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October 29, 2005

Comments

Hmm. Dowd has long needed to cut back to a single bottle a day, but I don't think I like the claim that, " manhood [is] about strength, decency, honor, courage, and the like," any better. You wouldn't claim a woman who exhibited those characteristics was being either "manly" or "unwomanly." Similarly, "Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed," doesn't seem so crazy; I just think you could switch genders in many cases without much effect. I've certainly heard female friends say that life would be much easier if their husbands would just do what they were told. It's said as a joke, but it usually feels as if they mean it for at least the specific circumstances that motivated the comment.

The way to be manly is to have a penis. And to think with it. To have a thoughtful penis is to be a man.

yes. We need people with courage and decency and generosity and kindness and strength, now more than ever.

I don't see how these become traits of "manhood." They may be traits that are desirable for men to have, but only to the extent that they are traits that are desirable for humans to have. Traits which would define manhood would define things which are exclusively male traits - those which fundamentally distinguish men from women. I submit that the most critical of these traits is a pair of testes; all species of vice and virtue appear to be quite prevalent in either sex.

I wasn't meaning to imply that courage, decency, etc. are not traits women should have, at all, let alone that someone who had them would be 'unwomanly'.

What I did mean to say was: when I read these quotes, there's something these guys seem to have in mind. Some of them, for instance, seem to be thinking of manliness as some sort of strength. Now: there are better and worse ways to read strength: always having to win every argument would be a bad version; having the confidence to do what you think is right without having to go around proving things would be a good version. What I meant to say was: why on earth are these guys settling for the cheap versions all the time? I didn't mean to imply anything about these qualities being only for guys; in fact, I think that they are not. Just that if you took the ideal they seem to be holding up seriously, it would look very different than they seem to think it does.

Now Patrick Fitzgerald, there's a real man. And he's single too. Just sayin'.

Hilzoy: What I meant to say was: why on earth are these guys settling for the cheap versions all the time?

Because they, to at least some extent, work just as pert tosses of the head etc also work. Now whether they work to get what you really want is another question...

BTW, thanks for the clarification, because as a male I found your first attempt to be a bit sexist.

Oh, and I find you (or your writing) to be a bit "saucy" ---

saucy adj 1: characterized by a lightly pert and exuberant quality; "a certain irreverent gaiety and ease of manner" [syn: impertinent, irreverent, pert]

--- but then, perhaps, I'm a bit odd.

Add me to the list who find hilzoy proposal-worthy, sight unseen, on the sole basis of her writing.

Which is funny and a little relevant to the topic as well, because the first time I had that thought, the "voice of reality" that came into my head was a sense of total inadequacy--that I am not even remotely on the same intellectual level as her and that if only for that reason alone it would be doomed from the start.

I've had that thought before about certain men or women--people I profoundly admired, and whose mind constituted an incredible turn-on--but whose very mental qualities attracted me to them were (perceivedly) so far above mine as to intimidate me. And it's the only attribute about a potential mate that's ever been /capable/ of intimidating me.

On the other hand, maybe that's because I can't stand being with someone who strikes me as stupid, and I'm just projecting my reaction to someone like that onto someone whose abilities as a thinker and writer are that much superior to mine. The thought has occurred to me. It also makes finding the right person a near-impossible needle to thread.

On the gripping hand, I did eventually find her, so. :)

"wasn't meaning to imply that courage, decency, etc. are not traits women should have..."

So the only possible admirable trait we men can have that will distinguish us from women is a penis and testes? You are hetero, so there may be qualities arising from a romantic relationship that you wouldn't appreciate from your female friends, but they are probably intrinsic to romance rather than gender. Except for the penis. Otherwise gender is ideally neutral?

You started this. :) Me, I have to go do the one thing that make men worth keeping:

yardwork.

I think that hilzoy gets at the real distinction between "being a man" and - being an "unman"? - when she mentioned guys and fragile egos. Manhood (and womanhood, or whatever) is about strength and decency and intelligence, but it's also the ability to respect and admire those qualities in other men and women, rather than feel threatened by them.

mangala's comment neatly dovetails with a problem I'm having in my teaching right now (details largely omitted for obvious reasons): one of my male students is, well, trying to demonstrate his "manliness"/"adulthood" -- or rather, mask his deficiencies thereof -- in ways that are disruptive to the classroom. Given that a) he means well, and b) his mannerisms are clearly deeply intertwined with his notions of adulthood, I'm having a devil of a time trying to figure out how I can curtail his excesses without destroying his willingness or ability. And the crux of the problem is precisely that he isn't (yet) a "man" in the sense that hilzoy and mangala have used, so his ego too fragile for me to confront him directly. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

[And problems like that, ladies and gents, are why I get paid those big TA bucks.]

Oh, and:

Some of my best friends, and all of my exes, are men.

Sorry, Jes ;)

That's okay: I don't want to be one of Hilzoy's exes. :-)

"I am no good at pert tosses of the head, dewy eyes, etc., etc., and guess what? I'm still single."

I don't think that's the problem. I'm not any good at any of those either and while I'm technically single, I've been living with the same partner for 10 years now and had a kid with him, so it's probably time to admit that the relationship is serious, despite my inability to toss my head pertly, etc. As far as your own single status, half the posters have proposed to you. You can always accept one of them when you get bored with singledom.

...his ego too fragile for me to confront him directly. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

That's a sticky problem indeed. I'm not really sure how exactly one would go about bolstering up an ego in a way that fosters the belief that it's more than okay, it's good to interact on an equal basis, without trying to demonstrate superiority.

I have a friend who has this problem, and recognizing it helped me to ignore her occasional irritatingness, but I haven't figured out how to change it.

OT, favorite book title: I Stll Miss My Man, But My Aim Is Improving.

So, the cultural war is to be fought with...endless, selectively cited anecdotes? Would it be a devestating blow to the right if someone quoted my position that women need to ask men out more?

Of course, Dowd would probably just take that as proof that many men, myself included, aren't manly enough...but this is a war of anecdotes, not soundly constructed arguments.

Disclaimer: my fiancee owns all the power tools. And she is the one trained to use them.

I'm just the hobbyist.

... And she is the one trained to use them.

Well, real men don't need power tool training -- like we don't get lost and need directions. A lot of the problem is societal imposed conceptions of status and worth. But how to step back and say that doesn't need to apply to me?

Anarch: With kids it is usually searching for every occation they (accidently) do 'the right thing' and praising them straight into heaven about it. With man that can work really well too ;)

My mom tried to stop me from using my critical faculties, because it would spoil my changes on the marriage market ("men don't like women with strong opinions"). I finally managed to find one that liked me BECAUSE and not 'in spite of' my lack of female wiles though ;)

I used to think like SCMT: possesing the penis was the biggest difference. But that changed after I started working in a mixed environment - and even more after I had kids. But to give a short description of what would be more manly and what more womanly... pffft. I think one of the major differences is that men look for what distinguishes them and women look for what they have in common with their environment, but of course the variation in individual behaviour is much bigger than the average gender difference ;)

Not to go totally OT, but there does seem to be a subset of men that are, ahem, bothered by the aspect of relationships with smart women. I had a boyfriend kick me out and tell me "what I need is a bimbo who thinks I'm God."

Funny how hearing comments like that make me want to go out and climb another intellectual mountain.

I had a boyfriend kick me out and tell me "what I need is a bimbo who thinks I'm God."

Insecure jerk.

I know you don't like weak women
You get bored so quick
And you don't like strong women
'Cause they're hip to your tricks

Joni Mitchell, YOU TURN ME ON, I'M A RADIO, For the Roses

Not to go totally OT, but there does seem to be a subset of men that are, ahem, bothered by the aspect of relationships with smart women.

On paper, I'm a bit smarter than my wife. In practice, she dusts me on a regular basis. And that's one of the things that attracted me to her in the first place.

I almost typed that it's THE thing that attracted me to her, but that would have been a lie.

Silly me: I should know better than to write something on male/female anything (a) ever, and (b) when I'm in a hurry. (My sibs and I have thrown a weekend for my parents; had to rush to make the train. Now in hotel.) But: I also didn't mean to imply that I think my lack of pertness, winsomeness, lace handkerchiefs, etc., accounts for my singleness. (It may be -- who knows? -- but I tend to blame some combination of my many faults, and having spent my mid to late twenties getting over heartbreak. When I finally emerged, everyone was married, alas.)

Maybe I should update the whole post.

Hilzoy said:
Excuse me? I, in my naive little way, thought that manhood was about strength, decency, honor, courage, and the like. The world is full of ways to demonstrate one's manhood: occasions to step up and do the right thing, to take responsibility for your actions, to go out of your way to be decent to someone who needs it, to have the guts to do what's right even when you'll be ridiculed for doing so.

You are naive.

Once upon a time, manhood may have been about 'strength, decency, honor, courage, and the like', but now the male gender identity has been denied the right to claim any positive qualities as especially its own. Sure, one may strive to be brave, generous, etc, but so can women and any expression of pride in your manliness will simply get you labelled a sexist. Most men still think of 'male' as a primary component of their identity, but all that men can claim for their own is frat-boy childishness, the desire to look at naked people (depending on if you're gay or straight as to what kind), and an appreciation for beer and cars. And even those qualities will likely be taken away (see Girls Gone wild videos, etc).

If we live in an age of gender equality, it becomes an age in which there is no standard of manliness you can point to which people can live up to. You give a standard of manhood: 'occasions to step up and do the right thing, to take responsibility for your actions, to go out of your way to be decent to someone who needs it, to have the guts to do what's right even when you'll be ridiculed for doing so. ' But that's not a standard of _manhood_, it's a standard which, in an age of feminism, we expect men _and women_ to live up to. It's a standard of mature adulthood, not of manliness. Because manliness has basically been killed as a positive thing distinct from womanliness. (And conversely, womanliness has essentially been emptied of its old positive aspects to the point where many feminists will attack women for wanting to stay home and take care of their kids.)

Now, I think it's perfectly reasonable to find Dowd's view of things insulting. I ultimately have to view any man who can only handle women he can view as inferior to him as being basically a useless hunk of meat the human race could do without. It's a sign of pathetic weakness to demand that women all be wilting flowers, and any guy who has that attitude deserves to never have another date in his life. Women shouldn't have to abase themselves to find love.

But the fact of the matter is that many men are rather reluctant to abandon the tradition male position of power, and too many women are desperate enough for affection or sufficiently victims of Brother/Bastard syndrome to fall for their charms. (said syndrome being the female equivalent of Madonna/Whore syndrome, a common male mental problem...) Those of us who aren't bastards typically find that most women take no romantic interest in us. The fact that women continue to fall for these monkey punks ensures their bad attitudes don't die out.

It's ultimately a sign of the fact that it's much easier to change institutional sexism than to root it out of individuals; same as the case with racism today.

If we live in an age of gender equality, it becomes an age in which there is no standard of manliness you can point to which people can live up to.

I would suggest that this is a particularly US centric problem that has arisen because of the path that feminism has taken in the US. Because feminism followed the path of civil rights, the emphasis was (and continues to be) on gender 'equality', with the idea that men and women should be given a level playing field. However, in Western Europe, the emphasis was not on making the playing field level but on determining the level of additional support needed to permit women to step away from their traditional roles and participate in society at large.

It goes without saying that this is my anecdotal take, and the construct of 'Western Europe' is so broad as to be conceal as much as it reveals, and I am certainly not claiming that Western Europe has no problems in this regard, but I believe that US emphasis on pure equality has created the society where MoDo might feel that 'falling back' on feminine wiles is what is happening.

John Biles: You give a standard of manhood: 'occasions to step up and do the right thing, to take responsibility for your actions, to go out of your way to be decent to someone who needs it, to have the guts to do what's right even when you'll be ridiculed for doing so. ' But that's not a standard of _manhood_, it's a standard which, in an age of feminism, we expect men _and women_ to live up to. It's a standard of mature adulthood, not of manliness.

If manliness means anything positive, it means being a mature adult. Because women are also now regarded as being mature adults, this means that attributes which can be claimed as manly can also be claimed as womanly. This is only a problem for men who refuse to see as manly anything that is also womanly. (It strikes me that there is a curious parallel between this refusal to see the attributes of mature adulthood as manly if women are also regarded as mature adults, and the claim that many in the anti-SSM movement make that when marriage is no longer seen as being for heterosexuals exclusively, heterosexuals won't want to get married any more.)

(And conversely, womanliness has essentially been emptied of its old positive aspects to the point where many feminists will attack women for wanting to stay home and take care of their kids.)

No, that's really not so. I have genuinely never seen a feminist attack a woman for wanting to stay home and look after her children: I have seen anti-feminists claim that this is a feminist attitude, and of course, feminists strongly object to the idea that a woman ought to want to stay home and look after her kids, and if she wants anything else, she's unwomanly.

Those of us who aren't bastards typically find that most women take no romantic interest in us.

As a lesbian, of course, I have no direct interest in this matter. But I can tell you that the straight women of my acquaintance say the worst turn-off is a man who makes a big point of how much of a nice, non-sexist guy he is, and then expects women to be grateful and appreciative of this. A remarkable number of men don't seem to have grasped the point that women don't like to be told, either explicitly or implicitly, that they should be grateful to men for treating them like mature adult human beings.

I have genuinely never seen a feminist attack a woman for wanting to stay home and look after her children

Jes, I wonder what you think about Betty Friedan's book _Second Stage_. I know that the book caused a lot of controversy, but do you think that she was completely mistaken in her views on this?

I had a boyfriend kick me out and tell me "what I need is a bimbo who thinks I'm God."

Baby, I so didn't mean it. Come back.

Hilzoy: "Maybe if I were better at saucy, winsome, and so on, things would be different."

Ummmmmm, saucy.

I find it funny that a NYT producer (whether film or stage), who has to pull together large, complicated projects on a tight schedule and budget, projects which involve creativity and art (so hard to schedule!) would be intimidated by somebody whose chief skill was somehow persuading NYT editors to print her ramblings.


Personal comment - NYT columnists whose intellects would intimidate me - Paul Krugman and,...... well, that's it. Rich and Herbet are excellent people, and I respect them, but wouldn't be intimidated. Safire - maybe smart, but I wouldn't trust a word that came out of his pen. Tierny - wants to be Safire, but isn't, intellectually. Brooks - wants to be Tierney. Kristoff - he clearly wants to be a high-class whore, becaue it's much more fun to make fun of liberals, and act all courageous and such. Dowd - I coined a term for her, 'b*tch savant'. She's perfect at being catty, like Charlotte from SatC, if she got drunk and started channeling Samantha. But that's all the there that's there.

liberal japonicus: Jes, I wonder what you think about Betty Friedan's book _Second Stage_. I know that the book caused a lot of controversy, but do you think that she was completely mistaken in her views on this?

Never read it. It was published when I was 14, I think, and that wasn't an age when I was running out to buy the latest feminist bestseller. I've never read The Feminine Mystique, either. However, I went to look The Second Stage up on Amazon, and though it didn't have a "look inside the book" option, I found a review:

Betty Friedan argues that once past the initial stages of describing and working against politcal and economic injustices, the women's movement should focus on working with men to remake private and public arrangements that work against full lives with children for both women and men. Friedan's agenda to preserve families is far more radical than it appears, for she argues that a truly equitable preservation of marriage and families may require a reorganization of many aspects of conventional middle-class life, from the greater use of flexy time and job-sharing, to company-sponsored daycare, to new home designs to permit communal housekeeping and cooking arrangements. Amazon review

Sounds like good common sense to me: did you have another point to make?

did you have another point to make?

Yes, because in the book, Friedan argued that the feminist movement had, in some ways, set women against families and the book had Freidan marginalized in the movement that she had played a large role in creating. When you say that feminists never attacked the role of homemaker, Friedan argues that many of them had.

By the 1980s, however, Friedan, like many other radical political leaders, had come to harbor doubts about the direction of the movement she had helped to launch. Specifically, she began to question the wisdom of pitting women against men, children, and families. In 1981, she published a corrective to her previous views in which she "proposed coming to new terms with family, with motherhood, with men, with careers, going beyond the impossible dilemma of the old paradigm, the male model or its sexual obverse." Predictably, however, this initiative did not receive a warm reception from her former "sisters," who trashed The Second Stage as a contemptible sellout to the Right. For more than a decade thereafter, Friedan played little role in feminist politics, although she demonstrably did not lose interest in the issues.
link

This NYTimes piece about the author hints at the harsh reception that it got. (and suggests that it was shared by the author of the piece)

My own take was that there has always been a 'radical' agenda within feminism which implicitly questions the value of homemaker/housewife. We can argue if this is a true aspect of the movement or one which arises by default, and you note that _you_ have never seen such an attack, but I think you are not seeing a thread within feminism. I tend to believe that this was in part attributable to the social upheavals rather than a true part of feminism (but, as Freidan argued at the Cambridge Union debate, I as a man have no ability to define what feminism is), but to suggest that it doesn't exist is not totally correct.

When you say that feminists never attacked the role of homemaker, Friedan argues that many of them had.

Many people argue that feminists have attacked the role of homemaker. But, no matter how many people say that it happened, until you can come up with a feminist who did it...?

I also remember a classmate of mine at MIT who knew he had a contradictory view of what he wanted in a woman: someone to stay home and take care of him, but he also wanted someone who was brilliant, witty, achieving, and had her own interests. He readily admitted that someone who was the latter was not very likely to be interested in immuring herself in the docile housewife role...

I think the split now is not so much Madonna-Whore as it is Heterae-Housewife. How much of our image of the latter has been (irrevocably) frozen by the 1950 ideals is left as an exercise to the reader.

Jes, I'm being a bit circumspect because I'm hoping for some names of people who consider feminists rather than throwing out names at you, cause that would be unfair and less conducive to an interesting discussion. But, to get the ball rolling, the ideas expressed by Brownmiller that rape is a conscious manifestation of a male's desire to dominate, French in Beyond Power's discussion of the patriarchy or Millet's demand for an end to a male dominated society could be taken as a rejection of the role of homemaker (Millet in particular was pretty scathing about the whole notion of romantic love) At Brownmiller's site, she has the quote "Rape is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear" which implies that the is a parallel subconcious process.

Perhaps this is not a face of feminism that you are familiar with, but it is one aspect (and perhaps it is primarily a US based aspect). It is difficult for me to say how much a part of the feminist movement this thread currently is, but those questions seem to be what John Biles is talking about.

lj, basically, with Betty Friedan you picked one feminist writer whom I have never happened to read. And I generally prefer not to discuss books I've never read, which means I can't discuss Marilyn French's book Beyond Power On Women, Men and Morals (the only book of French's I've read is The Women's Room, and that too was many years ago). I have read some of Kate Millet's writing, but not recently, and you don't reference anything specific.

I have (many years ago) read Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will, and while I am prepared to go into a discussion of that book, or of rape in general*, I would consider such a discussion to be tangential to a discussion about "have any feminists
attacked a woman for wanting to stay home and look after her children" - which, I repeat, I have never seen happen.

More broadly, I have seen feminists attack the role of homemaker - most notably, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote several early science-fiction novels based on the idea that homework was a profession, and ought to be treated as such. You can see the development of this into the Wages for Housework Campaign. But attacking the idea that women ought to be homemakers, or attacking the idea that housework and childcare ought to be unwaged labor, is still rather different from attacking a woman for staying home and looking after her children.

Perhaps this is not a face of feminism that you are familiar with, but it is one aspect (and perhaps it is primarily a US based aspect). It is difficult for me to say how much a part of the feminist movement this thread currently is, but those questions seem to be what John Biles is talking about.

Paid maternity leave with the right to return to your job at the end of it was a very successful feminist campaign in much of the world outside the US - it hasn't been very successful yet inside the US, but one can hope. Certainly I think you can safely say that the main reason women in the US don't have the legal right to stay home and look after their children and then go back to their old job, is really not because of feminist opposition to the idea.

*Though ideally not today.

No, that's really not so. I have genuinely never seen a feminist attack a woman for wanting to stay home and look after her children: I have seen anti-feminists claim that this is a feminist attitude, and of course, feminists strongly object to the idea that a woman ought to want to stay home and look after her kids, and if she wants anything else, she's unwomanly.

Hmmm, as a stay at home mum I have been attacked several times by so-called feminists. Problem is that I am so emancipated that I am no longer a feminist, but believe in free choice ;). So AFAIC everybody who wants to implement a grouplike behaviorism as the proper conduct is wrong ;)

These days if I hear someone describe another as 'a real man' it is usually about appearance though :)

I have the problem that my own perception of this is largely based on my encounters with people of feminist bent who are not sufficiently prominent at anything beyond a local level for any of you to cross-check my statements.

It's important to note that I'm not talking about women who want to take some time off from the workforce being held in contempt--it's women who have no ambition to go out and work, but who basically want to put their role as homemaker first and don't want to work in the workforce at all unless they end up with no other choice. These are the women who, in my experiences in Academia, anyway, are typically looked down on by feminists and sometimes seen as the enemy, propping up systems of male dominance, inequality of the sexes, etc.

I've seen some feminist sympathy for women trying to juggle career and kids, but not any really for women who want to put raising their kids first.

I speak from a view of things down in the trenches rather than what is being preached at the upper levels, though.

John Biles: I've seen some feminist sympathy for women trying to juggle career and kids, but not any really for women who want to put raising their kids first.

Well, in order not to have to work outside the home rather than working only inside the home, a woman either has to be permanently on welfare, or else have a partner who is able and willing to provide full financial support.

I gather that many states in the US don't permit anyone, not even a woman with childcare responsibilities, to go on permanent welfare unless she can show she's literally unable to hold down a job, so there is no state support for a woman who wants to stay home and look after her children fulltime: the only way anyone can do that is if someone else is willing to pay for it. The way the US job market is set up, with a strong pay differential for women and men, when a mixed-sex couple have to figure out who's going to look after the baby, it will generally be the woman's job that's most economic to give up - and if she doesn't, the odds are the solution will be for both of them to work and pay for childcare, not for the man to give up his job and put raising his kids first.

It's a question of economics. As I've said, I think you'll find there's strong feminist support for women being able to put childcare responsibilities first: there are countries where, thanks to strong feminist campaigning, women are entitled to take two years maternity leave and then go back to work, with state-funded daycare for their child. The US isn't one of those countries, and that's not because of American feminists.

With all these factors, people who complain about individual feminists not being supportive are really fighting the wrong enemy. You think women should get to put their children first, John? Campaign for paid maternity leave...

You think women should get to put their children first, John? Campaign for paid maternity leave...

Good and affordable daycare is even more important I think. Maternity leave of two years is nice --- but very disruptive for companies. I think maternity leave for the first few months after the birth of the baby makes sence, it takes time for your body/hormone to get back to normal and especially with breastfeeding the mum can do more than the dad. But after those first months a mother is not especially better than a father. Leave for either parent makes more sense, and than not comletely at home but with less working hours than a full time job. In a perfect world ;)

I haven't come to a conclusion on the question of whether men in general are necessary but in my specific case, I'm convinced I am.

Jes,
The Millet book I was thinking about was _Sexual Politics_. It's been quite a few years since I read any of them (reading about feminism while in Japan is a bit lacking in everyday relevance), so I was trolling around a bit for a name or two. I've never read Gilman, but I am a bit hesitant to map fictional works onto real-life philosophy especially someone from the early years of the century, without a lot more information. Also the Wages for Housework seems to be a UK group ('unwaged work' is a British collocation, not a US one), so I'm not sure how that applies.

We both agree that the social infrastructure for US women is appalling, but I fear that at a time when the wage structure of a Wal Mart, where employees with a family of three find their earnings put them below the poverty line, creating a social consensus for such a social infrastructure is quite a bit down the list.

It's a question of economics. As I've said, I think you'll find there's strong feminist support for women being able to put childcare responsibilities first: there are countries where, thanks to strong feminist campaigning, women are entitled to take two years maternity leave and then go back to work, with state-funded daycare for their child. The US isn't one of those countries, and that's not because of American feminists.

With all these factors, people who complain about individual feminists not being supportive are really fighting the wrong enemy.

I should add, even though this was addressed to John, that I am not complaining about feminists being supportive, so please don't take my comments as trying to blame feminism. I just think that it is important to know about history rather than to assume that the current state of affairs is indicative of the women's movement in totality.

I agree with Jes that the US isn't a country that has a good social support for childcare, but whose fault is it? I agree it is not American feminists, but I don't believe that American men are more retrograde than their European counterparts. I think that the answer lies in the choices made at the beginning of the movement, hence my comment about the women's movement adopting the model and rhetoric of civil rights, something which did not happen to the same extent in Europe.

(quoted from ?)By the 1980s, however, Friedan, like many other radical political leaders, had come to harbor doubts about the direction of the movement she had helped to launch. Specifically, she began to question the wisdom of pitting women against men, children, and families.

SS is a mixed bag but the NYT piece gets closer to its central point (F's attacks on allegedly sexuality-obsessed radical feminists apart): feminists like Friedan had thought "getting women out of the home and into the workforce" would solve all the problems she talked about in FM, but found it hadn't. Instead of noting that the social infrastructure for that kind of increased participation wasn't in place, instead even of asking for it, Friedan beat, in SS, a massive retreat.

As for feminists attacking the family, why yes, indeed they (we) did. Here's a quote:

“In a sense that is not as farfetched as it sounds, the women who ‘adjust’ as housewives, who grow UP wanting to be ‘just a housewife,’ are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps — and the millions more who refused to believe that the concentration camps existed.”(Betty Friedan, FM)

(sorry, couldn't resist that!)

Whoops, sorry, that link didn't come thru. It's at http://www.womensfreedom.org/artic549.htm

jayann, it sounds like you don't think much of Friedan's book (I assume that 'beat a retreat' is not complimentary), which is understandable, so I would be interested in any other observations that you had. When digging up links, I realized that I really don't have much clue as to the shape of current feminism, apart from political instantiations such as Emily's List and such. thanx

jayann: as best I can tell, that quote is about the dangers of false consciousness/indoctrination, not the badness of homemaking. Obviously, the concentration analogy is absurd and offensive.

Everyone else: I was a kid during the beginning of that wave of feminism, but I got to know it quite well after the fact: the people I rented my apartment from, when I was living in Jerusalem, were involved with the Jerusalem women's center, and (in response to my saying that I was in desperate need of English books that I didn't have to pay for) told me that the center had a library, which I promptly read in its entirety.

The original (second-wave) feminist books had a fair amount of anger, which I have always just filed under the heading 'unfortunate though completely comprehensible overreactions'.

They were (to my mind) somewhat deformed as well by a late 60s/early 70s version of quasi-Marxist political theory, leading to (for instance) endless attempts to show that the oppression of women, not workers, was the fundamental form of oppression. (I thought: why on earth does there have to be one fundamental form of oppression from which all else flows? Very useful thought, which served as the template for such later questions as: why does there have to be such a thing as "the" cause of the French Revolution?) Also, by various misconstruals of the idea that the personal is the political: as I saw it, what t hat phrase originally meant was that what had earlier been seen as 'personal' issues like: who controls the money in a marriage? were in part political; not that one's entire personal life should become a form of political theater (leading, for instance, straight women to decide that they "ought" to become lesbians.) -- In general, the early feminist works had what I thought was a very enjoyable willingness to think anything, combined with the inevitable loopy things that a willingness to think anything sometimes leads to; you can feel people being intoxicated by a Whole New Thought, and sometimes 'intoxicated' really does have its shades of 'do not operate heavy machinery in this condition'.

Which is all to say: you can mine it for absurd quotes on any number of topics, but that would be ungenerous. You can also find it absolutely exhilarating. I got a lot from it, both in the form of positive insights and in the form of learning to identify problems with arguments. (For instance, a lot of feminism of that era involves bashing "liberal feminism" in favor of "radical feminism". I was, and am, a liberal feminist, and I could never see what the argument against it was supposed to be; as far as I could tell, the main thought was: radical feminism is, well, radical, and liberal feminism is wimpy, and anyone who is a real feminist will automatically want the radical version. I thought that that was a staggeringly bad reason to adopt a position, and recognizing it as such was incredibly useful to me. There are any number of times when people are swept up by the thought: being a realX means taking this position, without adducing any further reason in favor of the position in question, and ever since reading a lot of early feminism, I have been allergic to all such arguments.)

So, yeah, I'm sure there were people bashing housewives. But I also think that the main idea was: no one should have the course of his or her life dictated by a stereotype, especially a crippling one. And that leads directly to the thought: if you want to be a housewife, and you have the means to do so, go for it.

"as best I can tell, that quote is about the dangers of false consciousness/indoctrination, not the badness of homemaking."

One of the things that is very common around college campuses in the last 5 years (I assume longer, but that is all I can claim familiarity with) is to disregard those who follow certain career paths as merely being there to get their "Mrs." This is generally seen as an attack on those who have excellent minds, but have been so indoctrinated by society that what they really want is just to turn them off and be a "good wife".

I note this merely to point out that the it is easy to find oneself decrying the dangers of fals consciousness and, in turn, extending that to decry those who wish only a housewife.

Because there are so many women who willfully turn off their minds and get an "Mrs." because that is what is expected of them, just as there are still far too many men who make idiotic comments like those Ms. Dowd cited, there is a strong reaction against all people who choose to live the lives associated with such painful idiocy, as well as a base assumption that those who DO choose that life have ALL allowed themselves to be indoctrinated.

Certainly, individual cases can be exceptions but, by and large, there is still a very antagonistic relationship between those who get a degree and then choose to be a stay at home wife/mother and those who actually go on to work. I competely understand why it would be hard for those observing this tension to distinguish where that is primarily about the dangers of false consciousness and where it is just about the badness of homemaking.

But I also think that the main idea was: no one should have the course of his or her life dictated by a stereotype, especially a crippling one. And that leads directly to the thought: if you want to be a housewife, and you have the means to do so, go for it.

I don't think you are wrong to take away that message from feminism, but can't the argument be made that participating in the system (by accepting the stereotype) essentially perpetuates the system?

In addition, this is the 'civil rights' argument which is why affirmative action is often held out as being hypocritical. (I don't feel it is, but this argument is made) Yet other countries have adopted a system that seems to acknowledge'stereotypes' and tries to create structural solutions for such 'stereotypes' in the form of protected employment and state supported child care, among other things.

I'm also wondering if there is a difference in approaches here to understanding movements. I would assume that it doesn't make so much difference to you as a philospher whether a philosopher was born 200 years ago or 50 years ago because the ideas that they are setting forth are, in a sense, outside of time. Yet I think it makes a great difference to the real world compromises that need to be made. If we want to practically move to a more ideal world of no (or fewer) stereotypes we have to understand why such reactions occur. I may be way out on a limb here and philosophy may deal with their sources more in the way that literature deals with their sources (i.e. detail their lives and relate specific incidents to specific parts of their fiction). I realize that such psychological explanations do occur, but I think only in cases where one cannot avoid it (cf. Heidegger's Nazi affiliations) and even then, I don't think it surfaces as philosophy per se.

One of the things that is very common around college campuses in the last 5 years (I assume longer, but that is all I can claim familiarity with) is to disregard those who follow certain career paths as merely being there to get their "Mrs."

Wow, that still goes on? Back in my time (early 80's), one would say 'She is working on her M R S' (the three letters sounding like the alphabet soup of other degrees) Now, this is not to claim that female college students should be considered as perfect exemplars of feminist thought, but failing to take this underlying current into account does have ramifications. I'd be very curious if this sort of thing has any parallel in foreign college systems.

At my Canadian university, I've never heard anyone remark about women being there to earn a "Mrs." There's a certain amount of condescension from people who perceive themselves as being in fields that are better than others, but nothing that suggests women are in particular fields because they're looking for a husband more than a degree.

It would be interesting to get a handle on how many people intend to go to university and then opt out of the work force, though.

Jesurgiac said:

With all these factors, people who complain about individual feminists not being supportive are really fighting the wrong enemy. You think women should get to put their children first, John? Campaign for paid maternity leave...

Oh, there's a whole lot of stuff that has to be done to enable families to be viable in an era of 1) feminism, 2) the necessity of both parents typically having to work to keep a family afloat:

Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave
Easier access to affordable child care (I tend to think it's better to have a parent at home, but that's simply not an option for many families, especially at low income levels, who can't afford child care either)
Overcoming the SuperMom phenomena (the tendency of many women to push themselves to insanity trying to work full time and do all the domestic work their mothers did at the same time, while the fathers don't take up enough of the domestic work. Until you can turn the kids into domestic labor, Dads gotta do more)

etc, etc.

Liberal Japonicus said:

My own take was that there has always been a 'radical' agenda within feminism which implicitly questions the value of homemaker/housewife.

Exactly. Along with the one which basically questioned whether or not men should exist, asserted all heterosexual sex was rape, etc.

Jesurgiac said
As a lesbian, of course, I have no direct interest in this matter. But I can tell you that the straight women of my acquaintance say the worst turn-off is a man who makes a big point of how much of a nice, non-sexist guy he is, and then expects women to be grateful and appreciative of this. A remarkable number of men don't seem to have grasped the point that women don't like to be told, either explicitly or implicitly, that they should be grateful to men for treating them like mature adult human beings.

So it's better they date someone who will treat them like garbage? If I had a dollar for every woman who complained to me about how awful her boyfriend was but went back to him for more maltreatment, I could buy NYC. Am I bitter? Well, yes.

Especially since in high school, one such female friend went back to her useless drunken boyfriend who treated her shoddily and that night he drove off a bridge while drunk with her in the car and she died. He lived, of course.

My own take was that there has always been a 'radical' agenda within feminism which implicitly questions the value of homemaker/housewife.
to which John Biles replied
Exactly.

I hope I'm not being gauche, but I'd like to point out that I think you are misinterpreting what I mean by 'radical'. For example, I think that a true Christian ethic is a 'radical' philosophy in that it has the potential to completely remake our relationships. Thus, I am taking 'radical' not as good or bad, but simply as a description of how it could change the status quo. You seem to be taking 'radical' as a negative term, and I want to take pains to say that I don't think that is necessarily is.

John Biles: If I had a dollar for every woman who complained to me about how awful her boyfriend was but went back to him for more maltreatment, I could buy NYC.

If I had a dollar for every man who complained about women who "prefer bastards" and said "nice guys finish last", I could buy myself a big house in central London, even at the current exchange rate.

Never met a woman who said she "preferred bastards", but, as I said, I've met plenty of women who are unanimous that the worst turn-off in the world is a man who expects women to appreciate him for being a "nice guy".

Am I bitter? Well, yes.

No one ought to take dating advice from the internet. But, you're bitter because you think of yourself as a nice guy who deserves female attention and doesn't get it?

That is precisely the reasoning - and I am telling you this straight - that women find a turn-off.

Genuinely nice people don't act nice because they think it will get them something. Genuinely feminist men don't think they deserve women's gratitude/appreciation for anything they do.

Men who think that being nice will get them laid (and yes, I've run into that attitude, too) and who act like women ought to be grateful to them because they're "nice guys" - that's a turn-off. And men getting bitter because being "nice" doesn't win them the female attention they think they deserve? Proves they were never one of the nice guys in the first place.

John- I've thought about this a lot. I think you and Jes are talking past one another to some extent. Women don't want guys who are bastards necissarily, but they do frequently call the guys they want bastards. Women need a lot of attention, they like guys who tease, and bust on them and generally challenge them. They like some drama otherwise they just dont become attracted. If you aren't willing to make the effort to be difficult in the way they like, you arent going to have much luck.

Jes, you don't really know John and I think it is unfair for you to atribute bad motives to him. Lots of guys are nice to women without expecting anything in return, but they just find it strange when women are interested in the guys who treat them like bratty younger sisters have women all over them.

Frank: Jes, you don't really know John and I think it is unfair for you to atribute bad motives to him.

You're right. I apologize, John.

What John is saying sounds very similar to what I've heard a lot of straight women complain about - men who have a sense of entitlement, who think they deserve something for being "nice guys" - and who often, once they find they won't get what they want, turn out to be not that nice after all. I was trying to point this resemblance out, but I shouldn't have made it personal, and insofar as I did, I apologize.

Jes- Cool. I think that people of both sexes often become bitter if their needs go unmet for too long, its not altogether an indication of a bad character.

It's taken me two years to figure out (gradually, but I'm probably still wrong somehow) that Jes is a woman, Jackmormon (which I once spelled Jackmoron) is a woman, and Catsy is a guy (right?).

I hereby apologize for all past and future misuse of pronouns.

My wife never says I'm unnecessary. She demands all too often though that I make myself useful -- not for the exciting stuff, natch, but for the boring stuff like regrouting the shower.

And I'm sorry, but SomeCallMeTim's kick-off comment on this thread pointing out that "To have a thoughful penis is to be a man" leads me to the unfortunate thought that for every "thoughtful penis" a vagina does chirp "think again, brainiac!"

Slart's a guy, right?

Back in my time (early 80's), one would say 'She is working on her M R S' (the three letters sounding like the alphabet soup of other degrees) Now, this is not to claim that female college students should be considered as perfect exemplars of feminist thought, but failing to take this underlying current into account does have ramifications.

It's odd, looking back (because this is about when I graduated from college) that we didn't have anything to say about the guys who would up with those girls. Isn't it?

I know a couple that met in college and married; they're still together. She's still working as a nurse; he's retired because he inherited a substantial amount of money. No one says Joel got his MR degree, though.

Re: the girls that date guys who are bastards, I had an interest in one of these when I was younger. Later on in life, I realized that as physically attractive as she was, and as nice as she was, she and I weren't in any way a match. Really, context aside, could you imagine that your soul-mate is someone who chose to remain in a relationship like that?

Not being judgmental or anything, just saying that there may be a lesson in there for those who care to look. And at that time in my life, I wasn't open to that idea. Combination of youthful hormones and protective instinct, I imagine.

One of my close friends in college was a feminist who firmly believed that women shouldn't be allowed to waste their time staying home and taking care of their own kids instead of contributing to society (this was mid-seventies, I note). She grew out of it.
So those attitudes do exist, but I've seen as much, or more, of feminists pushing to have women who stay home acknowledged as making a financial contribution to their families, as deserving Social Security for their efforts (or a share of hubby's retirement pay when they've put their career on hold to advance his), and that society should make it easier on women who want to do both, or on men who want to stay home and be dads.
Nice guys: A recurring theme in dating articles/books for both sexes is that "We want what we can't have," ergo nice guys--i.e., punctual, dependable, and not hiding their interest--become less desirable because the woman knows she can get them (and vice versa--women's guidebooks routinely advocate some variation of playing hard to get).
I agree, people who use "nice" as a manipulative tool, or equate niceness to the kind of unreciprocated sacrifice found only in Victorian novels probably also add to the idea "nice guys don't get girls."
(I will note that this makes no sense to me whatsoever: I'm turned on by women being attracted to me, not disdaining me. After all, if I want to chase someone who doesn't want me, I can always find someone better looking and more successful who doesn't want me either, so why settle for second best?).
Manliness: I've never felt the slightest need to have some kind of model or defining characteristic I can aspire to in order to be "manly" but I have the impression a lot of guys do feel that way. And being the breadwinner appears to be one key one--most articles I've read on the subject emphasize that money=power, and having the wife make more money can make both partners uncomfortable (but even if that's true, I can't imagine anyone advocating women making less as a solution to happiness ... though it sounds like Dowd is).
The idea of greater intelligence intimidating men—huh? I'm way smart, if I do say so, but my college had women who could easily surpass me; I never had any problem with it.
But all in all, this book doesn't sound that surprising (except maybe given the author)--I've been seeing variations of this crap since "The Total Woman" back in the early seventies.

Isn't the 'bad' guy comparable to the 'female wiles' women? As in: most people don't feel they are one of those, but also feel the other gender is looking for this kind of stereotype? (I say the other gender because I don't know how it works for homosexuals).

Dutch 'ideal' amongst the better educated is that both parents work part-time. I ended with being a stay at home mum and having a 4-day working husband. Good thing we live in Europe ;). We regularly have discussions between the working mothers and the stay-at-home mothers about how their situation is better than the other persons though ;)

Jumping in with my two cents at the bottom of the thread....

There's also something about the "Bad Boy" meme which has to be added--the "Reform of the Bad Boy." If women's romance novels mirror some sort of wishful thinking, one would think that meme is, beyond all other, what women want to have happen: "look at me--I'm so sexy, alluring, and marvelous that this Bad Boy, this Ultimate Macho Male, turned his whole mentality around and decided to settle down with ME!" ("Settling down" being also an operative phrase....)

Remember "Marry the Man Today!" out of Guys and Dolls, which contains the lines "Marry the Man today, change his ways tomorrow!"

Bad Boy in lieu of home-improvement project? Um.

liberaljaponicus

it sounds like you don't think much of Friedan's book (I assume that 'beat a retreat' is not complimentary),which is understandable, so I would be interested in any other observations that you had. When digging up links, I realized that I really don't have much clue as to the shape of current feminism,

I can send you references, including online ones (it's difficult to cover even Friedan here!) if you like; just e-mail me. Meanwhile, my objections to SS aren't so much to the suggestions about other family forms and ways of living (except that I see them as very middle-class, but then, Friedan's work is) as to
1. the "retreat" from an equality feminism to an emphasis on male and female difference (that's how feminism was moving at that time anyway, and liberal feminism joined in), based on really rather basic essentialist views of woman as nurturer etc.
2. the assumption that because women who held full-time jobs couldn't (as she'd thought they could) also do housework in 15 minutes a day (I'm sure she said that, but my books aren't here) and bring up children and so on and so forth without child care facilities, feminism had failed and had been wrong
(1 comes in here too...)

Since Friedan much of this has been re-thought, but I think it's still worth reading her (most people probably disagree).

jesurgislac

as best I can tell, that quote is about the dangers of false consciousness/indoctrination, not the badness of homemaking

the "feminist mystique" clearly is an instance of false consciousness -- though Freidan doesn't use the term -- but it can only be that if the role of the home-making wife as described in FM is a thankless one. Friedan definitely saw the Fifties' suburban home as a prison for women. She didn't though attack marriage and the family as strongly as some feminists, but she did contribute to the "I'm only a housewife" syndrome, which is a response to a felt arrogance towards women who didn't "work" i.e. didn't do waged/salaried work.

***
yes, feminist theory has moved on. I'm not sure the anger's gone from feminism, I'd say it's more that some feminism's been assimilated by the academy -- of the early books, only Kate Millett's is "academic", oh and Juliet Mitchell's essay, too, I suppose. But you and I would probably agree to an extent about the changes.

Which is all to say: you can mine it for absurd quotes on any number of topics, but that would be ungenerous.

Not necessarily. But I quoted that in joint response to your

I have genuinely never seen a feminist attack a woman for wanting to stay home and look after her children: I have seen anti-feminists claim that this is a feminist attitude

and to the passage liberaljaponicus quoted: I accept it isn't an instance of Friedan bashing women who choose to be housewives, still, the thrust of her FM is that there's something very wrong with the ones who do (or why would they stay in the hell-hole she describes?).


You can also find it absolutely exhilarating. I got a lot from it,

I agree

I was, and am, a liberal feminist, and I could never see what the argument against it was supposed to be; as far as I could tell, the main thought was: radical feminism is, well, radical, and liberal feminism is wimpy, and anyone who is a real feminist will automatically want the radical version.

or the socialist version... I am horrified when respected feminist academics who call themselves socialists write a feminist book off because it's "liberal" -- that happens all the time. (I am a socialist with radical feminist leanings, but I see no point in simply ignoring liberal feminism, which is the variant that speaks to most women, and anyway has important points to make.)

But there are two powerful cases against liberal feminism. 1. it has tended to speak for and of the middle class (I would add "white", but it isn't the only culprit there), 2. it is (fairly obviously) about equality of women within society as we know it now, so, about the equality of women within a hierarchy stratified by race and class. There's a third, that it has renounced equality (my "retreat" comment) and moved towards a difference feminism that is in my view antithetical to women's advance; but that doesn't distinguish it all that much from other forms of feminism.

I also think that the main idea was: no one should have the course of his or her life dictated by a stereotype, especially a crippling one. And that leads directly to the thought: if you want to be a housewife, and you have the means to do so, go for it.

the problem is that stereotypes don't spring from nowhere, they serve social and political purposes, they're imbued with power. [The FM, for example, reinforced social roles that served an economic purpose (see FM on the situation of women post-WWII)]. So you can't simply shrug them off either by going back to college and then getting a job in Wall Street (FM) or by "just being a housewife" because that's what you want or it's most feasible for you.

But I no longer do think women should not "just be housewives" (as my very hard-working next door neighbour is), I do though have in me still the feminism of my generation. And I think perhaps the differences between us are to some extent feminist generational ones. I do have to remind myself sometimes that things have changed since second wave feminism began!

As to the question of homemakers and "Are Men Necessary":

My particular form of radical feminism, in addition to Equal Rights for children (with appropriate scrutiny)

involved the ending of all male legal parental rights and responsibilities. But I suppose that might start another Big Argument.

Bob- Would that also involve ending child support payments?

My particular form of radical feminism, in addition to Equal Rights for children (with appropriate scrutiny)

involved the ending of all male legal parental rights and responsibilities.

I've put my back out, Bob (jesurgislac and liberaljaponicus, my last comment was affected by that, I know I didn't address the points all that well; but I'm a lot worse now). So I can't address this properly . I will say it's interesting in that it does expose the current deal whereby "society" can get several lots of work for the price, often, of one salary/wage.

Frank: oh yes, Bob does mean that.

jayann: thanks for your comment. I am trying to recall my liberal v. radical v. socialist feminisms clearly, but since I can't, I'll just register my impression that liberal feminists (in the early 70s formulation) did not think that society should be restructured so radically as to require dispensing with liberal democratic forms of government. I didn't see, then, why this had to require only speaking for the (white) middle class, or accepting society as it is (as opposed to: some possible vastly improved version of a liberal democracy, which is after all a pretty capacious category, and allows lots of room for improvement), or (their criticism, not yours) thinking that all feminism needed to accomplish was passing equal rights laws, as opposed to the detailed excavation of patriarchal attitudes that was, imho, one of feminism's enduring contributions.

As to the stereotypes: I agree that they do not spring from nowhere. But I always thought that this meant that there were several ways in which they could be combatted, and working to change the underlying conditions, rather than denigrating women for making what one took to be "the wrong choice", was preferable, both because it didn't involve working in any way against people's freedom to choose and because there was less risk that my mistakes about the always difficult question 'what would people choose in a better world?' would enter the picture. I generally find it problematic to assume that I know what part of people's choices is false consciousness and what part is not -- or rather, sometimes I can hazard a guess, but I'd rather deal with underlying conditions that I know to be unjust than attack their choices. (I know you weren't advocating that, but it seems like the natural alternative.)

Generally, I think: everyone should regard the entire world of possibilities as his or her own personal jungle-gym, to be climbed all over, investigated at length, looked at over and under and all around, so that each of us can decide to inhabit whatever portion of it is best for us. The main obstacles to this are material (when you die of malnutrition at the age of five, no climbing around for you!), but any further impediments that we might produce, whether they're the result of patriarchal mores or unduly restrictive conceptions of feminism, should be avoided. The ones that reflect general social trends are more powerful, but that should not excuse us from taking care that we do not make even a tiny contribution of our own.

(Possibly I get prickly about this as a result of e.g. watching some friends of mine who are African-American academics get slammed for things like: entering the wrong field, or seeing someone I know not get offered a job because, while he is a person of color, he is not explicitly concerned with the status of people of color in his research; or because of the period, back in the annoying 80s, in which people I didn't know and had never met before would assume that the simple fact that I was studying Kant meant that I had bought into the patriarchy, or some such thing. A little of that goes a long way. In my case, it made me stop trying to be a part of local feminist organizations. (As opposed to, say, NOW and EMILY's list.) I thought: I will self-identify as a feminist until the day I die, and I will e.g. go on working in shelters, doing philosophical work that is informed by my feminism, etc., etc., but I won't bother trying to go to all those meetings any more. Not worth the aggravation.)

jayann, sorry to hear about your back. The email listed here for me is rather spotty, but if you could post just a couple of links to pages that have some names and stuff, I'm happy to google around.

I'm afraid everyone has moved to the nice guys thread, but this anecdote about MoDo and Scooter Libby must be shared

The last time I saw Scooter Libby, he was trying to persuade Maureen Dowd to join him in doing tequila shots at the celebstudded Bloomberg party after the 2003 White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

via firedog

liberal japonicus, thank you. I slip disks -- you may know what that's like -- I'm feeling very sorry for myself right now!
I'll post a couple of links here tomorrow. (Mo and Scooter? great)

hilzoy, the distinctions between socialist, liberal and radical feminists seemed clear once -- perhaps -- now some people would say the categories are outmoded. (But I think they may be making a comeback.) Susan Okin, though, clearly was a liberal feminist and a theorist, I might base my comments on her rather than on Friedan. (BTW, I'll have to quote you all the time as I can't think straight right now.)

liberal feminists (in the early 70s formulation) did not think that society should be restructured so radically as to require dispensing with liberal democratic forms of government.

yes -- and later: Susan Okin, too. Not that socialist feminists all thought it did even in the 70s, I'd say, but they did want to transcend (now there's a usefully vague word) liberal democracy. Also, it could be argued (and I suppose was in _The Radical Future of Liberal Feminism_) that the social reforms liberal feminist equality required would anyway transform the polity or bring liberals to demand that that occur.
(Susan Okin's work suggests otherwise.)

I didn't see, then, why this had to require only speaking for the (white) middle class, or accepting society as it is

the mantra is "liberal feminism doesn't speak for all women". I don't like it, it reflects more Friedan's "what went wrong for Smith graduates" than Okin's concern about poverty in the US. But it has elements of truth in that liberal feminism's about equality of women and men within a system that is unequal, so, it seeks (obviously, and I'm sorry to belabour the point) to replace one hierarchy, white/male, with another within which women and ethnic minorities have parity with white males at every point. That that in itself is utopian, or so I often think, doesn't detract from the fact that its aspirations for some women are less than for some others. As the same is true of much socialist feminism, and as many socialist feminists, now, do not really seek to transcend liberal democracy (I'll name drop Iris Young) the question perhaps is whether liberal feminism is still less inclined to look carefully at issues of class, and still tends to ignore -- for example -- the massive, more or less enforced, presence of lower class women in the labour market.

or (their criticism, not yours) thinking that all feminism needed to accomplish was passing equal rights laws, as opposed to the detailed excavation of patriarchal attitudes

Friedan's second book and Alice Rossi's second piece in Daedalus support that kind of criticism, but I don't think it at all fair to level it at liberal feminism generally.

As to the stereotypes: I agree that they do not spring from nowhere. But I always thought that this meant that there were several ways in which they could be combatted, and working to change the underlying conditions, rather than denigrating women for making what one took to be "the wrong choice", was preferable,

I accept this but think that a critique of the conditions will seem to some women like the denigration that it has on occasion been, so their distress and alienation can't be avoided.

(Possibly I get prickly about this as a result of e.g. watching some friends of mine who are African-American academics get slammed for things like: entering the wrong field, or seeing someone I know not get offered a job because, while he is a person of color, he is not explicitly concerned with the status of people of color in his research; or because of the period, back in the annoying 80s, in which people I didn't know and had never met before would assume that the simple fact that I was studying Kant meant that I had bought into the patriarchy,

Yes. That happens less over here. (For bad reasons as well as good -- in the case of black academics, anyway.)

In my case, it made me stop trying to be a part of local feminist organizations.

I didn't really have to face that choice, perhaps fortunately (my feminism's a bit idiosyncratic, a bit too "hard equality" and anti-"difference"): my professional women's caucus was fine, I wasn't, for reasons I won't go into here, part of the local grouping. (It's only right to add that they weren't all that much like the people you find difficult, and I think I would too.) But I'm not entirely sorry to have left that world.


That happens less over here.

UKian? Or just 'over here' as 'where I live'? Sorry for prying, and don't feel like you have to answer, just curious)

I just gave the most cursory of quick skims to the comments, for the moment, at least, and so pray forgive me, but I didn't see anyone mention this point -- if I just missed it, my humble apologies.

I'm entirely skipping the substance of what y'all are debating about men/women/traits/behavior, etc.

What point I have is that what I found weird in reading Hilzoy's post is that it reads as if she surely didn't read the actual article. It reads as if Dowd is for the things Hilzoy quotes, when, of course, the entire point of the article is perfectly obviously how disturbed Dowd is by all these traits of the younger, "post-feminist," generation of women, how unhappy she is that so much of what women painfully learned from the feminist wave of the Sixties and Seventies has been cast aside, and how unwise she thinks this is. That's her entirely plain thesis.

Maybe it was entirely clear to everyone that Hilzoy understood that, and was merely taking up the issues for discussion without implying Dowd had any view at all, in which case, again, my apologies; sometimes I'm dense. I was also puzzled by Hilzoy giving a link that didn't go the article, but to a "Select" page.

And it seems as if numerous other comments in this thread are operating under the completely bizare understanding that Dowd was for the things Hilzoy quoted, rather than horrified by them (apparently; certainly decrying them, her point).

Anyway, since no one else commented on any of this (unless I missed it), it must just be me being dumb. Very very confusing. Everyone did read the article? Sorry.

Women, in my experience, rarely take the bold action of just d1cking around with stuff for the hell of it, or doing a half assed job of fixing something when there is an expert or professional available. For cripes sakes, they want you to stop and ask directions when there is a perfectly good map, and you can figure out where you are by a combination of observing the sun and moon or by dead reckoning.

Find me a quiet, taciturn woman who can fix my car cheap, please.

And it seems as if numerous other comments in this thread are operating under the completely bizare understanding that Dowd was for the things Hilzoy quoted, rather than horrified by them (apparently; certainly decrying them, her point).

I think Hilzoy was raising a question as to whether what is described by Dowd is actually the reality that exists. Hilzoy puts it in terms of her own experience, politely allowing that Dowd may have a completely different set of experiences to hers, but for the most part, it is not her horror at the state of affairs, but Dowd's short-sightedness that is the issue. Further mentions of Dowd seem to concentrate on general cluelessness rather than on worrying about what she advocates. If what is described by Dowd is not really true, then discussion of Dowd's horror at a non-realis state of affairs is over and above the usual pointlessness of discussing male-female relations on the internet. Of course, when you start wondering about what exactly is the reality of male-female relations, well, expect things to go off-topic. They always have for me.

"Further mentions of Dowd seem to concentrate on general cluelessness rather than on worrying about what she advocates."

What gave me the idea that people are crediting Dowd with believing these things she clearly doesn't are such comments as:

"Dowd has long needed to cut back to a single bottle a day, but I don't think I like the claim that...."

If it's not Dowd making the claim -- and she's not -- she can't be legitimately attacked for it.

"Of course, Dowd would probably just take that as proof that many men, myself included, aren't manly enough"

Which is basically an insane comment.

"Dowd - I coined a term for her, 'b*tch savant'. She's perfect at being catty, like Charlotte from SatC, if she got drunk and started channeling Samantha. But that's all the there that's there."

That's merely neither here nor there, but still no contradiction of the previously established notion that Dowd was pushing all these things she was, in fact, decrying.

Now having skimmed more thoroughly the thread, it seems pretty clear that the idea was established that Dowd held ideas that are the opposite of what she held, and not a single person ever bothered to point out what an amazing piece of erroneous slander that is. Which bothers me. Whatever one thinks of Dowd -- and my opinion has gone up and down over the years, and is rather mixed, myself -- it's fine to attack her for stuff she says and believes if you think she's wrong, but to attack her for the opposite of what she's saying, by reacting to quotes utterly out of context, is just unfair and wrong.

However, I see that Hilzoy said nothing to contribute to this, other than to not refute it, which isn't at all particularly her responsibility, so I withdraw my initial comments above, with apologies to Hilzoy for essentially lumping her together with everyone who followed who got Dowd wrong; Hilzoy was merely neutral and not addressing Dowd directly. Sorry, Hilzoy.

I presume I need not pull quotes from Dowd's piece where she's quite clear indeed in saying that it's the 70's feminism that she felt was a great step forward -- as do I -- and that things almost immediately started "regressing." (Which is a complicated question, to which I'd say, some, yeah, while other aspects: complicated.)

I'm not stepping into the main arguments, because overall I'd like to focus more on my own blog and other stuff, just now, and not getting very time-sucked over here, enjoyable idle pleasure as that sometimes is, and also because my opinions are fairly short and sweet on these matters.

I came of age in the Seventies, and was surrounded by ardent feminists; so I was raised with the ur-texts, unto Shulamith Firestone, Robin Morgan, Valerie Solanas, Brownmiller, etc. They had a great influence on me at the time, which surely didn't mean I took them as any sort of bible, either. Fine details of my opinions have continued to refine and develop over the years, but mostly I've never taken "manliness" with anything other than a giggle, or as a form of sexual roleplay during sexual behavior that I think is fine, like I think most consensual sexplay is, if that's what people enjoy.

Otherwise, I've never worried about whether I was a Manly Man (pretty much not).

Guys who whine about being Nice and Not Getting Any have been well covered in the other thread, I saw, but generally are the sort of manipulative, non-self-aware, jerks, described in various ways by folks, or at best, are simply clueless. People who are significantly manipulative in relationships -- particularly when focused around sex -- creep me out no end. I'm a big fan of straight-forward talking things out, with people who possess enough self-awareness and self-knowledge and articulateness to be able to do it. (Note: "articulateness" does not mean "glibness," nor do I mean the minimum requirement should be at all high, so the word is a bit misleading; we all have difficulty at times talking about deeply emotionally charged things, particularly our fears and shames and guilts, and "talking things out" is a lifetime process; we all tend to need some things drawn out of us at times as a form of reassurance.)

Beyond that, it's a topic whose juice was long ago squeezed out for me, if it ever held much at all. (Oh, who am I kidding: I can kick the topic around fine, in the right circumstances; I just down't want to timesuck here and now.)

My marriage proposal to Hilzoy, of course, remains open. Failing that as a start, a cup of coffee or favored tasty beverage would do. :-)

Ooh, coffee.... Gotta go!

For cripes sakes, they want you to stop and ask directions when there is a perfectly good map,

It's the other way around here - I hate asking and my spouse always feels like asking directions ;)

We settled on both a new PDA with TomTom ;)

I get the impression that people are complaining about Dowd for a couple of different reasons. First, that society is the breakdown of which she blames her inability to get a date on. Once you stand up in public and say "I'm romantically unfulfilled, and I believe that this social problem is the cause," people are guaranteed to respond "No, it's because you're ugly and boring," whether or not you have a point. So that's half of it.

The other half is that, while you're right that she's unambiguously pro-feminist, she is attributing her romantic woes, on some level, to feminism - saying that for attracting men, she'd have been better off working as a maid like her grandmother. There is a reasonable position to take that that simply isn't true (i.e., that men aren't repelled by strong, successful women), and she really is blaming her feminism-driven power and success for a problem that is caused by her other personal qualities. While you're right that her explicit position is feminist, her complaints can be read as having an anti-feminist tendency, which is, I think, what hilzoy and others are picking up on.

And not just anti-feminist, but also misandristic, which are often the same thing.

Once you stand up in public and say "I'm romantically unfulfilled, and I believe that this social problem is the cause," people are guaranteed to respond "No, it's because you're ugly and boring," whether or not you have a point. So that's half of it.
That's certainly correct.
The other half is that, while you're right that she's unambiguously pro-feminist, she is attributing her romantic woes, on some level, to feminism - saying that for attracting men, she'd have been better off working as a maid like her grandmother.
I'm not clear that she's so much saying that as as being frustrated that a lot of young women seem to believe that insofar as they approach men and life. But you may be right.

"(i.e., that men aren't repelled by strong, successful women)"

I mostly can't wrap my head around generalizations as to what "men" and "women" do, given the variety they come in. There are some overall cultural tendencies at any given time, absolutely, but I always bridle a bit because such usages -- and I'm not responding here as if you were generalizing, I'm just saying -- tend to subsume the always-extant significant set of individuals, and subcultures, that act and think differently than the majority. I know you know this.

it seems pretty clear that the idea was established that Dowd held ideas that are the opposite of what she held, and not a single person ever bothered to point out what an amazing piece of erroneous slander that is.
If you think Hilzoy and commenters are slandering Down, you should look at this Lindsey Bayerstein post

ouch

UKian? Or just 'over here' as 'where I live'?

first, sorry not to have got back to you with some suggestions for reading. I'm a bit stuck: the recent undergraduate brief textbooks are both too simple for you and very light on liberal feminism (and dismissive of it), but the more advanced theory often ignores it. (I haven't read Judith Lorber's textbook.) Rosemarie Tong's _Feminist Thought_ does have a fair amount on Friedan and may be your best bet. I have searched the web for a decent account of SS, no luck.

To your questions. (They aren't an intrusion.) "Over here" means the UK. "Local group" is the group where I lived before I moved to Cardiff. And -- for the record --"(For bad reasons as well as good -- in the case of black academics,...)" refers to the fact that there are very few black academics here.

I'm glad this thread continued and glad you said

What point I have is that what I found weird in reading Hilzoy's post is that it reads as if she surely didn't read the actual article. It reads as if Dowd is for the things Hilzoy quotes, when, of course, the entire point of the article is perfectly obviously how disturbed Dowd is by all these traits of the younger, "post-feminist," generation of women,

not that I think Hilzoy misunderstood Dowd; but I am (as I see you are) really concerned by the nastiness, and yes, slander, aimed at Dowd. As you say, it hasn't been as bad here as in some other blogs; in fact, I've been heartened by some of the discussion here. Still, it isn't great. (I hadn't read Dowd's full piece when the blog discussions began, I was amazed when I did.)


Lizardbreath
While you're right that her explicit position is feminist, her complaints can be read as having an anti-feminist tendency,

I agree. (I agree with more or less everything you said, but think "that men aren't repelled by strong, successful women" should read "not all men are repelled" or "men aren't necessarily repelled"; also, I do think there are generational factors here.) But, of course, the people who've been yammering on about her -- who presumably simply don't like her, though there may be darker motives here -- want to maximise on those. What would have happened, I wonder, if someone as well known as Dowd but not as disliked had written the piece, or if someone well known (who could be Dowd) had given the same analysis without a "I can't get a man (who's the right kind)" attached?


I presume I need not pull quotes from Dowd's piece where she's quite clear indeed in saying that it's the 70's feminism that she felt was a great step forward -- as do I -- and that things almost immediately started "regressing." (Which is a complicated question, to which I'd say, some, yeah, while other aspects: complicated.)

Gary, right. I'm in the "regressed" camp insofar as the regression's the cultural feminism/difference move of the (mid)70s that's at issue, but in other ways, not.

Katie Roiphe threw her views into the ring today, by the way.

"Dowd's ovarching thesis is that feminism cheated women and broke the sexual marketplace" says Lindsay. Not my reading, shall we say.

It probably helps not to know in advance what someone is saying, before you actually read what they say. Just a theory.

I wonder if Roiphe chose the title. I'm also wondering how familiar jayann is with MoDo. This link from a 1999 piece at the bottom of the Slate article hints at the kind of emotions she has aroused.

Gary, I think that's a rather unfair slam. First, you suggest that Hilzoy didn't read what she wrote about and now you are accusing Lindsay of deciding on her argument before she read Dowd. Respectfully, I think you should play the ball, not the (wo)man.

liberaljaponicus, I've read a lot of MoDo's NYT opeds, also a piece published here about her family and the White House (and her time as White House correspondent). I didn't though know till this incident how much she was disliked (many thanks for the Slate link, which is interesting) but had sensed some of it. It does though -- yes -- sometimes take me a while to pick up on reactions in the US.
There are parts of her piece (the one in the NYT) I dislike, incidentally; and in total it seems to be muddled. But that doesn't excuse the reaction.

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