In the highly competitive field of smug, shallow, self-absorbed memoirs by smug, shallow, self-absorbed people, Shutterbabe sweeps away all other contenders to win the prize for the memoir most likely to discredit the entire genre.

Kogan's memoir is about her experiences as a young female photojournalist who spends four years of her life photographing war zones and having affairs. Her system is as follows: she accepts an assignment to photograph some dangerous and newsworthy area. She shows up with no clue of what's going on over there or how she's supposed to find the war. She attaches herself to a male journalist or, occasionally, a local man and has him take her around or point her in the right direction. She has an affair with him, frequently of an abusive nature. She encounters sexism from other journalists and local men; sometimes she's physically or sexually assaulted. She informs us that this is the inevitable lot of being a petite woman in a man's world. She reminds us that she was a homecoming queen, that she went to Harvard, and that she's won a lot of awards. She takes her photos, brow-beats herself a bit for being unprepared and not giving a damn about the people she's photographing but only being interested in the voyeuristic thrills and career success she can garner, and goes home. Repeat.

The best parts of the memoir are the details of how photojournalists work: how they lug around and sometimes disguise their equipment, how their presence affects the events they're recording, and how they're wedded to exploitative agencies that tend to keep them poor. The best chapter is the one where Kogan visits Romania and has an affair with a local photographer. It's the only one where, due to her interaction with him, she seems to have any understanding of the people she's photographing. A visit to a nightmarish Romanian orphanage, described in surreal and horrifying detail, is the best piece of writing in the book, and also prompts her to do something far, far better than she has ever done: she gives up her photos of it to a more famous and connected photojournalist in the hope that he will be able to get them published or take his own and publish them, and so get conditions improved there.

But too much of the memoir concerns the increasingly insufferable Kogan's irresistability to every man she meets. She tries to connect her thrillseeking in wars with her thrillseeking in sex, but that just makes her seem priveleged, shallow, and exploitative of the people who are dying for her thrills; and she tried to draw a parallel between her personal experiences with sexual violence and the violence she photographs, but her incomplete understanding of feminism just makes her seem undereducated and clueless. She seems to think that feminism is the understanding that men are sexist and violent and there's a double standard, and that women are helpless and that a woman who has sexual and physical adventures is just trying to be a man, and that's just how it is. As Inigo Montoya might say, "You keep saying that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means."

And then there's the last chapter. The infuriating last chapter.

Kogan meets her True Love, marries him, realizes that what she really wants is to have children because Jews have a moral responsibility to procreate to make up for the Holocaust (I am not making that up), and is shocked, shocked, when she finds that journalism is not supportive of women with children. So she quits to be a mommy and a writer-- with "an angel of a woman from the Phillippines" to actually take care of her children.

Now, that's fine. I know many mothers who are writers. I support Kogan's personal decision. What I do not support is her insistence that having children is the best and most moral and most womanly and wonderful act a person can possibly do, and that if you don't marry and have children your life is empty and meaningless and stunted no matter what else you do.

"I see the middle-aged single women who work in my new profession, the often angry and sad ones who were born late enough to reap the early benefits of feminism but not late enough to give up the whole notion of pretending to be a man in order to succeed. These women have offices crammed with Emmys, but homes with rooms barren of possessions and memories save their own."

That male journalist who helped the Romanian orphans? His life is also worthless compared to that of any random person with a baby, because even though he helped save the lives of other people's children, he didn't father any of his own. And of course bringing more children into the world is ever so much more important than making sure the ones who are already there have a decent life.

And in the end, doesn't it all come down to biology?

"How many times did I regret the enormous trouble my body caused me, the way it bled and attracted assaults"

Note how Kogan, who earlier had refused to wear a burka when traveling in Afghanistan with mujahedeen, is using the same reasoning here as the Taliban.

"and made me an easy target for any man with a gripe and a will to act upon it? How many times did I wish my body weren't curvy? Or small and weak and useless as a weapon of self-defense?"

Kogan seems to forget that she knows men who were beaten or murdered by other men, despite having bodies that were big and strong and useful. And that, when she does decide to physically fight against an assault, she actually succeeds. Or what the real issue is here, which is the society, culture, and individuals who think violence is OK, NOT her body. Again, this is the same reasoning as the Taliban: women's bodies are the problem. No female bodies or presence, no violence. The vagina calls out to the rapist. No vagina, no problem.

"What an ingrate I was. What a unique gift to have a body that can serve as a vessel to a future life. What a stroke of good design to have breasts that will sustain it. What an important responsibility to be cast as the keeper of the flame rather than the igniter of the fires."

I could quote more, but I have to go fulfill my womanly duty and find some Jew to procreate with now.
In the highly competitive field of smug, shallow, self-absorbed memoirs by smug, shallow, self-absorbed people, Shutterbabe sweeps away all other contenders to win the prize for the memoir most likely to discredit the entire genre.

Kogan's memoir is about her experiences as a young female photojournalist who spends four years of her life photographing war zones and having affairs. Her system is as follows: she accepts an assignment to photograph some dangerous and newsworthy area. She shows up with no clue of what's going on over there or how she's supposed to find the war. She attaches herself to a male journalist or, occasionally, a local man and has him take her around or point her in the right direction. She has an affair with him, frequently of an abusive nature. She encounters sexism from other journalists and local men; sometimes she's physically or sexually assaulted. She informs us that this is the inevitable lot of being a petite woman in a man's world. She reminds us that she was a homecoming queen, that she went to Harvard, and that she's won a lot of awards. She takes her photos, brow-beats herself a bit for being unprepared and not giving a damn about the people she's photographing but only being interested in the voyeuristic thrills and career success she can garner, and goes home. Repeat.

The best parts of the memoir are the details of how photojournalists work: how they lug around and sometimes disguise their equipment, how their presence affects the events they're recording, and how they're wedded to exploitative agencies that tend to keep them poor. The best chapter is the one where Kogan visits Romania and has an affair with a local photographer. It's the only one where, due to her interaction with him, she seems to have any understanding of the people she's photographing. A visit to a nightmarish Romanian orphanage, described in surreal and horrifying detail, is the best piece of writing in the book, and also prompts her to do something far, far better than she has ever done: she gives up her photos of it to a more famous and connected photojournalist in the hope that he will be able to get them published or take his own and publish them, and so get conditions improved there.

But too much of the memoir concerns the increasingly insufferable Kogan's irresistability to every man she meets. She tries to connect her thrillseeking in wars with her thrillseeking in sex, but that just makes her seem priveleged, shallow, and exploitative of the people who are dying for her thrills; and she tried to draw a parallel between her personal experiences with sexual violence and the violence she photographs, but her incomplete understanding of feminism just makes her seem undereducated and clueless. She seems to think that feminism is the understanding that men are sexist and violent and there's a double standard, and that women are helpless and that a woman who has sexual and physical adventures is just trying to be a man, and that's just how it is. As Inigo Montoya might say, "You keep saying that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means."

And then there's the last chapter. The infuriating last chapter.

Kogan meets her True Love, marries him, realizes that what she really wants is to have children because Jews have a moral responsibility to procreate to make up for the Holocaust (I am not making that up), and is shocked, shocked, when she finds that journalism is not supportive of women with children. So she quits to be a mommy and a writer-- with "an angel of a woman from the Phillippines" to actually take care of her children.

Now, that's fine. I know many mothers who are writers. I support Kogan's personal decision. What I do not support is her insistence that having children is the best and most moral and most womanly and wonderful act a person can possibly do, and that if you don't marry and have children your life is empty and meaningless and stunted no matter what else you do.

"I see the middle-aged single women who work in my new profession, the often angry and sad ones who were born late enough to reap the early benefits of feminism but not late enough to give up the whole notion of pretending to be a man in order to succeed. These women have offices crammed with Emmys, but homes with rooms barren of possessions and memories save their own."

That male journalist who helped the Romanian orphans? His life is also worthless compared to that of any random person with a baby, because even though he helped save the lives of other people's children, he didn't father any of his own. And of course bringing more children into the world is ever so much more important than making sure the ones who are already there have a decent life.

And in the end, doesn't it all come down to biology?

"How many times did I regret the enormous trouble my body caused me, the way it bled and attracted assaults"

Note how Kogan, who earlier had refused to wear a burka when traveling in Afghanistan with mujahedeen, is using the same reasoning here as the Taliban.

"and made me an easy target for any man with a gripe and a will to act upon it? How many times did I wish my body weren't curvy? Or small and weak and useless as a weapon of self-defense?"

Kogan seems to forget that she knows men who were beaten or murdered by other men, despite having bodies that were big and strong and useful. And that, when she does decide to physically fight against an assault, she actually succeeds. Or what the real issue is here, which is the society, culture, and individuals who think violence is OK, NOT her body. Again, this is the same reasoning as the Taliban: women's bodies are the problem. No female bodies or presence, no violence. The vagina calls out to the rapist. No vagina, no problem.

"What an ingrate I was. What a unique gift to have a body that can serve as a vessel to a future life. What a stroke of good design to have breasts that will sustain it. What an important responsibility to be cast as the keeper of the flame rather than the igniter of the fires."

I could quote more, but I have to go fulfill my womanly duty and find some Jew to procreate with now.
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