15 January 2018

Women

In 1948, an English novelist wrote thus about American young women: "She was the standard product. A man could leave such a girl in a delicatessen shop in New York, fly three thousand miles and find her again in the cigar stall at San Francisco ... she would croon the same words to him in moments of endearment and express the same views and preferences in moments of social discourse. She was convenient; but Dennis came of an earlier civilisation with sharper needs. He sought the intangible, the veiled face in the fog, the silhouette at the lighted doorway, the secret graces of a body which hid itself under formal velvet. He did not covet the spoils of this rich continent, the sprawling limbs of the swimming-pool, the wide-open eyes and mouths under the arc-lamps ...".

I would go further. My fantasy of an exquisite civilisation would include the return of the habit of women wearing hats ... preferably with a veil complicating ones perception of the face behind it ... skirts at least mid-calf ...

My problem is that what Waugh derides as American seems to have become the culture of Europe as well. Wall to wall immodesty is the order of the day. I am glad I am no longer a young man. I think I would find it difficult nowadays to find satisfaction of Waugh's 'sharper needs'. As an old man, happily married and many, many decades beyond the Chase, I do retain regrets at an purely aesthetic level ...

The online edition of one popular English newspaper has an illustrated sidebar directing you to endless stories about indecently dressed female 'celebs' ... it is a newspaper which, in the 1930s, supported Facism; whose proprietor referred to 'Adolf the Great'; and who wrote to Hitler to congratulate him on his every aggression. It waged a relentless campaign against the entry into this country of the fleeing thousands of European Jewry escaping from one of the most hideous atrocities in European History. Perhaps one should look on the bright side of things. The Good News is that it does not praise Adolf the Great. But the Bad News is that it, and its competitors, remain the slavish mouthpieces of the Zeitgeist.

11 comments:

Midge See said...

Although the type of American woman that Waugh describes certainly exists, it’s really not a fair characterization of most American women.

We are a complex lot, from different backgrounds and faiths. What Waugh describes is a caricature put forth by Hollywood and advertisers.

That Waugh believed this stereotype may say more about the the class os people he associated himself with, rather than his powers of observation.

Mary Welch said...

Hats with veils and skirts to mid-calf are all very well, so long as one has a perfect hourglass shape. Spoon-shaped women should dispense with hats, and coned-shaped ones should wear pants.

Dymphna said...

But wasn't Evelyn Waugh homosexual?

Belfry Bat said...

Dear Dymphna, Waugh raised a family. Whatever temptations he might have felt along the way (and whether or not they preclude the more-common temptations), whatever sympathy ("fellow feeling") might be suspected in his writing, or however he might have aimed to "shock", that public fact and act of raising a family is the more important one.

Highland Cathedral said...

You may be interested that the girls who attend St Aloysius College in Glasgow wear a skirt that goes down well below the knee.
You can see an example here:
https://www.jesuit.org.uk/glasgow-colleges-public-speaking-successes-recognised

Tamsin said...

Hmm. Somebody must have sent Fr. Hunwicke a ... Daily Mail link? Do tell.

Perhaps in regards to acid attacks in London?

Sadie Vacantist said...

The film version of the above is surprisingly good and was made in 1965. Between that year and 1975 something changed but 1975 itself would prove seminal. For it was in this latter year that the left began its collapse. A combination of Michel Foucault (like Waugh he was in California at the time), the new politics of the social democrat Helmut Schmidt in the American puppet West Germany and the arrival of the Chicago boys into Pinochet's Chile were blows from which the ideological left have never recovered.

Riddley said...

Alas I don't think the wearing of "pants" is an option. As the blogger Dalrock has ably argued, we can't very well object to cross-dressing by men if we don't also discourage cross-dressing by women.

E sapelion said...

Dymphna may be thinking of Alec Waugh, Evelyn's older brother, who had a succès de scandale with his first semi-autobiographical novel about his own schooldays.

Banshee said...

Re: pants -- Arrant nonsense, unless men are to go back to wearing kilts, long shirts with hosen and points, sarongs, and robes.

In which case, women are going to go back to kilting up their skirts and/or wrapping them around their legs for work.

Pants were invented out on the steppes for riding horses without chafing or other forms of damage; and they seem to have been adopted by both men and women.

I also note that all the guys who looooove skirts so much, have never had the childhood experience of having every boy in class try to flip up said skirt to show one's underwear. I know guys who wear kilts, and it gets very annoying for them to have drunk women sexually assaulting their hemlines. One must also mention high winds, since I live in one of the areas with the most straight-line wind gusts on the entire North American continent. If youuuuuu want to shiver unclad in the wind while desperately trying to hold down both your skirt and slip, youuuuu can do it.

I like skirts, and I find the medieval styles very practical for some kinds of manual work. (I used to be in a reenactment group, and I used my skirts pretty hard.) But fashionable skirts are as impractical and annoying as they can be, and let's not even talk about the ill-fitting, flimsily built high heels they make now. I applaud those who can do it; but these days I seldom wear skirts or dresses even to church, even on days when I don't have to go to work right afterward. I don't think I've worn a skirt since summer.

(And since wearing any skirt usually leads to an argument with my mom, who thinks I should be able to fit back into my high school clothes... yeah, I'd rather not. Ditto the argument about my cute Boho hats.)

Banshee said...

Re: American women being all the same -- Yeah, just like all English people have the same (old-fashioned) BBC accent?

There's a world of difference between New Yorkers and San Franciscans. The amusing thing is that, for years and years, everybody kept saying that regional accents were disappearing, while linguists kept looking funny at this. Finally, back in the Nineties, they did a second great over-the-phone American accent survey, and found that there were actually more differences between regional accents than in the previous study, and that some new regional accents had broken out! Even in my own state, there were something like five different native accents in Columbus, and ten or so in Cincinnati.

(My own town had the distinction of having people use every possible pronunciation from the surrounding regions, all in the same sentence. That's probably the closest they came to finding any genericization, and it caused a lot of linguistic headscratching. I laughed and laughed, because I'd told my American dialects teacher that's what we do, and he hadn't believed me.)