I originally thought this review would stray from the original purpose of my blog, a journey as an English major in college, but being an English major is being a writer and writers have opinions and right now I have an opinion.
I guess around a year ago my younger sister was clamoring for a book call “How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World” a sort of guide to class and elegance for the tween set and I didn’t think much of it other than that my sis wanting the book so badly to the point of annoyance to the rest of the family didn’t seem so classy. But hey, she’s eleven, we’ll forgive. I mean I love Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday is one of my favorite movies and Katharine Hepburn is beautiful and one of the most empowered women of all time.
Then I read the book. The first thing I noticed was how regressive it was. Jordan Christy, the author, divides all women into “stupid girls” and “classy women,” which to me doesn’t seem so far from the way men are accused of dividing women to categories sex object or marriage candidates. “Stupid girls” include Ms. Hilton, Ms. Lohan and Ms. Richie who often make headlines for their classless actions. Instead women and girls should strive to be like Audrey Hepburn (Kate is only mentioned in passing). This is where Christy’s argument really breaks down. 1. Her concept of who Audrey Hepburn was is severely flawed. 2. Her concept of an empowered woman is just as flawed.
Yes, Audrey Hepburn did not go around flashing people and doing lines off her dashboard. But she did have severe body issues, marriages rumored to be abusive, a definitely abusive relationship with already married William Holden, as well as an affair during her first marriage. Hell, Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic character, Holly Golightly, whose outfit is replicated on the cover, is a high-class call girl who needs a high class gigolo is save her from herself. Sure she does it in a not-too-revealing dress but does that make her a role model? The other examples are contrary as well. Scarlett O’Hara is oft-cited as Christy’s favorite literary character. HELLO, that woman screams “USING SEX AS A WEAPON TO GET WHAT I WANT.” Sorry for the all caps, but if Scarlett was modern day, she would not be someone that Christy was defending.
I am not saying any of these sexual relationships tarnish Hepburn’s classiness or Scarlett’s. I still think both is wonderful. But they are in direct conflict with the idea of womanhood that Christy is positing. One that follows “The Rules” of dating and relies on being coy with men.
This book is a testament to failures of feminism in this society. If Christy wanted to change things, she would suggest that society should learn to accept sexually realized women. These role models are not necessarily the Hollywood types, who appear to use sex as an attention grabber. Those women are more on parallel with Christy’s view of “classy women” who are coy because both types are using sex as a lure/trap/game in which men are allowed to objectify women. She wants women to have “real women with brains, beauty and self-respect.” I’d like to think that a woman can have self-respect and be sexually realized. If not, what was the point of Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence or Margaret Sanger (say what you will about her less-than-savory views on races–birth control is a good thing and improves the quality of life)? Applying pseudo-Victorian standards to the way you live your life does not make you classy. It makes you antiquated and misunderstanding. How can we take social tips from people who were so hypocritical to begin with?
One more comment. Maybe this is because I’ve been exposed to so many LGBT students at Agnes, but I couldn’t help but notice the subtle judgments Christy makes on the gay community. In the chapter about snagging a man, Christy makes a snide comment about LiLohan’s potential bisexuality “We’ve seen Lindsay Lohan making out with a different guy (or girl) in some pool every week.” By adding the parentheses, Christy first marginalizes Lohan’s sexual identity and also assumes that no one reading the book could possibly identify with someone who is struggling with her sexual identity. So it isn’t classy to call a guy first, but it is classy to judge someone for their private sex lives, which are made public by society’s over-fascination with them? mmkthx for the great advice.
In my googling on Christy, I found two reviews/sections of comments I approved of. One is a response to a interview from the Vanderbilt Newspaper and the comments section on a review at Jezebel.com. I’m linking to both and I will leave you with some sound advice I found in one of the responses “Do: Fist Pump, Don’t: Judge.”
What a Vandy Girl is: In defense of the “Party Girls” This article is Vanderbilt-centric, but it points out that partying does not mean lack of class, necessarily.
So just saying, I’d rather be sassy than “classy” any day.