, we’ve stripped her.  If I am only the clothes I wear and the curves I have, I am negated to an object.  My mass is ignored.

Weight changes.  Movements evolve. The weight of an object is the force on the object due to gravityAudiences serve as gravity.  Supporters serve as gravity for a movement.  We lose weight; we gain weight.

An object’s weight depends on its environment, while its mass does not.


 The inspiration for this posting in part came from this book review from The Chronicle.


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