• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Femme Fatale to Feminist Icon

September 2018

A true heroine, much like a true hero, is not to be so easily found. She or he is, quite by definition, an exception to the rule—a deviation from the norm. She’s a contrast to the quotidian, a right-turn from the everyday. And while we know, or at least always we like to believe that she does exist somewhere and in some not-too-distant place, she’s absent from our daily scene. We’ve come to know her as being too stubbornly well-concealed, but what, then, do we make of our desperation to seek her out?

We run into trouble when we attempt the feat—the long journey toward her discovery. It’s for that reason, for the heroine’s incessant absence and our yearning to fill her in, that we’ve begun searching where normally we wouldn’t. We’ve begun grasping in dark closets, hoping to find someone who can possibly bring us light and amuse our ideals. We’ve taken to exploring strange and unnatural places—the tawdry corners and basement cellars of impolite society. Led by an aimless desire to be led, compelled by a need to worship someone other than ourselves, we’ve resorted to looking everywhere for that person who might fill the heroine’s shoes.

And, by and large, we know what we want to find once she’s found. We want someone at whose feet we can kneel in celebration. We want someone under whose virtues we can be uplifted and upon whose wings we can soar. Such a heroine will surely have all the requisite qualities by which we judge those passed on to us by history—those archetypes of heroism in whose image no one sees herself today. She’ll have the indomitable grace of a Hera, the wisdom of an Athena, and the beauty of an Aphrodite. Witness in her the trenchancy of an Abigail Adams or the audacity of a Rosa Parks. She’ll have the erudition of a Marie Curie, the solicitude of a Clara Barton. She’ll have the pliancy of an acrobat and the stability of a weighted bough. Strong in conscious, stiff in spine, she’ll not waver nor buckle in the face of a challenge no matter its source. She’ll have a hot-temper for a right cause when the circumstance demands it, but a sangfroid and a cool reserve on every occasion until then.

At least in my calculation, this is how the heroine appears—strong, intellectual, beautiful, uncompromising, and refined. But I’ve come recently to question this notion of this idealized and largely agreed-upon heroine form. This type of heroine, to whom we’ve tacked such lofty standards, may no longer exist. Nor do the standards to which she should conform. Maybe the qualifications aren’t as objective as once we thought; perhaps they’re simply a matter of taste. It could be that they’re born of man’s own mind and out of thin air—an air that’s ever-changing and vacillating east to west, up and down. In that case, what once we determined to be essential heroic qualities—bare minimums of the transcendent and extraordinary being—might be merely subjectively derived.

In lauding Ms. Stormy Daniels, the porn star turned political lighting rod with whom the president had a now infamous dalliance over ten years ago, as a heroine of our age, I’m confirmed in my thinking. The standards by which we measure a heroine are gone. The vaunted club is open to all takers. What’s more, the feminist movement, itself built on the shoulders of consummate heroes like Wollstonecraft and de Beauvoir and Steinem and Stanton will invite its own decay, should it embrace her.

Not only have her lips (be they above the navel or below) launched a thousand litigious ships over the course of the past few months, Ms. Daniels has become something of a poster-child for a newfangled type of heroic femininity. With diminishing hesitation, many commentators and opinion writers on the left have embraced her wholesale. They look at her as an unorthodox brand of “hero”, but a hero nonetheless, and one behind whose plight they can galvanize completely. Rather than a loose, pornographic film actress (which, sorry to say, she still appears to be), they see in her a staunch and principled whistle-blower—one against whom a cadre of the president’s legal professionals are raging every day. Devotedly fixed to her aim of revealing the truth about his and her affair, Ms. Daniels is the most important bulwark against the president’s predations. As such, she’s the target at whom all of his lawyers are pointing their arrows and firing away. Hers is the name that they’ve all tried endlessly to besmirch. And yet, she stands unvanquished, absorbing every thrust.

In the media, this is the caricature that’s been drawn of her, but what really has she done to deserve our exaltation? How has it come to be that she’s catapulted herself amongst the storied heroines mentioned up above?

In short, she had sex with a man and was compensated handsomely to keep quiet the affair. So far as we can tell, she engaged in a consensual, if not lamentably extra-marital rendezvous with a private man of some substance, a one Mr. Donald Trump. The two met and quickly became intimate at a golfing event years ago. Thereafter, following an end to their scattered assignations (Trump was at the time married to his current wife, who had recently born him a child. His affair with Daniels is said to have lasted but a few months), the two reconvened in a different way. To avoid any risk of their affair leaking to the press during a contentious presidential race in the fall of 2016, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney created a shell company to pay off Ms. Daniels and “bury” the lead. For a cost, Ms. Daniels apparently was indeed for sale; to the tune of $130,000, her discretion and silence could be and indeed was bought. Cupidity, in this case, proved the more powerful vice. Notoriety and lechery trailed second and third. In the end, she agreed to a purchased obscurity and that was that.

Of course, no story in these times ends so neatly. Reneging on her contractual agreement, Ms. Daniels let slip her tale. All of the penetralia of the affair were made known—all the gross details of the boudoir handed over to the press. Federal prosecutors got involved, hankering for an indictment over a possible breach in campaign expenditure law. The investigation therein is ongoing, but it’s thus far led to the “flipping” of men closest to the president’s inner sanctum.

How, then, has Ms. Daniels made the leap from avaricious femme fatale to icon of the feminists? This is a transition whose logic I’m still yet to grasp. And, frankly, I may never understand it completely. While ignorance is one thing, fear is quite another, and what I fear is this: if we permit Ms. Daniels to make this leap—this jump from harlot to heroine, Jane Doe to Joan of Arc—our once lofty standards of the heroic ideal will be debased. We must re-affirm our standards for heroism. We must decide who does and doesn’t fit the bill. While Ms. Daniels might be an acerbic voice on the television screen, hers is far from a heroic one. Her revelations might be salacious, but they’re nothing close to edifying or noble. In its embrace of her, the feminist movement risks losing itself, while heroism risks breathing its last. It’s time to step back and re-discover our standards.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Success, ‘tis said, yet more success begets– On the prosperous rains ever more profits. So reads the adage of the Gospel’s Jew: The iron law, the Effect of Matthew. “To him who has much, more will be