This morning my friend Ariel sent me a link to this article from the London Telegraph, which briefly discusses Martin Amis’ purported recent turn to feminism. I don’t entirely agree with how it presents his views on gender. Granting that Amis has become more strident in his public support for global women’s rights since 9/11 (an attack grounded in an medieval ideology which he and others have correctly described as psychotically violent toward women), and acknowledging that the main characters in his novels are usually men, it is not the case that Amis has “become” a feminist, which seems to be the standard journalistic line on him at the moment. He’s always been one! It’s difficult to read any Amis novel, even one of his early “laddish” efforts like Success (the best existing account of young-male sexual frustration), without realizing where his sympathies lie. His work is nothing if not a really fucking funny, sustained critique of traditional Western maleness (and constrictive female roles, too). Most Amis characters are doomed narcissists. He’s a black comic. But it’s his men who turn the cruelty up to 11. Take London Fields: Nicola Six is a corrupt self-obsessive, but Keith Talent is the genuine monster. Amis writes about men like Stalin and Mohamed Atta as men for a reason.
Then a few hours later I was browsing the web and came across a Jezebel post that links to the same article with the tagline “The accused misogynist clarifies his feminist hopes and dreams.” They also included a particularly bad photo of Amis. I threw up in my mouth a little, and not because I’m an Amis fanboy having a knee-jerk defensive response.
Forget how lame it is to be snide without explaining why you are being snide (simply assuming your reader already agrees with you about Amis or anything else is intellectually weak). Try to ignore the sputtering in the “Comments” section. And think about this instead: what’s with the adjective “accused“? What the fuck does that mean? President Obama has been “accused” of being a secret jihadist, but that doesn’t make him one. One lazy word underscores the whole problem: you cannot make sweeping claims about an artist or any other serious human being or event without at least trying to offer some evidence for why you’re right. Jezebel is fine when it reposts material from better Gawker Media sites or discusses Jon Hamm or whatever; going in for vague ad hominem mini-criticism, though, was a bad move. Unless they were trying to appear dumb, in which case they did well. Relax. Amis is on the team.