December 31, 2016

End of the Year Tales: Women and the Scarcity Economy of Love



Reading Susan Sontag’s journals from the early 1970s I skip the part that is about her unfortunate love with C. While leafing through the pages, there is one sentence, though, that sticks: “Scarcity economy of love”, written in the margins of the diary. 

We are standing in front of the shop window of the bookstore in Reichenbergstra├če. I see Roland Barthes’ A Lover's Discourse, which inspired my 2016 resolution for the arts. A few more books about love are on display. “How surprising!”, I say. “It’s Christmas,” the artist responds with a bit of sarcasm in her voice. 

A female art person listening to a male art person who does all the talking: “I abstrahise,” she says. 

Two things I watched this year, which are remarkable in their turning around of roles for women. I mean, the women are strong and powerful, and not dependent on men. The first one was the movie Ghostbusters, the other one is the series The Catch. “Are you okay?” a guy asks private detective Alice Vaughan after some dangerous action. “Would you ask me the same if I were a man?” she replies. 

It wasn’t something that I gave much thought when it happened, but I was reminded of it this week. When I was 27, I applied for a Fulbright to go to the United States as a post-doc fellow. Walking into the interview, looking great with my platina blond hair, the first thing a man of the jury says is that they are not sending people to the US to go on a vacation. 

S from the bookstore tells me he doesn’t like Kirchner. In fact, he thinks Kirchner’s paintings are straight-down ugly. I laugh, it’s funny to hear somebody call shit what has been canonized, especially when it’s male.  

I have this French medieval poem I know from school, it’s about youth and basically it says; mignonne [female], enjoy your flower before it withers. I like reciting it, and I did so while drinking jenever with my Berlin friend S in Antwerp. S didn’t agree with the message of the poem, saying that in Japanese there is the concept of wabi sabi, which means the beauty of imperfection, of wrinkles, of things that are unfinished - a beauty you can find in a broken pot. 

S always mixes up the gender when he’s talking, which can be really confusing because you thought you were talking about a certain person but then he’s switching the “he” and “she” all the time. He explained to me that in Chinese spoken language there is no male or female, also no boyfriend or girlfriend. I think English and German language should catch up on that, it’s more 21st century. 

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