Saturday, April 13, 2013
Love it. Our affair began fairly recently but the food sex has never been better. It's worth all that foreplay, standing by the stove with the boiling broth and the wooden spatula, stirring, stirring, stirring...
The rice needs to be of the right type, the type which remains firm but moist, which coagulates and slowly, slowly, agonizingly slowly falls apart at the very moment when the taste buds explode in orgasmic enjoyment.
Anything can be gently massaged into a risotto: peas, mushrooms, garlic, herbs. The flavors intermingle but remain subtle, the waiting for it to be ready is a delicious agony. Risotto day!
And if you ever tire of the wholesome food sex of risotto, buy a bottle of truffle oil*. Gently dribble some of it on your heaped portion right before eating and prepare for a whole new world of taste.
*It's pricy per bottle but not expensive per meal, especially if compared to the price of actual truffles.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Contents: Sexual Violence, Suicide, Ostracism
Rehtaeh Parsons in Canada and Audrie Potts in the United States were teenage girls. Both alleged that they were gang-raped by teenage boys while being unconscious from alcohol. Both also seem to have been the victims of social media and real world ostracism after the events took place. And both took their own lives, Audrie last September and Rehtaeh this April.
In Parsons' case the initial police investigation about the alleged gang-rape ended in no charges though the case has now been reopened, apparently because of new information. The rumors are that a witness or one of the alleged rapists has come forward because of Rehtaeh's suicide. In Potts' case the police has made recent arrests.
That is all a very neutral summary of the events which otherwise bring Steubenville to mind. The shared aspects of these three cases (and many more) are a) the alleged unconsciousness or near-unconsciousness of the girls, b) the gang aspect of the alleged rapes, and c) the destruction of the girls' reputations via social media and real world ostracism, including the spread of photos about the alleged rapes or the otherwise disgusting treatment of an alleged rape victim. At least two of the cases also suggest a fairly lethargic involvement by the police and all three cases demonstrate that the schools failed in their duties.
Reading about all these cases is painful and difficult. Writing those cut-and-dry statements is extremely insufficient. But it is a necessary prelude for what I want to talk about: The second Act in the play titled "How To Ruin A Young Girl's Life."
The First Act of the play is a sexual act, or an act which some parts of the society labels as mutually voluntary sex, even if it really is a gang-rape where one "participant" is unconscious and has given no consent. More generally, almost any kind of sexual behavior by the young woman or girl may suffice the get the play going.
The Second Act is what articles about these cases call bullying. But it's something more vicious than that term can convey. It is ostracism combined with the destruction of someone's external reputation. Mere ostracism at least leaves the target alone. What the treatment of these teenagers suggests is more abhorrent: The target is isolated, left almost friendless but still continuously harassed, ridiculed, gossiped about.
Rehteah Parsons received text messages from strangers asking her for sex months after the alleged gang-rape. The Steubenville rape victim was described as a whore and a slut in many tweets I read a month after the rape, and those who described her that way were her age and both male and female. The Facebook messages I also scrutinized at that time described her as a slut and the boys as innocent victims of the naturally-must-hump-a-slut instinct.
Did the Steubenville victim not get supportive messages in the social media then? Perhaps, but despite my attempts I couldn't unearth any. This suggests (only suggests, as support could have been offered in personal channels only) that the view of sexually active women as sluts and whores is widespread among the young, that many teenagers think being unconscious or extremely drunk is not a valid excuse for becoming the object of sexual treatment by others and that men cannot help themselves in sexual matters, cannot abstain from having sex with inanimate human beings. In short, the responsibility for gate-keeping sex is clearly seen as belonging to women.
What in olden days used to be called victim-blaming (why did she go to that party? why did she drink so much? how come was she dressed like that?) is not seen as victim-blaming but as The Way Things Are. Boys are supposed to try to get sex, at almost any cost, good girls are supposed to cross their legs and somehow have that hold, whereas bad girls are stamped with the slut label and are then free game forevermore.
I was shocked to find all that so very much alive in the social media. I naively thought that the past discussions about victim-blaming were now knitted into the wider society. But that does not seem to be the case. There are still good women (not for public sexual consumption) and bad women (for public sexual consumption).
What makes all this so horrible is that we are discussing minors in most of the better-known cases. Children, really. Teenagers whose lives revolve around their peer groups and for whom the sentence of that peer group can well mean death. At the same time, those teenage boys got their understanding of the rules of the sex game from somewhere. Who taught them that unconscious girls can be used that way? Was it their parents? The general culture? Pornography? I think the answer matters tremendously.
But it's not just the boys we need to reach. The girls with those Twitter and Facebook accounts too often shared a similar understanding: In some odd way boys and men are entitled to try for sex, by hook or crook, and if they succeed then the girl or a woman is a slut or a whore but he got lucky.
We need to do something about those values, and the need is urgent.
In the final and Third Act of the play the wider consequences of all this play out. What they are depends on the individuals involved, on whether the woman or girl ever tells anyone about what happened, on her mental and emotional strength, on the severity of the hatred she must bear from her culture, on the support she receives and on the whole larger culture. If the police is informed about the case as an alleged rape, the values the police officers hold enter the story, and finally the values of those who decide whether a case can go to court or not.
At all those stages we must be aware of those underlying values, of the submerged belief that the destruction of some lives (such as the student athletes in the Steubenville case) really counts for more than the destruction of other lives (such as that of the Steubenville victim) and of the deep, deep roots of the belief that women really are responsible for sex that happened, except if she lost an arm or her life while fighting against it.
The least helpful of all reactions I have read is the recommendation that girls not be allowed to go to parties, that alcohol should be kept away from teenagers, that parents are to blame for not supervising their children (usually their daughters) better. This is not because it wouldn't be good to monitor teenagers but because all those assumptions are the same as saying that young men really all are rapists, that nothing can be done about that except to make sure that it's not your daughter who gets raped by them. Besides, the advice usually boils down to limiting girls' freedoms as a solution to something that really isn't their fault.
All that is preposterous. It is also highly insulting to all the young men who would never try to have sex with an unconscious woman or man, while doing nothing to the suggestion that perhaps that IS how young men are expected to act.
This is a truly rotten proposal:
This week House Republicans will introduce the misleadingly titled “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.” Touted by Republicans as a new comp time initiative that will give hourly-paid workers the flexibility to meet family responsibilities, it is neither new nor about giving these workers much needed time off to care for their families. The bill rehashes legislation Republicans passed in the House in 1997, some 16 years ago, and that they introduced again in most subsequent Congresses. Its major effect would be to hamstring workers – likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.
The proposed legislation undermines the 40-hour work week that workers have long relied on to give them time to spend with their kids. The flexibility in this comp time bill would have employees working unpaid overtime hours beyond the 40-hour workweek and accruing as many as 160 hours of compensatory time. A low-paid worker making $10 an hour who accrued that much comp time in lieu of overtime pay would effectively give his or her employer an interest-free loan of $1,600 – equal to a month’s pay. That’s a lot to ask of a worker making about $20,000 a year. Indeed, any worker who accrues 160 hours of comp time will in effect have loaned his or her employer a month’s pay. This same arithmetic provides employers with a powerful incentive to increase workers’ overtime hours. Instead of having to pay time-and-a-half wages when an hourly-paid employee works longer than the standard 40-hour work week, the employer incurs no financial cost at the time the extra hours are worked.
Let's smell the rot. Note that what the bill actually does is give more flexibility and financial savings to the firms, not to the workers! Imagine that, from the Republican Party. The whole thing is like those environmental pollution initiatives called "Clean Skies" which aim to turn the skies permanently gray and poisonous.
And yes, this is a direct attempt to take away the 40-hour work week. Even if agreeing to do overtime is voluntary under this bill, the current reality is that an employee graciously refusing such a wonderful opportunity would soon be looking for a new job.
Then the real jab-in-the-back of that wonderful flexibility:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is right when he says that working parents have a hard time being home when their kids really need them. Parents need the flexibility to take a child who suddenly develops a high fever to the doctor or to attend a meeting with their child’s teacher to develop his or her educational plan for the coming school year. The comp time bill House Republicans will introduce this Thursday does not address these needs at all. Employees cannot just take comp time when they need it. Rather, the bill lets an employer who receives a request for comp time decide when the employee gets to take it. The employer can even refuse the request and defer it to a later time if, in the employer’s view, letting the employee take comp time will “unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
Bolds are mine, and so is the anger.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Content Warning: Body Images and Anorexia
Joan Smith in the UK Independent reviews The Vogue Factor, a book about the eating requirements in the modeling industry. Or, rather, its not-eating requirements.
I haven't read the book but the picture attached to Smith's article stuck in my mind. Here it is:
Who knows how representative the model in the picture is. I'd guess she is more malnourished than most models. What I cannot get off my mind is the possibility that her liver is visible in that picture. I think it is, and anyone that thin is in dire danger.
Imagine a factory where the employees are regularly being starved.
Some are so desperate with hunger that they pick up tissues from the floor and stuff them into their mouths, while a few become so weak that they have to be admitted to hospital and put on a drip. Any industry which treated workers so badly would be targeted by undercover reporters. Photographs of emaciated workers would cause an outcry, questions would be asked in parliament and the factory would be closed down.
But that doesn't happen in the fashion industry. Not really, despite all the PR campaigns in that direction, and we all know why: The extreme thinness is an occupational requirement.
This topic is an octopus with a thousand (thin) legs, all of which are worth following. I have written about the deep reasons for female body modifications before and certainly will write about them again. The way our bodies are never good enough, never pretty enough, never satisfactory, the way we ARE our bodies, in far too many aspects of our lives and the way we end up having at most a ceasefire with them. The "we" being a literary construct here.
But this time I want to write about something different: The question how to react when jobs require the workers to engage in quite unhealthy activities but when the jobs are not in themselves coercive, forced labor or extremely poorly paid. Do we have empathy for the fashion models who appear to go along with the risky bargains which are expected of them? Do we have empathy for those professional athletes who take dangerous substances in order to grow muscle mass far above and beyond the bearing capacity of their joints and muscles? And how should we react to the well-paid executive officer who is expected to spend sixteen hours working every day of his or her year?
In some ways all this is about what kinds of contracts people can make with each other. If a firm wants to pay a worker well for that worker's loss of health, is such a job contract acceptable to us? Is there a difference between the wealthy over-working executive and a teenager starting a modeling career? What about the indication that professional football players, for example, tend to die younger than otherwise similar men? What can we sell in the labor markets?
The required thinness of fashion models may have more serious consequences because these women are "models" of how desirable women should look. In that sense the health dangers their job involves affect not only themselves but countless numbers of young girls. Still, to some extent similar dangers exist for young boys and girls who wish to emulate professional athletes.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
This would be hilarious if it wasn't so awful:
Ladies and gentlemen, here's your preview of the 2014 Republican campaign commercials, from Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who is chairman of the NRCC, the GOP's House re-election committee.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk about these proposed changes that the president is putting forward when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, the shocking proposals that you say the president's putting forward that could affect seniors. What's so shocking about changing that CPI, that consumer price index the way that you would determine how much inflation would go ahead with increases for Social Security recipients, for example?
WALDEN: Well, once again, you're trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors and I just think it's not the right way to go.
Imagine me having to write that it is the Republicans who always want to cut "entitlements", it is the Republicans who want to kill Social Security dead and get rid of Medicare (switching it to those vouchers which are like the scratch-and-sniff cards in seriousness) and it is the Republicans that Obama tried to appease with these proposals! But soon these proposals could be the Democrats' proposals, because they truly are unpopular.
OK. That is exaggerated, because other Republicans are less critical of the chained CPI part of Obama's budget proposal:
Even as GOP leaders slammed Obama’s budget as a whole Wednesday, they found room to offer some praise for his approach to entitlements, which includes Social Security.
“The President seems prepared to finally concede this time that at least something needs to be done to save entitlements from their inevitable slide toward bankruptcy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama “does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget.”
Should I do a post on the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI)? The short-and-sour part of it is that using it to calculate Social Security payments will lower them. Another short-and-bitter part is that the general CPI doesn't have a terrible amount of relevance for the retired people because the consumption bundle it is based on doesn't accurately reflect the cost items which are most important for the elderly, such as health care costs.
Is Google Analytics. It gives me almost three times the number of visits as Sitemeter does. Blogger numbers are somewhere in the middle. So what I clearly want to do is to seek advertisers on the basis of the Google Analytics, right?
None of the three is right, because there is no such thing anymore. Sitemeter doesn't measure anyone who has the do-not-follow thingy on her or his browser, and wise people tell me that Blogger counts robots whereas Google Analytics is not supposed to. So how come it gives me more clicks? Even Sitemeter records the Googlebot.
Add to that people who read through the many and various feeds, and the result is that I had no idea if anyone reads me or if my readership is growing or shrinking or staying constant. This shouldn't matter, but it does, both because I need "a platform" for the book to be published one day in the next millennium and because advertising income is nice for chocolate purchases and depends on those clicks.
Still, the most crucial reason for me having worried about those numbers is internal. I'm not gonna write if nobody wants to read me. Which explains why I have been quite happy (cheerful! elated! dancing under the moon!) when I found out that the Sitemeter numbers are not the only possible ones. Indeed, all the information taken together suggests that I'm getting more adulators as all goddesses should. Or that's what I have decided.
Speaking of outfits, did I ever show you this 1940s dress I bought (for thirty dollars and the trouble of fixing one cigarette burn)? It looks like a proper Vivian Leigh outfit on me.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Running after the train that passed the station is my frequent and sad lot. Now that I have finally read Sheryl Sandberg's (and Nell Scovell's) Lean In. Women, Work, and The Will To Lead, a very quick and easy read, the conversation has moved on to Margaret Thatcher's influence and other similar matters.
Better late than never, eh? Two warnings:
First, I couldn't avoid reading a ton of criticisms and reviews of the book before I got my own claws on it. That's bound to have an impact, if not for any other reason than for raising my expectations about both its message and how controversial it might be.
Second, I have read a large cartload of self-help books for women at work over my lifetime, and thus I come to this particular book with a different history than most people might. It's hard for me to ignore that context, even when the context is irrelevant for those who don't have my history of reading.
The combined effect of those two warnings was to make me feel a bit deflated after reading the book. It's not that different from many of its predecessor books, except for the fame and position of Sandberg. All self-help books about women in the world of work are aimed at women who want to climb the corporate ladders, not at poor women holding those ladders up, and all such books skirt the issue of sexism or institutional constraints and focus on only what the woman herself can do. All such books also give her strivings a happy ending. The change in how I operated worked! I got the corner office! The only problem was me not acting correctly before!
Having said that, the book is also very good in parts. Sandberg explicitly defines her market as the women who do have some power, and she admits that this may not apply to poor women. She also discusses institutional constraints and the need to affect the whole system of gender roles and expectations, and then states that this is not the goal of her book. It has a narrower objective: To make women aware of their internalized gender roles and in what way they serve to damage their ability to do well at work.
Her practical examples of how to ask for a raise, how the thing is rigged against women but why women still should persevere is useful and well sourced, and I learned a few things from that chapter.
Her discussion of the ways some women sabotage their careers in expectation of one day having children is also very important. If ambitious women decide to refuse opportunities or challenges years before they even have children, just because one day they might have them, the career they sacrifice later on won't require much of a sacrifice after all those compromises.
Seeing all that spelled out was beneficial for me, because it highlighted a different side of the very common practice of women "preparing" themselves for the fact that they will be the hands-on caregivers for children one day. But why sabotage the before-children part of your life, too?
I have noted that this can begin as early as the time when students decide on their majors at college, though it's also true that some jobs allow more flexibility for entry and re-exit than others. Still, when that is not the case, what useful purpose does not taking risks in one's job serve, for those who can afford such risks, especially if there is a possibility of a soft landing if the risk fails?
Sandberg is also good at demanding men as fathers and as partners to step up to the plate, and not just to eat the dinner off it. It's not possible for women to do it all. That it is utterly impossible for any parent, mother or father, to do what the top jobs in industries require is something Sandberg discusses much less than she should have. She states that she is always available for her firm and that she goes back to work after coming home at the (gasp!) enormously early hour of 5.30 pm.
All that is ridiculous and preposterous and also probably quite unnecessary in real productivity terms. It's a way of hazing among adults, a way of stating that one's blood and bones belong to the factory store, only this time the factory store pays you handsomely for that ownership. And a way to tell the yes-men and yes-women of the corporation apart from the ones who might not be willing to go equally far in showing their obedience.
This is the part of the book which rang most false to me, the part which required institutional criticism. Today's expectations of working hours in the well-paid jobs are not sustainable, as a form of life with partners and children and aging parents and even rest and relaxation. They simply are not, and it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman. If that's how you are expected to work, you will one day go home and wonder who those people sleeping there might be.
On the other hand, Sandberg also points out the need for mothers to let the fathers be real partners in childcare. If the mother expects to be in total control of it, she will soon be left to do it on her own. Sandberg's discussion of the way some women sabotage other women's careers at work is also good. It's not really the Queen Bee syndrome that is work at here, I think (though some of that always will exist, as there are King Bees, too), but the Smurfette Principle: There can be many Smurfs but one Smurfette is plenty.
What else did I like about the book? The references. Sandberg credits Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University for them, and they are extensive. Indeed, one could do worse than read the references as a start of studying this whole problem.
And Sandberg's discussion of the importance of risk-taking. She distinguishes between bad risks, the kinds which can cause a bare table at dinner or the loss of the house, and good risks, the kinds which really don't have a terrible downside but require perhaps a lateral move at work or taking a new job, and she argues that women are too hesitant to try the latter types of endeavors.
This links to the games more men play in the world of work, games which women may not have been taught. For example, in journalism a rejection of an article doesn't have to mean anything more than the need to resubmit it to another site. Women are more likely to regard such a rejection as a real judgement and to stop submitting that piece altogether, and women are also more likely to hold their own work to tougher standards than men seem to do, on average. That internal judge should take a break and go to the beach. Just have a look at some of the stuff that gets published (me, even!) and think of it as a game, at least in the first round of rejections. If a sufficient number of rejections complain about the same problem, then fix it and submit again!
Then to the criticisms, which I hope are read as constructive. Several other reviews have pointed out that Sandberg focuses on what individual women can do, not on the systemic inequities, and that can easily read as suggesting that individual solutions alone might work. Sandberg herself states, however, that both approaches are needed at the same time.
In short, I wouldn't make that a strong criticism against this particular book. Many different approaches are necessary, and the Lean In approach has the advantage of making some women, at least, think about these issues in a way which could empower them and improve their lives. The need for positive thinking and activism can come in many disguises.
The criticism that the book is elitist is a valid one. Sandberg belongs to the business elite of this country, and it's hard to see how she could have written a book with all those personal examples that such books seem to require without peppering the text with references which come across as elitist.
The whole focus of the book is on women who have careers, not dead-end jobs. Books of this type do not get written for women (or men) in dead-end jobs because such jobs offer very little individual power for those who work them. You have no real negotiating power while applying for a counter-job at McDonald's, and you certainly cannot get away with crying at work there, as Sandberg relates she has done at Facebook.
On the other hand, the Introduction to the book states that Sandberg is aware of this, that her book is written for those women who do have some moving-room at work. And it is possible that some of her messages would work in other types of jobs, too, such as the practical examples of how to frame a request in a way which is more likely to get it approved.
There is a sub-text to many of the criticisms of Sandberg's book from the elitist angle. Women who have nannies and cleaning ladies and so on, in order to succeed at work, seem to be doing it on the backs of other women (though they are also the employers of those women), and since upper-class women already do better than the other women, why focus on ways to make them do even better?
Did you notice what I did in that paragraph? I framed everything as the woman's duty so that Sandberg's husband wasn't mentioned at all! It's Sheryl who exploits her nanny and her cleaning lady, because we ultimately think that it's Sheryl who is responsible for any children she and her husband have.
This may be a type of intersectionality, but it's one which looks at class across one gender, rather than looking at class across both genders or both genders across class. Those cases ARE different.
Whether that nuance matters or not depends on your definition of feminism. Whether there is any value to looking at the lives of already-privileged women also depends on your angle. If your viewpoint is across social classes your conclusions are different than they are if your viewpoint is comparing men and women on the same social class rung.
Some of that may be too theoretical to matter to you. The real question, of course, is how to get more books of this sort about the women at the bottom rungs and how to get that message out there as a form of Lean In or whatever the movement might be called. And the other real question is whether it matters to poorer women and women of color to have more women in positions of power if those women were not initially poor and/or non-white. Note that I'm not answering that question because the answer can be difficult to fathom.
Structural activism is probably more important for women who don't have much power at work. In that sense this book and most of the other self-help books are not relevant for those women. Unionization might work much better for domestic workers, hotel cleaners and counter-staff at fast food restaurants. Federal paid parental leave, subsidized health care and good annual vacations are part of the answer, too.
Then the criticism that the book focuses on women with children: I don't hold the focus on mothers as a misplaced one, because the majority of women will be mothers, and all women are or have been viewed as "potential mothers." Thus, our assumptions about who cares for children affect most, if not all women, at paid work. They are the mutterings in the cultural background: If I promote her, will she leave? What will it cost my firm to cover for her maternity leave?
Whether Sandberg's focus on combining motherhood and work is excessive can be debated. On the other hand, she certainly lets the corporations and corporate cultures off far too easily. That's what felt quite false in the book. Your curmudgeony boss won't suddenly see the light and give you six months of paid maternity leave just because you learned to negotiate effectively, unless you really are the brightest star in the night sky, and even then he or she will check on those lumens, to see if you truly shine. And while the initial example in the book about getting nearby parking for pregnant women was a great introduction to Leaning In (ask for it!), the fact is that providing such parking is almost costless for the firm and increases their reputation. If you ask for decent working hours for all workers, not just parents, you might be packing up your desk in no time.
Finally, I liked this take on why the book is not that meaningful for women of color:
For professional black women, the performances that they feel compelled to give are shaped by the ways intersections of race and gender isolate them and place them under greater scrutiny. As they take stock of their work environments and perceive colleagues’ stereotypes, beliefs, and preconceptions, these women learn that, like Michelle Obama, they must repackage themselves in ways that are more palatable to their white co-workers. As these colleagues’ goodwill and collegiality is necessary for advancement and occupational stability, black women professionals find themselves doing both surface acting and emotional labor in order to successfully integrate their work spaces.Perhaps put in another way, Tressie points out that the advice on how to ask for a raise might not apply to professional black women, because the cultural mutterings for them are somewhat different from the cultural mutterings about professional white women. The expected forms of behavior differ and hence what might work in "leaning in" would differ. But Sandberg doesn't discuss that, and it's possible that the advice she gives in the book would not work. It could be even counterproductive.
This is my take (as a five-year old) of the fairy tale Puss in Boots. For some reason I remember worrying about the fact that the cat would drown in the boots. I had in mind my grandfather's riding boots which were almost as tall as I was. Which might be of some interest in thinking about the development of thought in children. Like the much earlier drawing experience I had (maybe around three) when I was supposed to draw a house and only drew the door handle on the paper as nothing else would fit.
You can see that I copied! So young and so depraved...
Monday, April 08, 2013
Has died. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has a thoughtful article on Thatcher's role as the first (and still the only) female Prime Minister of Britain, pointing out the role of misogyny in the public criticisms of Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher is often given as an example of the thesis that the only way women can get into power as the First in some important job is to act like honorary men and preferably reactionary honorary men. Any sign of feminism in such a woman is an absolute no-no, because opening the door for one carefully groomed woman might be acceptable (the Smurfette principle), but the gates should not be left unbolted against the rest of the wild hordes. It is therefore not surprising that she made only one high-level female appointment during her long rule or that her policies carefully avoided upsetting the existing gendered power structures in the British society.
I am not a fan of Thatcher's politics, and neither am I a fan of the way she pulled up the drawbridge after her own successful invasion of the corridors of power. But I understood that at a particular time (from the 1950s to the 1990s) and in a particular place (the British Conservative Party) the way she was, felt and acted was the only way for a woman to reach real political power.
Thatcher was not a feminist, of course. She is famous for openly disliking feminism, partly because she was blind to what feminism had given her: The right to run for office, the right to vote. She believed that her successes were based on nothing but her own talents and her own hard work. Women's concerns she brushed off like so much dandruff on the shoulders of her black suit.
Given all this, what should feminism think about Thatcher if feminism was a person? Embrace her for showing us at least one powerful woman? Reject her because she rejected feminism? Wonder about the fact that in at least one survey more men than women ranked her as capable and that the
Feminism has long been associated with talk: combative rhetoric about equal rights, academic analysis of whether men and women are the same or whether women are actually better, that moldy debate over whether it’s possible for women to “have it all,” both career and family. Many a feminist like Germaine Greer or Betty Friedan, and more recently Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter, has made her mark through writing about gender issues—sometimes to considerable cultural effect, but still more talk. Connotatively, a “feminist” has a chip on her shoulder the size of a two-by-four, never shuts up about “empowerment,” is eternally on the look out for sexist slights, and never considers the possibility that other people might deny her a job or dismiss her opinions because she is personally insufferable. The movement has often obsessed with language, leaving a legacy of awkward “him/her” constructions or faddish but equally sexist Bibles whose God is a “she.” Given the humorless blah-blah-blah the term feminist evokes, it’s little wonder that many young women today avoid the label.I find that delicious! The very definition of the exceptional woman and the oddest definition of feminism yet (and there are really weird ones out there!).
Margaret Thatcher was a real feminist. Not for what she said but for what she did. She did not pursue justice for her gender; women’s rights per se was clearly a low priority for her. She was out for herself and for what she believed in.
So what is Thatcher's legacy for women? I would imagine that she would be angry at such a question. Those women, always pestering her when she was nothing like them! She was one of the boys, or at least a Smurfette among Smurfs.
I think Irin Carmon stated the answer to that question best:
By the same token, it’s possible to have the following measured approach to what Thatcher did for women’s representation in power: It’s better to have women in public life, even when we vehemently disagree with them, than to have no women in public life at all. Every single one counts toward the normalization of women in charge, however abhorrent their policies. Thatcher herself was a necessary rebuke to essentialism, to the humanity-constricting idea that women are inherently more collaborative, peaceful or nurturing. Bella Abzug once said, “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.” She was talking about female mediocrity, but the same goes for female wrongness.-----
*Apologies for getting Shriver's gender wrong there and thanks for grrljock for the correction.