May 19, 2004

Newsflash: Women Can be Evil!

Apparently, the discovery that women and men are both human and capable of evil is too much for Barbara Ehrenreich. My first reaction to this article: "Oh, so you've finally pulled your head out of your ass?" was a bit flip and cynical, even for me, so let me explain. Truly the most remarkable aspect of Ehrenreich's hand-wringing despair here is the bold admission of the one thing that turned me off about mainstream feminism--the idea that women are somehow morally superior to men. She and all the other feminists were wrong, of course, and while I'm gratified to see her own up to her silliness, it's coming a bit late.

For me, feminism was about getting equal opportunity, period. It was never about changing the world through the moral superiority of womb power, or expunging the word "seminal" from literary analysis in favor of "ovacular" or crushing the patriarchy by substituting the letter "y" for "e" in "women" or about pointing out that a doorknob is really a stand-in for a clitoris or any other such ridiculous crap. I'm a smart, self-confident person, and feminism assured me that I'd have a shot at competing. I was pretty confident that my fabulous other qualities would help me take it from there. I'm not going to deride the entire women's movement, because insofar as it gave me that shot--to get the education I wanted, to get a job to give me the economic opportunities I wanted, and to live my life the way I want to--it's been wildly successful and I owe it a lot. Where the whole thing went off the rails for me was in the assertion that feminism was essential because women were the salvation of humankind, that if women were in charge war would vanish and the playing field would be level and cats and dogs would live in beautiful harmony together forever and ever, woo-hoo. Basically, feminism took the traditional stereotype of "woman as nurturer" and canonized it in the service of political ideology, sending reality out the window. Women are competitive, women can be evil backbiting bitches from hell, and do not get me started on what I would be capable of if someone threatened a member of my family--it wouldn't fall under the rubric of "moral superiority," that's for sure.

But for Barbara Ehrenreich, the only thing capable of dissuading her from her utopian ovarian vision are photos from Abu Ghraib? The hell? It never dawned on her that when feminism succeeded in giving women equal opportunity to just be human beings, they would BE human beings? One wonders if Ms. Ehrenreich went to middle school with any other women, or if she has any female friends. If she did or has, then I'm not entirely sure how she managed to hold on to her naivete about the feminine portion of humanity to this point. Although I guess when you're on a religious crusade you're often willing to overlook the aspects of reality that prove inconvenient to your cause. For Barbara, the Road to Damascus took her to Abu Ghraib. Welcome to reality, Babs. Took you long enough.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at May 19, 2004 10:31 AM

Hell, she must have forgotten every bit of nasty, girly-girl agression ever demonstrated in middle school. That touchy-feely victim-feminism put me off, too, especially after twenty years in the military, and noticing that there were plenty of competant and and a few incompetant people, and there was no correlation between competence and posession of a dick.... or not.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at May 19, 2004 11:44 AM

Do you think she really sees that women are not morally superior to men?

As far as I can tell, she still believes that, just that some of them aren't acting that way.

She still believes that women are going to be the saving of humanity, just that feminism must be more ruthless in their indoctrination than she thought.

Posted by: bigdocmcd at May 19, 2004 01:08 PM

Yeah, I think that overall she still thinks that only she, Barbara Ehrenreich, is the only person enlightened enough to save us from ourselves.

But still, a crack in the armor is good. And the whole "fighting for social justice" via "subversion" stuff seems a little tacked on, like she couldn't stand to confront reality for an entire column.

Ehrenreich's made a career out of spouting nonsense. But that doesn't mean that she never sees truth.

Posted by: BAW at May 19, 2004 01:30 PM

Trust me, men would never have the stomach for wars fought on women's terms.

See, most women don't like war, or fighting. So when it has to be done, it should be done as quickly and concisely as possible. None of these ego-centered male games of 'strategy', 'honor', 'rules', and 'fairness'. If you decide it's necessary to kill the bastards, then do it. Quickly. Permanently. Hit 'em first, and hit 'em hard, so they don't have a chance to hit back.

I know why they didn't want women in the military. It's not because they don't think we can handle it, or because of coed barracks or foxholes. It's because when you truly unleash a woman in war, most men couldn't stomach it.

Yes, if someone hurt my family, I could make Charlie Manson look like an amateur.

Posted by: Claire at May 19, 2004 02:26 PM

I'd feel safer if Claire were in charge of the war on terror.

Because there are some very dangerous and organized people out there who want very much to hurt her family. And my family. And anyone who doesn't agree with them and their religious and political views. Just being an American is worth at $13,000 bounty, even if you DO agree with them.

We can't negotiate with homicidal extremists. We can't apologize. We can't go home and hide. None of these things will make us safe. We can't make these people like us. We can't make them appreciate diversity or acceptance of other viewpoints.

We need to make them believe that hurting us will have tremendous consequences.

How far do we have to go to make our families safe? I don't know, but I do know we can't wiffle-waffle around and expect the threat to just go away.

Posted by: dhanson at May 19, 2004 03:24 PM

Love feminism to the extent that it provided me with opportunities that weren't available to my grandmothers and mother.

Hate feminism for further pushing people into seperate groups. How the hell are we supposed to move forward as a culture if it is women v. men, or black v. white, or degreed v. non-degreed, or pink v. fushia (okay, I know you get the point)?

If women *really* were morally superior, then the femi-leaders would be pushing to UNITE the country instead of continuing the whole "seperate but superior" attitude that seems to infuse a great number of "victimized" groups.

My the words of the Eagles on their reunion album...GET OVER IT!

Posted by: di at May 19, 2004 06:24 PM

It's funny to watch the militant feminists sputter when I accept small gallantries from men--like having my doors opened for me, or when something is reached down off of a shelf above my head. It's really funny when I tell them that I like being entitled to such special treatment, rather than being treated like a mere equal.

And on the note of women fighting wars...I guess she's never had a woman as a boss--or heard one say that she'd like to turn Iraq into a glowing green glass crater. Women are more gentle than men and morally superior... sheesh.

Posted by: holly at May 19, 2004 11:19 PM

Apparently Ehrenreich is also clueless about the nearly identical rates of domestic violence by men and women. So I strongly support your "Oh, so you've finally pulled your head out of your ass?" reaction.

Posted by: Chris Martin at May 20, 2004 01:21 PM

Somewhere in the discoveries ought to be that women and men are different. In particular in interests, not talent.

I would add that there is a war of the sexes, and it is a good thing; and feminism is a move within it, not a transcendent discovery. ``We are not happy and you have to figure us out.'' Feminism explained.

It came to march under the banner of injustice, because that's good for moral posturing. If this is all that's been discovered, there's more to go.

Women have not changed, and feminism has always existed.

Disclaimer: I have been banned from consciousness raising sessions for dragging everybody else down.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 20, 2004 06:02 PM

This was my favorite bit from the article:

"What we need is a tough new kind of feminism with no illusions. Women do not change institutions simply by assimilating into them, only by consciously deciding to fight for change. We need a feminism that teaches a woman to say no not just to the date rapist or overly insistent boyfriend but, when necessary, to the military or corporate hierarchy within which she finds herself."

Notice how Ehrenrich has created a subtle and clever analogy between "rape" and big business and the military.

I also liked how she makes it sound as if these female soldiers engaged in torture so they chould "fit in," presumably with all the nasty, brutish men who, unlike the women, probably ARE "congenitally evil people."

Ouch. My head is starting to hurt from banging it on the desk...

Posted by: Alison at May 21, 2004 02:15 PM

So I am an almost 'professional' feminist--I say almost professional because I do a feminst radio show but don't get paid for it.

Anyway, I agree with the comments about the inanity of Ehrenreich's position--her naivete about women being morally superior as a group.

But here's the flash! Ehrenreich's position does NOT represent 'classical' feminism (ie, how it started out). Second Wave Feminism (aka The Women's Liberation Movement of the late 60's/early 70's was specifically against this sort of generalization, or 'essintialism'. It simply believed that women are humans and therefore deserve equal opportunity. I still have a button from that era which reads 'biology is not destiny', in other words we're individuals and can become what we want.

If you want to find out more about this kind of feminism (and there are many of us who still subscribe to this kind and not the 'difference feminism' that later came into vogue, check out, read Ellen Willis and Katha Pollitt (who wrote a great article in the Nation--I think in 1992--called "Are Women Morally Superior to Men?"

Thanks for your time,

Fran (aka pirate jenny)
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Posted by: Pirate Jenny at May 28, 2004 02:26 AM