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June 20, 2012


...what do these three groups have in common? Detractors who view lockstep conformity as a sort of virtual membership fee:

When my mind gets stuck on everything that is wrong with feminism, it brings out the 19th century poet in me: Let me count the ways. Most of all, feminism is pretty much a nice girl who really, really wants so badly to be liked by everybody -- ladies who lunch, men who hate women, all the morons who demand choice and don't understand responsibility -- that it has become the easy lay of social movements. I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice. Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it? The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.

Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

There's something dryly amusing, in a warped sort of way, about a paean to self sufficiency in which autonomy is achieved by exchanging one set of externally imposed gender roles for another.

Wurtzel solves the "problem" of women being pressured to serve their families by pressuring us to serve people we've never even met (aka, single, Harvard trained career women who will liberate womankind by unilaterally redefining the entire feminist movement).

Women, according to Ms. Wurtzel, will never equal men until we subordinate our wayward thoughts and desires to the sober judgment of people like her.

Truly, it is all very confusicating. Who can we trust to tell us what to do? Ms. Wurtzel wants to free women from controlling men by chaining us to controlling women. James Taranto wants us to embrace our Inner Hypergamist and marry an alpha male who can indulge our God-given desire for Jivamukti (whatever that is) classes and weekly pedicures.

Meanwhile, we hear rumors of adult men and women examining their own priorities and values and structuring their lives accordingly. Gosh, we sure hope that's not the case because if it is, a lot of smart people are going to be left with nothing to write about.

Via Retriever.

Posted by Cassandra at June 20, 2012 07:19 AM

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"Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?"
Who can possibly take seriously a belief about the full humanity and autonomy of women when the believer espouses the right to make her choices for her? For her own good, of course. Because we know better.

I agree that it's extremely hard for a woman to maintain adult autonomy when she doesn't have an independent income. It requires a relationship with a trustworthy partner whom she has chosen carefully, thus demonstrating her excellent judgment and autonomous adulthood. After all, even people with jobs have to depend on their ability to find trustworthy employers in mutually satisfactory working environments, or else they'll be forever posting on progressive blogs about how unfair their bosses are, and boycotting right-to-work states.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2012 10:06 AM

I agree that it's extremely hard for a woman to maintain adult autonomy when she doesn't have an independent income. It requires a relationship with a trustworthy partner whom she has chosen carefully, thus demonstrating her excellent judgment and autonomous adulthood. After all, even people with jobs have to depend on their ability to find trustworthy employers in mutually satisfactory working environments, or else they'll be forever posting on progressive blogs about how unfair their bosses are, and boycotting right-to-work states.

OK, that wins comment of the day :p

Posted by: Cass at June 20, 2012 11:40 AM

Don't you realize? You're either a member of the patriarchy or a self-loathing woman-impersonator if you do not live your life how SHE wants you to. After all, SHE knows what is best for you and what it TRULY means to be a feminist.

Don't you just love folks who know how they're the smartest person they know?

Posted by: MikeD at June 20, 2012 04:17 PM


If you look closely at the picture on the right margin, you'll find a woman of whom Wurtzel would approve: while Husband is looking at the camera, the Little Woman is looking at her man.

On the other hand, who can doubt Wurtzel? She's not only a Progressive, she's a Woman Lawyer. She Knows these Things.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 20, 2012 04:58 PM

I wonder if stay at home Dads are betraying The Patriarchy?


Posted by: "Dad", Celebrity Non-Bling Tailmonger at June 20, 2012 05:29 PM

"Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?"

Allow me to introduce you to a really annoying concept from philosophy: the concept of form versus content.

What is suggested here is a formal rule: anything is acceptable, as long as the woman chooses it.

That rule has no content, just a form. Any content provided according to the form of the rule is acceptable.

So: let's take the case of the women who wear these vests.

They're making a choice. The choice is to join a motorcycle club that is founded on explicitly sexist terms: women cannot be full members, cannot vote, and are to be considered property of the member owning them, and generally of the club. The club doesn't coerce women here -- it's not a white slavery organization. Many women who have made that choice have described it as liberating, because being held as property by the Outlaws involves the protection of the club from outsiders; plus also they feel they are otherwise treated with great respect.

If the formal rule is all there is, this is feminism.

Or is there content to feminism? That comes down to asking if some choices aren't acceptable; and if it asks that, you end up endorsing a view like this author's in kind, even though it may have different terms.

Posted by: Grim at June 20, 2012 11:18 PM

There are probably as many kinds of feminists as there are female humans. Some of them are fools, some are idiots, some ... some are women like Cass and Texan99. I am glad I live in a world where I can know of the latter, because they make the world better; not better for men, not better for women, better for almost all of us, or at least those who think.

I get so tired of seeing people labeled, and then the labels discussed and dismissed as if they were the people. The map is not the territory.

Posted by: htom at June 20, 2012 11:32 PM

Yeah, I love them too.

That doesn't mean these questions don't have to be answered. Do we really mean anything women choose, or is there a limiting content?

Posted by: Grim at June 21, 2012 12:10 AM

I think some reasonable sounding questions don't have rational answers. Prescribing the context in which decisions are to be made is a vain attempt at controlling the world; it will persist in handing you other context for which you have no rules, and only the vaguest of hints as to how to proceed.

You put on your thinking cap, consult those you consider to perhaps give good advice, and ... I tell people when they're performing to "always leave them wanting more", but when you are living, you throw it all. (You do that performing, too, but you leave earlier.) If you hold back, you'll torment yourself forever with "if only I ...."

Man or woman, step up to the table of life and make your best throw.

Posted by: htom at June 21, 2012 12:41 AM

Apropos of Grim's form vs. content, I think that's actually a very useful framework. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to write about this (even though I didn't have time to do my usual point by point analysis) is that I happen to think Wurtzel makes a few points worth considering.

One of them is that being a wife and mother is NOT exactly like a job. You don't have to be hired and in most cases in the real world, you won't be fired unless you do something pretty egregious. So the bar is set pretty low.

I say that as someone who considered being a homemaker her profession for many years. I took it seriously and treated it like a job. Consequently, her "yoga and pedicures" nonsense, which it undoubtedly applies to some SAHMs, struck me as silly.

I'm 53 years old this year, and I had my very first salon pedicure in April or May, only because I drove my mother to the hair salon (they were in a bad accident where the airbag deployed and neither she nor my Dad could drive for several weeks - they were pretty bruised up and very sore and I suspect my mom may have cracked a rib). My Mom didn't want me to have to sit around waiting so she scheduled me for a pedicure. I'm not sure she's ever had one in a salon either :p

For me, homemaking was a job with extremely long hours and little/no time off. Not only did I run the house, I also did the yard work, upholstered or slipcovered secondhand furniture, refinished most of the pieces we own, did the painting (inside and out), sewed all our curtains, our bedspread and pillow covers, made shower curtains from sheets, etc.

Our house was quite a lot nicer than most people's we knew because it was my job to make the best of the money my husband brought home. I bought very few processed foods, so our grocery bills were very low.

If you think of it, I was the manager of our home. I also took a very active role in educating our boys - I chose reading materials suitable for their ages and interests (and yes, they also chose things they wanted to read - I wasn't a control freak!). I viewed reading as part of their moral education, so in addition to the books they chose, I made sure there were good books around that would subtly reinforce our values. I supervised their schoolwork (not doing it for them, but making sure the quality of what they handed in was acceptable to ME, not just meeting the low standards set by their schools).

And I financed my household projects by watching other children, doing other people's lawns or doing odd jobs for other military wives or elderly couples, painting houses, etc. The money I earned doing odd jobs also helped us send both boys to Catholic schools, which were much better than the local public schools.

So I get some of Wurtzel's complaints. I knew mothers who didn't really seem to care much about their kids or their homes. They watched a lot of TV during the day instead of doing something productive. One neighbor would actually let her kids (all under the age of 6) out and then lock her doors. They couldn't get back in to go to the bathroom and if they got hurt they ran to me or one of the other moms in the neighborhood.

There are deadbeats in all walks of life and homemaking is no exception.

My problem with her diatribe is that not all homemakers do nothing all day. The job, done right, is hard. Frankly, though I would do it again, I'd rather work if I only considered my own desires. But my children and family were important to me, and I really believe that your life choices should reflect your top priorities.

My top priorities were making sure my marriage succeeded and raising my boys. Now that they're grown up, my top priorities are saving for retirement and having a home base my parents, in laws, sons and their families can come back to to keep our family together.

In some ways my job, though it makes these things possible, also gets in the way. I worry about being available when/if my parents or in laws need care.

What's upsetting about Wurtzel's world view is that she doesn't seem to think that families and personal relationships matter. Families are how we pass culture and wealth to future generations. They form a foundation for a civil society and I don't think there are too many things more important than that.

Working contributes to achieving my priorities in some ways and detracts from them in others. Tradeoffs again. The thing I think women as a class of people tend to get right is balancing our priorities. We don't tend to bet all our money on one throw of the dice. That outlook is beneficial for society because it gives our institutions stability.

Wurtzel's view of life seems unbalanced, but if she doesn't value the same things I do, maybe it makes sense to her. But money and status aren't everything.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2012 08:00 AM

In answer to Grim's question, "Is anything women choose acceptable", I have to say "NO".

I think that whatever a woman chooses to do with her life, she must pull her own weight and she should be a person in her own right, not a doormat people wipe their feet on.

A homemaker who does the job right is pulling her own weight because even though she doesn't contribute to the family's revenue, she adds value by managing her husband's paycheck wisely. That's what I did - I managed all the day to day expenses, savings, etc. My husband managed our investments - anything long term.

I felt like I earned my "part" of our household income. Had we had to hire someone to do the things I learned to do more cheaply or buy things vs. make them, our standard of living would have been much lover, and at the end of the day it's not what you make but how well you're able to live on what you make.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2012 08:08 AM

"Feminism" has no set meaning, but I haven't any use for the form that appears to mean "anything women choose is good." That's not a formula that interests me for women or men, either. Nevertheless, the choice part of that definition is important to me: the idea that whether women are making the right choices or not, the choices are theirs to make, as they are for any individual with free will and moral responsibility. The consequences also are for them to bear.

C is surely right about Wurtzel's blind spot where the family is concerned. I'm somewhat that way myself, being morbidly allergic to dependence. I'm much more comfortable earning a living than cutting a deal with someone else who earns a living. If I'd been a homemaker, I'd probably have wanted a serious trust fund just in case my husband lost interest in the traditional arrangement when I was too old to catch up in the outside world. But that wouldn't have been much of a life compared to Cass's obviously suitable family and home. Anyway, as it turns out, I was right to trust my husband.

And Grim: it's mutual.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 21, 2012 08:47 AM