34 I CHRONICLESnher Legend in order to examine it. It isnsignificant that few of these writers arenfilm critics, and few of the “more thannforty books” about Marilyn Monroendeal specifically with her acting.n(Once her “luminescence” on screennis acknowledged and her “flair forncomedy” discussed, what’s left to say?)nThe best-known of the Monroe chroniclersnare from the “cultural critic”nmold, and no cultural critic worthy ofnthe name is about to shine his light onna mediocre American actress with anflair for comedy. The Legend ofnMarilyn Monroe was born because shenwas there, once luminescent, nowndead by her own hand, and they werenthere, the culture analysts, just poppingnwith “perspective.” (And if thenKennedys figured in there someplace,nso much the better.)nOnce all the sordid details ofnMarilyn Monroe’s life had been revealednfully and analyzed thoroughly,nthese writers began repeating themselvesnand each other, shouting “Legend,”nwhispering “Myth,” murmuringn”Tragedy” over and over again. Andnwhen they could repeat themselves nonlonger, when the mine was completelynplayed out, they added to their booksnthe Monroe photographs—many, ofncourse, “never before published”n—and started analyzing those. Therenare now available what appear to benthousands of “never before published”nphotographs of Marilyn Monroe, all ofnthem blurring into one picture, just asnthe books dissolve into one book.nThus, unsurprisingly, Gloria Steinem’sntext in Marilyn: Norma Jean isnthe binder for yet another collection ofnseen-here-for-the-first-time photographs,npictures that are simply onenmore encounter with the mental outline,none more display of the logo.nStill, this is one book that will neverndissolve into the others.nWith Marilyn: Norma Jean, GlorianSteinem has written the perfect companionnto a logo: a jingle—a familiarnditty we are meant to associate with anproduct. The product is, of course,nfeminism, and this jingle is sung to thentune of “I Am Woman, See My Pain.”nAfter ritually declaring Marilyn Monroenan “icon of continuing power”n(after all, what feminist wants to holdnforth on a logo?), Steinem gets downnto business by asking whether, hadnMarilyn lived, she could “havenstopped her disastrous marriages” andn”kicked her life-washng habits.” Innother words, what would she havenbeen if she hadn’t been what she was,ni.e., an extremely maladjusted person;nand what would she have done if shenhadn’t done what she did, which wasnto kill herself “We will never know,”nsniffles Steinem. No matter. GlorianSteinem is not seeking an answer.nWhat she’s after here is the effect ofnthe question. This type of self-servingnnonquestion is the required groundwork,nthe setup, for the exemption ofn”cultural victims” from personal accountabilitynfor their achons and decisions.nA neglected and traumatized child,nMarilyn Monroe grew into an excessivenand destructive woman. WhatnSteinem wants us to know is thatnMonroe was not responsible for hernmisspent life because not only was hernchildhood environment beyond herncontrol, her adult environment was,ntoo. If Marilyn Monroe entered womanhoodnwith two emotional strikesnagainst her, it was a sexist society’snrefusal to offer “respect,” “support,”nand acceptance of her “full humanity”nthat finished her off. When seen innthis light, everything about the disasternthat was Marilyn Monroe’s life “makesnsense.”nWhen, for instance, she misrepresentednfacts, inventing what Steinemncalls “parables,” she wasn’t lying, becausenthese parables were “always consistentnin emotion.” When she “ignorednher own [financial] security,”nshe wasn’t being foolish; she was demonstratingn”her emotional connectionnto ordinary people” and her abhorrencenof becoming “one of the rich.” Ifnshe “exchanged sex for small sums ofnmoney from men she didn’t have tonsee again,” what counted was that shenfirst “resisted pridefully” and “thenn[gave] in only when she thought therenwas no other way out.” Her inability tonalter her distorted expectations ofnmale-female relationships was largelynthe fault of her “various psychiatrists,”nwho “did not challenge Freudian assumptionsnof female passivity, penisnenvy, and the like.” And when she wasnjealous, paranoid, chronically late,nand professionally nonfunctional, itnwas because “she felt used . . . andnperhaps she was.” She was, above all,n”vulnerable.” And it is her vulnerabili­nnnty, above all, with which other womennidentify.nHere, then, is Steinem’s twoprongednthesis: Because Marilyn Monroen(1) couldn’t find and wasn’t givennthe strength to change the course ofnher doomed life, she is therefore (2)nsome kind of metaphor for Americannwomen. This thesis captures perfecflynthe contradictory message of organizednfeminism (Your power is withinnyou—no, it must he ceded to you bynothers) and the reason women by thenmillions avoid it. Any woman whonpossesses what Marilyn Monroe lackednand Gloria Steinem would give—thenpersonal authority and dignity to live anconstructive life—knows (1) that hernpersonal authority and dignity aren’tngranted or withheld by “society” andnnever have been, and therefore (2) thenstory of a movie star who lived badlynand then killed herself may suggest anlot of things, but a recognizable femalenmetaphor isn’t one of them. If anwoman responds to the unhappiness ofnMarilyn Monroe, her response isnhuman, not female; it is sympathy, notn”empathy”; and it’s for the fact ofnMonroe’s unhappiness, not the pricenof it. But Steinem makes sympathy allnbut impossible by trading the real lessonsnof Marilyn Monroe’s life for anchance to sing the jingle, pitch thenproduct.nIf the idea of Marilyn Monroe as annidentity figure for American women isnbizarre, it is as nothing compared tonSteinem’s account of Monroe’s “dozennor so” abortions. Even as a means ofndescription the words are shocking. An”dozen or so”: enough to denote annaccumulation; too many to be fixednprecisely; an estimate. In a statementnboth pious and obscene, Gloria Steinemnlabels this pattern of ghastly, habitualndestruction “an exaggerated versionnof most women’s struggles toncontrol their reproductive lives.” Thenreason for this “exaggerated” struggle isnthat Monroe’s pregnancies did notnoccur conveniently “within a marriagenand within Marilyn’s own life as annactress.” And the explanation for thenbad timing is: “[0]ne can imagine hernsacrificing contraception and her ownnsafety to spontaneity, magic, and thensexual satisfaction of the man she wasnwith.” There you have it. MarilynnMonroe had a “dozen or so” abortionsnbecause she was too unselfish for hern