Saturday, April 30, 2005

On Flannel Knickers and Feminism

The Concerned Women of America is a group of anti-feminists, a little like the Independent Women's Forum except that the latter group would wear G-strings and the Concerned Women long flannel knickers. And the Concerned Women have a male as their spokesperson. Otherwise the two wingnut organizations are pretty much in agreement about what has caused all the problems of this country: feminism. Except when feminism has been totally ignored and ridiculed and proven faulty. But even in those cases all that is wrong in the world (abortions, latchkey children, women with beards, impotent men, messy houses, divorces, the decline of America's military power and so on and on) is the fault of feminism. Though it has also been totally defeated and was ridiculous to begin with.

This short summary may explain why I don't write about these groups' ideas very much. To criticize them I have to chase an idea around a circle, leap over cooked-up evidence and turn around a corner just to find that the idea has morphed into its opposite. And everything they propose is covered with this slippery slime of emotional references to mom and apple-pie and how much better times were when women didn't have the vote.

To be fair to these ladies, it's hard to write an article bashing women while at the same time trying to convince them of how good that bashing is for them. I wouldn't be very good at that sort of thing myself. It reminds me far too much of a black person writing a treatise advocating a return to slavery because weren't those plantations cool places after all? And wasn't it true that there was so much less crime then when the massa took care of us? And no need to work hard! Isn't it really true that the blacks are different from whites, that the black soul pines towards all the benefits of the glorious past?

See how insulting all this is? But we read the Concerned Women's writings without seeing that what they say is roughly the same thing though in a different context.

Now enter Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a Senior Fellow at the Concerned Women of America. Note how she is a woman with two last names. The horror of it! Note how she is a doctor! And she is employed! Never mind, maybe she is in the process of packing it all in, because this is what she is saying about working women:

Nobody mentioned in the mid-70s that "having it all" would not include marriage and children. Many young women, now that it is too late, are lamenting the cost of careerism and promiscuity as they discover that marriage and children are not likely in their future. So-called sexual freedom, loudly touted by libertines and radical feminists, has brought soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases and plummeting rates of marriage. Abortion has eliminated 45 million pregnancies and left behind a host of problems: heartbreak, as well as physical and emotional distress.

Millions of women are finding, through bitter experience, that while the wonders of modern communication technology can distract much of the time, at the end of the day –– when the iPod and cellphone sit in their chargers, when the television's relentless barrage is finally silent –– there is no hand to hold and no baby to cuddle.

This is the old conservative monster in the closet: the idea that a woman can't get a man or a baby if she has a job that pays her money. It's something to do with the uterus migrating to the head and turning into lots of facial hair and nervous breakdowns. Of course, in reality women who have jobs or careers also get married and have babies. The wingnuts would prefer that this not be the case, so they massage their statistics to go with their preferences. In reality, there are also women who don't want to get married or at least not to a man, and there are even women who don't want to have babies. All this is now much more possible than it was during the plantation era.

And what is the dear doctor's evidence on the "heartbreak, as well as physical and emotional distress" that the forty-five million abortions she quotes have caused? There is no evidence cited, just her say-so. Abortions can indeed cause physical and emotional distress but so can unintended pregnancies brought to term. So can zillions of other things, such as domestic violence. DV was something quite accepted during the golden pre-feminist times, but Dr. Crouse isn't sorry for the pain and heartbreak of the women who were victims then. No, because feminists can't be blamed for that particular heartbreak it doesn't count.

Our dear Dr. Crouse is approaching the crescendo of her message next. Here it comes:

Today in America, we are beginning to reckon with the bitter harvest from the scourge of self-centered "me-ism." The moral relativism of post-modernism has resulted in a culture that scorns marriage, casually embraces cohabitation, and dismisses divorce; such values have decimated the family for the last 50 years.

Drinking from the springs of a false ideology can steal priceless, irreplaceable elements of life for years before its tragic consequences are evident and its true nature revealed for all to see. For instance, the millions of deaths from Hitler's Nazi horror or in Stalin's Gulags, or the bloody massacres of today's suicidal terrorists, reveal all too clearly the true character and the threat of counterfeit creeds. But for the victims, the exposé comes too late.

Who gave this woman a licence to write? See how somehow the modern woman's dilemma is compared to Nazism, Stalinism and suicide terrorism? Where is the chain of evidence leading us to these horror chambers? It doesn't exist, of course. Women are just supposed to leap from the idea of their own selfishness in wanting to be full persons to the idea of the whole world falling apart.

Dr. Crouse makes the leap with nary a flannel knicker-leg showing. She points out that women are beginning to learn that nature cannot be resisted! We are flocking back to where we belong, finally. Indeed, feminism was all wrong and ridiculous as well. Though it's also like Nazism, Stalinism and Osama bin Laden.

I feel so tired. Do you see now why I don't normally address these wingnut women's writings? But just to round off my vituperous tearing-apart of this rubbish, let me tell you what is wrong with the feminist concern about equal pay for women and men:

Meanwhile, as today's women remake the shape of this next century, crafting out their own life-course and blazing new trails, in the finest tradition of American exploration and creativity, today's feminist groups remain mired in the last century, spinning their wheels over old ground. The feminist's celebration of Equal Pay Day last week is a perfect example. Senator Hillary Clinton strode to the microphones to decry discrimination against women. And the National Organization of (Some) Women issued their same-old tired press release. "Eradicating the current wage gap," it read, "that exists between the sexes is part of NOW's longstanding commitment to women's equality."

The statistical mantra that the feminist groups cite – that women make 76 cents for every male dollar – compares the average full-time working male to the average full-time working woman. Ironically, the NOW materials refuse to recognize the validity of the career choices women make to spend more time with their young children, which differs from most men's choices.

See how something Dr. Crouse can't really argue is skipped over by calling it old-fashioned? It's so old-fashioned to always talk about how women should be treated as full human beings! Why can't those boring feminazis shut up already! The fashion has moved to being a wingnut and a Stepford wife. Who cares about equal pay anymore? Besides, 76 cents is really much cuter than a dollar.

Then to the final argument from Dr. Crouse: the gender gap doesn't matter because it compares full-time workers of both sex! How exactly is this a counterargument? What should we use in calculating the gender gap instead of full-time earners? The gender gap becomes an enormous gaping chasm if we include part-time workers in the calculations because most of them are women.

No, what this Concerned Woman is doing here is Orwellian DoubleThink. Almost the whole article aims at scaring women away from having good jobs in the labor market by explaining how good jobs leave you all alone with your iPod. But this uncomfortable piece of evidence actually points out that the jobs women have are not that good, on average, and the reason is both in discrimination by gender and in the fact that women take more time off for family reasons than men do. So if women actually followed the Crousean urgings of the article the average gender gap would look even worse for women. Hence the totally illogical and pointless ending of the article.

I hate having to analyze crappy writing. Grrr. Hope that some of you actually read my analysis.
I got the link from Welcome to Gilead. Read her take, too.