Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 73


READY FOR SLUTWALK? (cartoon by Tom Hachtman)

San Francisco had its first SlutWalk last Saturday, and was Gertrude Stein along for the ride?
Good question. Controversial question, as most questions are regarding Stein.
Now that the avant-garde has collectively declared “Gertrude Stein is Twitter”, would she have been amused by the “deets” posted online? By “No means no yes means yes wherever we go however we dress”? One thing is for sure, she would have had the right outfits already in 1908, those sexy body wraps and curderoy robes held together by only one pin – one delicate, moveable pin for the moveable feast.

My friend, cartoonist Tom Hachtman, even ventured out where no man had gone before. We have to admit, however, that Stein was not very interested in the cause of women. She was fully emancipated quite on her own, way ahead of the Victorian minions around her. She had her own cause and she was winning it, hands down, coming out as the most famous and most influential of all modernist writers in America. Yes, even “coming out” as much as that was possible before the term was invented. Therefore, when she died in 1946, she might not have felt the need to join in the seventies when feminists rediscovered her “genius” and marched through Paris to “Take Back the Night.”
Now, had it been “Midnight” – as in “Midnight in Paris” – who knows?
What, we may wonder, would she have done with the word SLUT? She had already slyly played with the word “gay,” writing A Long Gay Book (in addition to her many lesbian odes). She would no doubt have been highly amused by the new usages of “queer.” Both gay and queer have overtones and undertones of meaning that allow Steinian word play. But does SLUT?
At least she would have created a new noun (she loved using nouns and repeating them, which she called “caressing”) for those who walk on SlutWalks. A Twitter word like “Slutter,” to start with. Let’s paraphrase her “Completed Portrait of Picasso” with its “shutters shut” – and we don’t have far to walk:
“Slutters slut and open, so do queens. Slutters slut and slutters and so slutters slut and slutters and so, and so slutters. And so slutters slut and so slutters slut and so slutters and so. And so slutters slut and so and also. And also and so and so and also.”
There you have it. Unless you think Stein would have been on the opposite side of the controversy, turning a foxy eye at our present “raunch culture” of women’s and girl’s (un)dress, staying at her desk at home, mumbling under her breath something about “internalized abuse of Girls Gone Wild,” or “pornification of protest.” And rolling her eyes, writing a sequel to her long, long poem “Patriarchal Poetry,” something like “Patriarchal Sluttery”?

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