While I’m defending white, middle class females who write: Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel is getting trashed on the internet for her “self-indulgent, rambling” piece published in New York. Everyone from Jezebel to my favorite feminists writers on the internet seem to find her post ridiculous or offensive. There are some things I like about it and here they are:

Elizabeth Wurtzel is writing about what it’s like to be 44. I just turned 44 yesterday, so I suppose it’s self-indulgent of me, but its kind of fascinating for me to read about it.

I like this sentence:

I am proud that I have never so much as kissed a man for any reason besides absolute desire, and I am more pleased that I only write what I feel like and it has been lucrative since I got out of college in 1989.

How many women say that? Wurtzel is stating: “I am hot and I am smart and I make money.” That is something that has always fascinated about Wurtzel: as a Harvard grad and “attractive” best-selling writer in her twenties, the combination of brilliance and beauty defied the “smart” or “pretty” polarities women are so often forced into. It’s also still not cool or okay for women to talk about earning money at all, not to mention publicly. She does.

While Googling herself to find a piece she’d written, Wurtzel came across a Harvard doc about prominent Harvard alumni:

under the rubric of “Literature,” there was my name. That would not have been so strange except that I was the only woman and, with John Ashbery, the only person on the list still alive. It occurred to me that it had been so long since I last published a book—not since 2001—that maybe they thought I was dead. But there it was, me with T. S. Eliot, e. e. cummings, William S. Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Norman Mailer, John Updike, George Plimpton, David Halberstam, and Henry David Thoreau. It was a shockingly distinguished group to find myself lingering with. I had certainly moved up in the world by doing nothing. And maybe all it meant was that somebody in a communications office at the university had suicidal tendencies that she got through by reading my books. But I was moved nonetheless.


When I grow up, I thought, I am going to be a damn great writer.

The only woman. Wow. It sucks that she is the only woman but I am happy a woman is included. I’m glad that she told the world she was included. Who else is going to do it?

Then, there’s this:

I am committed to feminism and don’t understand why anyone would agree to be party to a relationship that is not absolutely equal. I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes, that is that, and I am heartbroken to live through a time where Wall Street money means these women are not treated with due disdain.

Women in the world are, much of the time, economically dependent on men. Some of those women are admired for that and some of those women are derided. Wurtzel is pointing out that hypocrisy when most people ignore it.

So that’s what I like about the piece.

6 thoughts on “While I’m defending white, middle class females who write: Elizabeth Wurtzel

  1. I wanted to be with you Margot, but this article was very unpleasant to read. And I like nymag, at least the fashion section.

    “My friend Olivia had her own bad scene with the same woman a few years prior and had taken to calling her Hooker Maria—the best explanation she could come up with for her multilevel closets of Marc Jacobs dresses and Gucci shoes was an upscale outcall business. Olivia’s husband likes to keep things simple, so he would call her Crazy Hooker Maria. Olivia figured that Hooker Maria’s rage could be explained by her age: recently 50, and out of work.”

    “They always sent pairs of very fat female cops.”

    “By never marrying, I ended up never divorcing, but I also failed to accumulate that brocade of civility and padlock of security—kids you do or don’t want, Tiffany silver you never use—that makes life complete. Convention serves a purpose: It gives life meaning, and without it, one is in a constant existential crisis.”

    And I think she’s oddly vague about her lack of long-term relationships (both romantic and friendly). She seems very averse to taking responsibility for the choices she’s made in her life. Sometimes you do lose touch with friends. But if you really want to make an effort, you don’t have to sever those ties completely.

    You know what? It is very self-centered writing that focuses on how important she is and how special her writing is. But I’ve read plenty of male writers do the same thing and no one complains about them. So, complain about her style or the comments about appearance and sexuality that seem at odds with her feminist self-identification and discussion of her own sexual past. But don’t complain about her sense of self-importance unless you want to have a whole conversation about the Romantics. Which I don’t.

  2. “I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes”

    Okay wow… so by this logic stay at home moms who dedicate their lives completely to their children are “prostitutes”? So what are the husbands who work long hours to support the family then? Pimps?

    Nice. Classy. Any credibility the writer had has now been flushed down the toilet. I agree with Sarah. That statement is just plain offensive. To BOTH genders I might add.

    • Hi Blunt,

      There are prostitutes who work long hours supporting their families. Again, what I like about what she said, is she messed with a duality forced on women that is rarely messed with. I also agree with Sarah that the spreading of disdain isn’t feminist.


  3. How is “I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes, that is that…” a feminist statement? I, for one, consider myself a strong feminist, but I am appalled that people continue to look at life/value/equality as a ledger that judges choices and relationships based primarily on who earns what and who pays for whom. Yes, Wurtzel makes a point to specifically mention the rich Wall Street wives who are getting away without being subjected to their “due disdain,” but her solution to the hypocrisy you mention seems to be spreading the disdain around. Wouldn’t valuing and respecting the career/family/life choices of both women and men be a more appropriate response than simply spreading the vitriol and judgement to more women?

    The rest of her article: meh, not my cup of tea. But I find that statement ridiculous and offensive.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Yes, I agree with what you say, she spreads the disdain around.I don’t know that I would call her statement feminist at all. I also think it is obnoxious how she disdains prostitutes. But I have always thought about this comparison– that some women are dependent on men for money and they are admired and celebrated (society wives) where as some women in the same position are deride because they’re not married to the rich guy, such a radical difference in perception. It’s odd. And then, how so many women in the world are economically dependent on men, women do what they can, in that position, where most of the men have most of the money. So to condone some women and condemn others is messed up, IMO. And no one really addresses it. She does, in a fucked up way.


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