Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Night of the living Feminism

Wearily, I'll weigh in on Maureen Dowd's book excerpt in the mag today, because to ignore it would be to miss another chance to remind people that:

-- Privileged pedicure addicts may be tired of feminism, but middle-to-workingclass Americans and women all over the world are not. They're the ones fighting sexual harassment in the military, on the force, and at FedEx; they're dealing with the vanishing of safe abortion and accessible birth control; they're fighting for their very lives in Afghanistan, Guatemala, South Africa. "Power" feminists, like everybody, need to get their heads out of their own asses. Plenty of action exists below the fifth floor of various buildings in midtown Manhattan.

-- As my brilliant Eric notes, any retrenchment into old-fashioned hetero-boring nuclear family values (which, by the way, is overstated -- see this single mama survey ) is more likely due to fear than to a widespread admission that women belong in the kitchen and the lingerie aisle. As civil rights and the social contract simultaneously decay, as the privileged perch higher on the edge of a glass bubble and everyone else struggles in an increasingly isolated and unsupported condition, we cling to what's closest and most familiar. It can seem easier to "bag a husband" than to imagine fixing health care or Social Security. To which I add, is it a coincidence that Dowd's retrenchment to 1950s fantasies of faux-security appears in the same Mag issue whose cover piece is all about how capitalist America is content to let its retirees rot in poverty?

-- In all the writing that's surfaced in the past coupla years about how brilliant women are opting for the housewife role over corporate climbing, rarely is it stated that the reason for this might not be because of gender roles at all, but because the workplace has become a more Hobbesian place for all. (Cf. Barbara Ehrenreich.) I'll admit, I've occasionally dreamed about what life would be like if I'd married some rich guy (like, say, Adam Phillips). I'd bet that Eric's had days when he wishes, oh I don't know, Maureen Dowd were his suga mama. Massive corporate consolidation, shrinking benefits, lack of job security, and general bottom-line-ism define work today. Wouldn't we all, male or female, like to avoid the nightmare?

-- Finally, two points on Dowd's aesthetic sense:

One, rad feminists of the 1960s and 1970s did not all look alike. That cliched Norman Mailer-esque view overlooks the fact that it's war-paint makeup and girdles that cause women to look like clones, not going au naturel. I get so sick of people saying rad fems were not beautiful -- have they ever seen pictures of the young Ellen Willis, Shulamith Firestone, or Jill Johnston? How about Michele Wallace when she wrote "Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman?" Hot!! I'd burn my bra for any of them.

Two, if Dowd thinks that only non-feminists like "Desparate Housewives" clothing -- i.e. sexy retro duds -- then she's never met Carol Queen. Or Nellie McKay. Or these ladies.

(CREDIT: Rosie the Riveter button by Trina Robbins)


Blogger Raised By Bees said...

Great post, Ann.

One of the many problems with Desperate Housewives is that they don't dress enough like the Queen Bees or Nellie McKay. They dress like desperate teenagers, and not in a good way. I like retro looks that are more flattering to female curves, and harken back to a time when female curves were celebrated. Though, you have to view it in the context of everything else.

Enough of my blabbering...

2:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Maureen but this piece so reminded me of that "Ally McBeal feminism" story from - whenever it was. Remember?

The gist of that was that "powerful" women (whatever that means) want to "have it all" but underneath are quaking in their Jimmy Choos cuz they can't find husbands and will never be loved unless they dumb down or age down.

In any case the whole thing is hella depressing and we aren't ALL enamored of Suicide Girls.


8:51 AM

Anonymous jen said...

I just didn't think her excerpt was that horrible. i think the idea of "girl money" is terrible, and that women think not paying for dates is how it should be. If the power lies in money, they are giving it up. I think there are serious problems with women today being afraid of feminism and this article explained what that means in practice. This is aside from the very important issues you raise. I totally agree there are more important things to worry about but that doesn't mean it doesn't bother me to hear that women feel like they have to "catch" a man. She wasn't making that up, more reporting what she was told, was my understanding, with disgust.

Maureen Dowd is fierce and enjoys dressing up too. I don't understand the problem here. Sure she's privileged but I think she's fought a big fight to get where she is and is advocating equality...maybe not in every realm but surely in some.

hell, the name of her book is "are men necessary". the subtext being: NO. I guess I am missing the point.

1:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Maureen Dowd, but her so called reporting for this book appears to be her chatting it up with a couple of female co-workers in the small conference room or one of her unhappily girlfriends.

1:23 PM


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