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    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Rebecca Traister Talks to Kate O'Beirne

    Nothing like some good solid anti-feminism after a morning of TV talk. Rebecca Traister interviews Kate O'Beirne.

    Noumena gives great treatment on The Headpiece for the Staff of Ra and Feministe clears up some facts too.

    Rebecca Hartong says:

    think a lot of the anti-feminism you see among upper-middle class and wealthy women (because, honestly, how many poor working women do you ever hear bitching about feminism?) has to do with feeling guilty about having let paid help raise their children and keep house. That’s worth feeling guilty about — you only get one chance to raise your kids and if you choose to do something else instead (work for the Reagan administration, for example), that’s it. There’s no going back. So… you live with the regret. The thing is, feminism is not to blame for these women’s personal feelings of regret.

    Fascinating theory. I have my own: upper-middle-class and wealthy women feel they don't owe feminism because they don't want to own up to their class privilege. And acting like their success had anything to do with factors beyond their hard work not only means they owe a debt to feminism, but that they very well may not deserve to be where they are, period. But I think Rebecca is onto something, too.

    Speaking of the class issues underlying the Traister-O'Beirne debate, Aunt B on Tiny Cat Pants says:

    And it dawned on me as I was reading this that nothing in this discussion applies to me. I don't have to have an opinion about it* because, as far as I'm concerned, this is some fairy-tale world of money and resources and options beyond which I can even imagine. ...

    To even have a discussion about whether a woman is going to stay home with her kids requires a household income beyond my ability to imagine, let alone negotiate.

    So, giving two shits about what wealthy women do in their day-to-day life is a waste of my time. Go to your cushy lawyer job. Stay home with your kids. Snipe at each other about which is the more "just" or more "natural" choice. It's all the same to me.

    I agree completely with self-proclaimed feminist and Bookslut, Jessa Crispin:

    really haven't had enough caffeine to process this interview with Women Who Make the World Worse writer Kate O'Beirne, but I will say this: both of the women in this conversation are wrong. The truth is somewhere in the middle of all of the posturing. (Except for when they agree that this Linda Hirshman American Prospect piece is one of the best articles on feminism written in a long, long time. That bit is true.)

    O'Beirne is one of those painfully irritating anti-feminists who can't bring themselves to type a couple of words in a search engine. It's wrong after wrong:
    Feminists are against single-sex education. Wrong.
    "Corporately, mainstream feminists denigrate marriage and motherhood -- they just do! They're not the least bit interested in -- and in fact sort of opposed to -- the work-at-home stuff, the federal things you could do to encourage working at home, telecommuting or whatever, they're not interested in that. They have one model. The fundamental thing they think is that you've got to follow the male career model." Wrong.
    Etc, etc. Other blogs are more thorough in fisking; that's not really my thing.

    Here's what I'm thinking: what can we learn from this bitch? Here's what I found:

    1. Regarding women who want to work: I think women who really want that ought to find a guy who wants it. I don't see why there's any big movement needed for this. If some woman really feels very strongly that things ought to be divvied up that way I think she ought to do what that woman [Hirshman] suggested in the American Prospect: marry a starving artist or marry a liberal. Marry the guy who feels that way and do your own thing!

    I love this. One of the major problems I have with some women I know who identify as feminists is that they want society to change so that they don't have to do the work within their own relationships or personal lives. Like the Maureen Dowd situation: she whines that guys don't want her because she's too successful. The guys she sees as eligible in a capitalist, classist, patriarchal society indeed don't want her. So fucking deal with your own problem: you're attracted to patriarchal assholes! Date someone who validates you. No one's forcing you to date an asshole. Especially when you're rich.

    If you don't want to stay at home, don't. If you want a male partner who wants to be the primary caretaker of your children, make that a higher priority than his current paycheck (which he would ideally be forgoing soon anyway) or his haircut and sport coat, etc.

    Don't think for a second that making society equal will mean that there's no chance you'll ever end up on a date with an asshat again. There will still be some asshats.

    2. On the power of feminism: People say, "Oh, feminism is dead." No. What I am telling my audience is they are thriving! Larry Summers. He paid these women an enormous compliment in saying, "Let's talk about these ideas." And the feminist heroine of the episode [Nancy Hopkins] had to run from the room breathless and sick to her stomach. He makes a perfectly legitimate point based on data -- disagree with him, but let's talk about it! -- and suddenly, $50 million over the next five years [to improve Harvard's hiring policies for women]

    In other words, we feminists need to start to realize that we still can make change happen. We are still feeling like underdogs all the time, which means we don't go to bat. We can. We need a self-image makeover, people!

    3. Regarding the expansive definition of domestic violence: I think [some of the so-called signs of DV] are potentially trivial. Could any one of those things rise to the level of a real abusive situation? I suppose so. But it strikes me as a sort of alarmist [attempt to define] domestic violence down in order to find some epidemic of it. [If those were true] every dating relationship in high school would be abuse. I mean constant, constant humiliation in front of people? It's all so subjective: like every time I go out he asks me where I've been?

    What I see there is an attempt to define it down because it has to be an epidemic -- because there's a lot of money in it being an epidemic. ...

    Seriously, though, what business is it of yours or mine if guys are controlling their money or asking them where they've been? At what point is it not a matter of public policy or government if somebody's living with a loser who's controlling her money?...

    they are expanding the definition. You got a black eye? We want to hear about it. But don't you think that controlling money begins to flirt with a private matter?

    Folks, don't get married if you don't want someone else controlling your money because, when you sign a contract giving someone control over your money, they might take advantage of that. One reason why marriage is extremely weird. If someone you're not married to is controlling your money, you have legal redress: use it.

    The one and only way (besides, of course, arresting anyone who commits assault or battery against another person and offering restraining orders to any victim of assault) that we should be dealing with domestic violence is by making sure women get equal pay, allowing them to exit relationships in which they are no longer happy. Making sure that childcare is available and affordable would be an important part of that process, as women still tend to be primary caretakers, making it more expensive for women to leave relationships when they have children. Women should also be able to count on custody of their children if their partner is violent. Why? Because child abuse is against the law.

    One of the major problems of VAWA and other such legislation is that it embeds further gender divisions within our law. If someone takes your money, call the police: they're stealing. If someone hits you, call the police: they've committed assault and battery. If someone rapes you, call the police: they've committed sexual assault. If someone wants to know where you were all night and you don't want to tell them, don't. If they then hit you, call the police: they've committed assault and battery.

    I think that the fact that some people (and yes, probably disproportionately women) have such low self-esteem that they think they deserve crimes perpetrated against them and insults hurled at them by the person with whom they've chosen to live is a problem our society can best deal with by instituting a system of universal health care, which will allow these people to get the psychological assistance they need. I think that the individuals who are so hurt that they feel the need to hurt others could also benefit from a health care system that provided them psychotherapeutic care.

    4. Regarding equality of the sexes in the armed forces: if women are going to be in the military, mothers are going to have to start teaching their sons to hit girls.

    Gasp. What this woman is saying ... take a deep breath ... is that women and men, girls and boys, should be treated ... one more breath ... equally. The only problem I have with the statement is that mothers and fathers should be equally invested in teaching their boys to hit girls and their girls to hit boys. Or invested in teaching everyone that hitting is against the law: they're committing assault and battery.

    O'Beirne is right though: you can't expect equality and foster double standards. You can't have the law say that hitting a woman (Violence Against Women) is a Serious Crime and slugging a guy is a minor offense. What is the harm done? That seems a fair measure of the punishment that should be suggested.


    Anonymous Bitch | Lab said...

    :Fascinating theory. I have my own: upper-middle-class and wealthy women feel they don't owe feminism because they don't want to own up to their class privilege. And acting like their success had anything to do with factors beyond their hard work not only means they owe a debt to feminism, but that they very well may not deserve to be where they are, period. But I think Rebecca is onto something, too.:

    I love you for presenting this POV.

    5:58 PM  
    Anonymous Bitch | Lab said...

    YAY! you have comments on. There's been a few times I've wanted to comment but the comments were turned off. I thought I'd try one more time and -- voila! -- it worked.

    Thank you again!

    5:59 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    As soon as I found out people wanted to comment, I couldn't wait to turn them on!

    2:25 PM  
    Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

    Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

    1:34 PM  

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