Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

A wonderful piece by Joan Didion. Still thinking about it days after reading it a second time.

coldhearted scientist وداد

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

I had not been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. This failure could scarcely have been more predictable or less ambiguous (I simply did not have the grades), but I was unnerved by it; I had somehow thought myself a kind of academic Raskolnikov, curiously exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others. Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked real tragic stature, the day that I did not…

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One thought on “Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

  1. In response to your article “Our Culture treats men and boys as second class citizens”
    I was momentarily left literally speechless that you think the portrayal of men as weak, childish and ridiculous in advertisements, popular drama and films is “justified.” Was it “justified” when women were portrayed that way? You say men had it coming… What exactly did men have coming? Sexism? Did men and boys (who weren’t even born 50 or 100 years ago) have anti-male sexism justly coming to them? You have a very strange sense of justice. How can sexism under any circumstances be just? What happened to the concept of EQUALITY ??? Why do men and boys have to be treated like 2nd class citizens when they could be treated like 1st class citizens along with women and girls? De Tocqueville when speaking about the “inferiority” of human nature said it best, “… the inferiority of our nature which has a poor grip on what is true and fair more often than not simply chooses between two excesses.”
    The fact that you believe the “simpsonization” of men is justified and that men should accommodate a culture that holds them, at a purely personal and domestic level, as second-rate citizens, is the most profoundly, outrageously SEXIST thing I think I have ever encountered. So long as there are men like you in the numbers you currently are- men who are simply weak, and nothing much else- it will only get worse. The facts you have pointed out and which you yourself constitute, have served to underscore the utter hypocrisy of feminism and the pathetic, whipped state of men in western society today- a western society which has nothing attractive to offer a young muslim man say, in Saudi Arabia- to whom the empty rhetoric about equality found in feminism in particular and western societies in general, must strike him as just that, as he looks at the same facts about western civilization you have been discussing. I wonder to what extent the second class status of men and boys in western societies plays a part in fueling Islamic fundamentalism. Lastly, do you believe it would be correct and proper for sons to “lovingly mock” their mothers as you state you believe it’s correct and proper for daughters to “lovingly mock” their fathers? Keep in mind the double-standard is that upon which any sexism is predicated.


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