That Girl

November 08, 1992

Academic defenders of pop diva Madonna argue her art is important because it challenges pernicious gender stereotypes that historically have justified the oppression of women. By manipulating the images and expectations of a "repressive patriarchal culture" for her own ends, they insist, Madonna shows that women do not have to accept the preordained role of passive victim.

We fear it won't be long before some such rationalization is trotted out to explain the brisk sales reported for Madonna's new volume, "Sex," despite generally negative press reviews. Critics of the book, a sort of catalog of kinky lovemaking, doubtless will be accused of buying into the "blond bimbo" myth that dismisses anything Madonna does as campy trash devoid of artistic significance.

Let us grant that Madonna knows what she is doing, and that her obsessive portrayals of herself as tramp and porn queen are intentional parodies. Still, "Sex" is neither original nor funny nor 11 even particularly sexy. How does that "defy the conventions of the dominant patriarchy"? Those who see Madonna as an icon of the new feminist sensibility are confusing a genius for marketing and promotion with the genuine article.

Sorry, but we still just don't get it.

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