One Dimensional Women: Nina Power and Zero Books

January 24, 2010

posted by caroline picard

I recently finished One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power. It’s one of the Zero Books, a great project that states in its mission: “Contemporary culture has eliminated both the concept of the public and the figure of the intellectual. Former public spaces – both physical and cultural – are now either derelict or colonized by advertising…Zer0 Books knows that another kind of discourse – intellectual without being academic, popular without being populist – is not only possible: it is already flourishing, in the regions beyond the striplit malls of so-called mass media and the neurotically bureaucratic halls of the academy. Zer0 is committed to the idea of publishing as a making public of the intellectual.”

Power’s work lives up to all those expectations. Providing clear and reasoned insight into the pitfalls of feminism–a title that, according to Power, further commodifies the woman, making her values complicit with consumerism such that the contemporary woman celebrates her independence via purchasing power and decadent selfishness. “I think there’s a very real sense in which women are supposed to say ‘chocolate’ whenever someone asks them what they want,” (Power, p. 37). Rather than fulfill herself, however, the contemporary feminist further distances herself from herself, her body, her peers. “They, the breasts, and not their ‘owner,’ are the center of attention, and are referred to with alarming regularity, as completely autonomous objects, mush as one would refer to suitcases or doughnuts. Constantly fiddled with, adjusted, exposed, covered-up or discussed, contemporary breasts resemble nothing so much as bourgeois pets: idiotic, toothless, yapping dogs with ribbons in their hair and personalized carrying pouches.” Concise, generously phrased and to the point, Power describes the society in which we live, one governed by a market that, through momentum and historical precedent, alienates women, alienates sexuality and, really, separates the individual from a sense of freedom.  You can pick up the book by going here.

Power also describes this film, “This 1966 Czech film features two young women who dedicate their lives to spoiling everything in increasingly surreal ways, with seemingly little rhyme or reason. Who are these irresponsible young women who find it more amusing to play with each other, and occasionally with men, but only so they can return to each other and be yet more ‘spoiled’ (a in ruined rather than pampered, of course)? The formal inventiveness of the film would undermine its claims to ‘realism,’ but this is all the better. For all the male ‘coming of age’ stories in the world, it makes sense that their rare female equivalent would have to be as bizarre as possible,” (p.40).

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