Suzanne Fields

Anna Nicole Smith used her pre-feminist charms to engage a billionaire husband, and look what happened to her. The minute details of her life fascinate because her life illustrated the limitations of femininity and feminism as strategies of pursuit. She alternated dangerously between the stereotypes, and three men claimed fatherhood for her motherless child (and all that inherited cash).

Romantic novels always lead the man to believe that he is overpowering the woman, although it's not clear that Adam overpowered Eve or Eve overpowered Adam. Original Sin, no matter how you interpret it, became the Original Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Today, the liberated woman learns that she must choose her tactics carefully. Femininity and feminism are incompatible instincts, likely in the end to dissolve in divorce due to irreconcilable differences.

"Being female at this point in history is an especially conflicted enterprise, like Birkenstocks with Chanel, or trying to frown after a Botox injection," observes the wry Laura Kipnis in "The Female Thing." She identifies the "feminine industrial complex" which accounts for the vast investment in cosmetics, fashion and how-to manuals to trap and keep a man even when he's not worth it.

Men are eager to take what women have to give, but they're not taking the sexual revolution lying down. They have a conflicting dichotomy all their own, often shifting between macho and metrosexual. Charles LeDuff, in his book "US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man," scolds the fashion industry for softening the sophisticated urban male. "They are creating a whole subgenus," he says maliciously: "The alpha-pansy."

A recent study cites a "substantial" drop in the testosterone level of American men over the past two decades. It's not clear why, but the usual suspects -- trans fats, global warming and, of course, feminism -- get most of the blame. The war between the sexes continues, with new weapons. Women employ the push-up bra, and men rely on push-ups and Viagra. The winner, if there ever is one, may be the sex that first makes a pact with the devil. And good luck at Harvard, Dr. Faust.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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