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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another willing tool of the patriarchy has an opinion

I hesitate to add one more post to the tangle of commentary (there's a good list at The Republic of Heaven) already spun around Linda Hirshman's article in the American Prospect. It's not going to surprise you that I fall in the camp behind Laura at 11D -- the article is crap, itself a nice bit of antifeminist bashing. It would be better not to mention it at all, then. In the economy of ideas, attention is the currency. I'm just making it easier for Hirshman to shop a book proposal around. She's probably checking her Technorati searches with glee right now, printing them up to add to her sales pitch. "A hot topic," she'll be able to say. "Look at the buzz my last article generated!" So in six months or a year from now, when she's all over the mainstream media just like Judith "Can I Get a Cupcake?" Warner, I'll have no one to blame but myself. I'm enabling the mainstream media in its quest to gain attention and dollars through the bashing of women. This blog ain't nothing but a tool for the patriarchy. But what else can you expect from a housewife?

Let's lay one thing out on the table. I don't expect anyone to pat me on the head and assure me that it is somehow feminist of me to stay at home with the kids while my husband brings home the vegetarian bacon. I'm a housewife. More Erma Bombeck than Betty Friedan. Is that feminist? Of course not. But so the fuck what? What I'm saying here is why are women -- and only women -- expected to make and evaluate their choices based solely or mostly upon their fidelity to an -ism, even when that -ism is, um, of the greatest value?

Or again. I think I can probably assume that most of the people who attend this pixie party are more or less in favor of many of the points espoused by environmentalism. In Brian Henson's phrase*, we share an interest in "preserving the planet" (in formaldehyde?): we'd prefer less pollution, less waste of resources, more efforts to ensure that various peak oil and global warming doomsday scenarios don't take place. Now, it's certainly not environmentalist of us to, say, drive a car to the mall this holiday season to purchase shrink-wrapped electronics made from strip-mined metals and shipped in from China. But most of us are neither overwhelmed by guilt over our participation in the rituals of holiday shopping, nor do we bitterly castigate each other for such participation -- even though it can certainly be argued that those rituals create measurable damage to the world around us.

I'm not saying there's no one feeling guilty about it, or asking others to rethink their participation in these rituals, by the way. But does the mainstream media jump all over these people, amplify their voices, broadcast to all of us that, dammit, we ought to be making our life choices (or feeling incredibly guilty about not making our life choices) based on the tenets of environmentalism? Not so much. Because convincing us to consume less would have the unfortunate effect of reducing somebody's wealth, somebody who probably has an uncle or a cousin who owns some mainstream media. You ask people to be more environmentalist in their life choices, and somebody could get hurt, baby. Men could get hurt -- real people. But if you just hand women some inadequacy shticks and let them flog each other over feminism and its discontents, then it's a win-win situation for everybody! Media get more attention (more money, more problems), women feel more guilty and less in charge of their own agency, and everybody drowns their sorrows by going to the mall. What's not to like?

And while we're liking things, by the way, I'd like to take a moment to really, really like the particular brand of trickle-down feminism currently in stock at your favorite mainstream media outlets these days. All these NY Times brides/Ivy League graduates/fetishized elite picks o'the week who have walked away from the important business of boardrooms and corporate law offices are making it harder for ALL WOMEN. Because if there were more women willing to stick it out for the 80-hour weeks required for corporate success, that would make it more comfortable for ALL WOMEN, not just the ones who are already doing pretty well based on their status, education, family income, and all that. What? Don't ask me how it would make things better for all women; it's right there in the business plan:
  1. Collect women
  2. ?
  3. Profit
Are we clear on that now? So if you want to be all feminist and shit, you should start by working 80 hours a week in corporate law, marrying "down," and finding some underprivileged brown woman to become "untouchable" (in Hirshman's phrase -- seriously, scroll down to the second-to-last paragraph) by handling the bodily fluids of your one and only offspring for you, should you be such a tool of the patriarchy as to insist on having children. But don't for the life of you suggest that if you really want to help improve women's lives -- in an absolute sense, as in: a lot more women would have more money to live on -- then maybe you ought to be out recruiting a team of 32 or 33 statistically significant rich white well-educated women, and ask them to add their time and talents to the legal team pressing the case against Walmart for gender discrimination. Because there are a million people in this country who work for Walmart, and a hell of a lot of them happen to be women. Should we worry about those women a little more than we worry about the fates of the hundreds -- thousands, even! -- of elite women who opt out of the workforce? Nah. In fact, let's worry about the fates of those demographically insignificant rich women and justify it by BLAMING them for the status of those women who work for Walmart. Women will feel guilty, nothing will change, and everyone will head back to the mall to make themselves feel better (except for those women who work at Walmart, since they can't afford anything at the mall). It's a win-win for everyone! Hooray for the patriarchy!

Remember back in the days when we thought feminism ought to be about raising the standard of living for women who were the most in need? Yeah, Betty Friedan and Linda Hirshman don't remember them, either.

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* Attentive Muppet Show watchers will remember this line from the introduction to the Harry Belafonte show.

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