Seneca on Reading & Feminism on Dancing with the Stars

I have been rereading Seneca, one of my favorite Roman philosophers.  As you can imagine, I am fascinated by his views on reading.  He tells us to read the greats and not to buy  too many books.  If you need to build a book shed in the backyard, as critic Michael Dirda says he did,  Seneca will solve your space problem.

seneca-letters-from-a-stoci-97411In Letter II in the Penguin edition of Seneca:  Letters from a Stoic (translated by Robin Campbell), Seneca says,

A multitude of books only gets in one’s way.  So if you are unable to read all the books in your possession, you have enough when you have all the books you are able to read.  And if you say, ‘But I feel like opening different books at different times,’ my answer will be this:  tasting one dish after another is the sign of a fussy stomach, and where the foods are dissimilar and diverse in range they lead to contamination of the system, not nutrition.  So always read well-tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a change from a particular author, go back to ones you have read before.

Good advice:  but I love having a multitude of books!   Many bloggers read two or three or several books in a given period, switching from one to the other, and then back again.  (We’re reading like book review editors.)  Did Seneca predict twenty-first century ADHD?  Was there ADHD before it was invented?  Or do we modern readers simply read as many books as possible to compensate for online diversions?


Rose talking to Hough.

Rose (in black) talking last night to Hough (in pink) about body-shaming.

Dancing with the Stars pits celebrities you’ve never heard of with  their pro partners against other celebrrities.  (The Olympic athletes are the only ones I know.)

In the “video packages” before the dances (and why not call them “videos?”), editors shape our view of the stars.  Some are presented during training sessions as whiny prima donnas, others as gracious and charming, still others as outrageous bad boys and girls.

Yes, it is fun; it is also trashy.   Scantily-dressed women shake their booties (literally last week to a song called “Shake Your Booty”) while men keep their pants on but bare their waxed chests.  If you’re a Second Wave feminist like myself, you believe it is degrading for women to wear the skimpy costumes that define them in these dances.  On DWTS, feminist values are reversed:  all dances must be “hot,”as they have said for several seasons, or “sexy,” a disyllabic word they have all mastered.  To be fair, judge Bruno Tonioli has a colorful, sometimes extensive (ahem!), vocabulary!

But the director is taking the show in a trashier direction this season.  Now we hear the judges’ private conversations  and the pros’ coaching during the dances. It was only a matter of time before there was a conflict.   One of the stars, Amber Rose, a talk show host, told judge Julianne Hough that she felt “body-shamed” when Hough remarked last week to the other judges that Rose’s dance made her “uncomfortable.” Poor Rose was stuck dancing to “Shake Your Booty.”  Yup.  That was her degrading assignment.  Rose wiggled her butt over and over and over.  It was like Pole Dancing Night, sans pole.

Why did we see this conflict on the air?  I don’t like squabbles on TV.  It was like a scene from Valley of the Dolls, where women are valued only for their bodies and are terrified as they age. Frankly, these beautiful young women haven’t got the faintest idea what  body-shaming is-yet.

Bit Rose made a good point.  She said all the “girls” are scantily dressed, and she felt she was singled out because of her body. (And she was:  they gave her the humiliating song because she has a voluptuous butt.)  She also said she was afraid she would be considered too “sexy” if she did much more than wiggle

Refusing to dance to some of these songs, because they are sexist, or to wear those costumes, would be a good start in squashing the body-shaming.  But you don’t know that when you’re young.

P.S.  Amber Rose’s dance with Maks was stunning last night. She deserved higher scores.