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    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    National Review Feminism

    Contradiction in terms? Ask Kathryn Jean Lopez:

    The first message of the show — as I watch it, anyway — is: Women can only be elected president through a backdoor. In Commander in Chief, Geena Davis' character only becomes president because she is the vice president to a president who, as milestone luck would have it, dies. But before he goes he makes clear that he believes she shouldn’t be president. The Speaker of the House thinks she's a joke.

    I don't even have to remind my reader(s?) that the probable cause for this storyline was, well, acknowledgement of sexism; most people would not find it believable for a women to be elected to the office of the President of the United States. One reason for this is that a woman has never been President of the United States.

    I must say that I'm not completely sure how I feel about this strategy of the show. What would it have done if, instead of pointing out how strange it was for a woman to be, as they say, the leader of the free world, if there had been a television show along the lines of The West Wing, where the President just happened to be a woman? I think that, for little girls (and it is for them I am most pleased with the existence of such a show), it would be far more effective if the President's gender was handled in a matter-of-fact, "Yeah-the President's-a-woman-why-wouldn't-she-be?" sort of way. But adult viewers would be like, "Look at how this show denies the realities of sexism!"

    More from Ms. Lopez:
    The second message I get from Commander in Chief is: Women are silly. Moses would have stopped to ask directions! Are we really supposed to take that kind of caricatured dialogue seriously? Most professional women I know — many of them in the Beltway political world, as it happens — are not playing juvenile Battle of the Sexes games. They’re just out doing their jobs and proving themselves just like everyone else (i.e., just like the guys). And that’s how (ideally, anyway) women rise — on merit. Do the job, measure up on any objective scale, and you’ll be in the pool of the qualified and successful. “Just do it,” as the sneaker commercial would advise. Not in a dumbed-down “well-here’s-the-best-the-women-can-do” category. To do otherwise — to make that separate category — is insulting and unnecessary.

    I completely and totally and truly and madly and deeply agree with this: And that’s how (ideally, anyway) women rise — on merit.

    But even a writer for the National Review has to admit that's ideally.

    It's in my personality to feel some connection to the individualist feminist enterprise, but it simply hasn't worked so far. I basically hate the idea of affirmative action and I really do believe that it makes everyone, not just white guys, assume women and racial minorities less qualified. But our other option is for there to be one or two women allowed "in" and the majority of the population pushed into the lowest-paying, least prestigious positions. Not because of merit, but because of sexism.


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