I N T R O D U C T I O N
Intimacy, Publicity, and Femininity
Every normal female yearns
to be a luminous person.
Everyone knows what the female complaint is: women live for
love, and love is the gift that keeps on taking.1 Of course that’s a
simplifying phrase: but it’s not false, just partial. In the contem-
porary world of U.S. women’s popular culture the bitter vigilance
of the intimately disappointed takes up a lot of space: The Bitch
in the House; The Bride Stripped Bare; and Are Men Necessary?
among many others.2 These hard-edged titles, however, conceal
the tender fantasies of a better good life that the books also express.
They market what is sensational about the complaint, speaking
from a pretense to skewer an open secret that has been opened and
skewered, in U.S. popular culture, since at least the 1830s. Fusing
feminine rage and feminist rage, each has its own style of hailing
the wounded to testify, to judge, to yearn, and to think beyond the
norms of sexual difference, a little.
These books manifest the latest developments in what this book
calls the mode of “the female complaint.” They foreground wit-
nessing and explaining women’s disappointment in the tenuous