Too Fat for Our Pants airs on Radio One, 91FM, Dunedin, on Mondays from 10 - 12.
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Today I talked about and interviewed Dr. Susan J. Douglas about her latest book, Enlightened Sexism: the Seductive Message that Feminism's Work is Done.
By way of introduction to Dr. Douglas’s work and why work like it is relevant, I want to talk about another book that has recently been released by another female academic, this one at the London School of Economics, Dr. Catherine Hakim. Maybe you’ve come across this one already, as it’s raising some hackles among feminist writers and critics: it’s called Honey Money: the Power of Erotic Capital. The crux of Dr. Hakim’s argument is that having erotic capital is at least equal in importance to having other, established forms of individual capital: monetary capital, obviously, but also social capital like networks and friends in high places, and human capital, which is intelligence potentiated by education. Erotic capital, to Hakim, is comprised of a number of amorphous attributes, things like “liveliness”, which I reckon in the 60s would have been called “spunk” or “vivacity” and is meant to imply a certain lightheartedness, an unconcernedness of humour, and is certainly not meant to include, say, impassioned political involvement. Indeed the phrasing rules out any kind of activism, particularly of the feminist variety, as that implies, for Hakim, a lack of humour, a stodginess, a decided lack of vivacity. She did not coin the term, but claims that she has broadened its meaning from simple sex appeal to include other traits like charm, the aforementioned liveliness, and actual sexual expertise. Though she insists that her definition is not reliant on sexuality, despite the actual terms of the definition being decidedly sexual, to my mind and the minds of most other critics who’ve read this book, “erotic capital” is basically “things about you that make men want to fuck you”.