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)