Today, Rob Clough reviews Daryl Seitchik’s Exits.
There’s a telling sequence early in Daryl Seitchik’s debut long-form work, Exits, where the protagonist, Claire Kim, has to deal with being objectified by her boss, the owner of a mirror store. He’s looking at a laptop at an image of a curvaceous woman in a bikini with the head cropped. When Claire walks over, the laptop is positioned such that her head is atop the bikini model’s body. While she does not see him do this, the scene is a kind of a deadpan and shorthand manner of establishing the way she’s seen by her boss, and the effect that it has on her is explored as she washes one of the countless mirrors in his store. Those scenes establish how desperately Claire wants to control how she is seen, and the helplessness she feels in dealing with that gaze that she’s well aware of experiencing on an everyday basis. Even worse than that blatant bit of objectification is when he tells her, apropos of nothing, that she looks depressed; rather than offering support or even asking that she get help, he tellingly says, “No one wants to see that.” It’s another deadpan moment where at first it seems like he is expressing genuine concern for a moment but then quickly reveals that her actual welfare is unimportant to him. It is another way for him to control how she is seen and what her image looks like, an attempt to mold her into something that is more pleasant for him and his customers to look at. Not only is he objectifying her, but he is also viewing her as a commodity, as a thing that would help him sell other things. Her only means of resistance at this point in the story is to not voluntarily contribute to her objectification by pretending to be happy and perky. What it means to be seen in relation to one’s identity, especially as a woman, is at the heart of this book.
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