Oh noes! Wives are Ebil!Yeah, this piece is utter garbage, nasty and judgmental and pretty much of no useful purpose to anyone except anti-feminists who want to screech, "See look, Feminism IS dead! Even Feminists Say So!"
... Which, btw Pro Tip: if you're attempting to critique the feminist movement but instead your piece sounds more like a rabid right-wing anti-feminist misogyny fest, you might be doing something wrong.
But I find Jessica Wakeman's take down over at The Frisky fairly weak and unsatisfactory. Although, maybe, honestly, such a mis-matched and ill thought out wad of gibberish that seems to be mixed up somewhere between anti-1%ism, hating on wives for, gosh, getting married instead of having Principles! While simultaneously self-aggrandizing your own accomplishments as some sort of Feminist Icon when-- LOL No. Maybe the couple of quick hits that Jessica serves up is all it really deserves.
But I actually am a difficult woman, as opposed to just writing a speed-addled book about them, and I hate pulling punches. So here goes!
First up: Why the fuck is this filed under "politics"?? The Atlantic is a drivel rag regardless, but this piece seriously has FUCK ALL to do with the 2012 election. Okay but seriously...
Most of all, feminism is pretty much a nice girl who really, really wants so badly to be liked by everybody -- ladies who lunch, men who hate women, all the morons who demand choice and don't understand responsibility -- that it has become the easy lay of social movements.Way to hate on women while trying to critique the movement fighting against sexism. Why is it "a nice GIRL"? Because women are really just mild-mannered mouses who just want man-approval? Except for the only RRRL feminists who are RAWR I DO DRUGS AND ROCK'N'ROLL! Yes, I see what you did there, suggesting that the aggressive Riot Grrl ethos has been totally lost to the people-pleaser Mary Sues, conveniently suggesting that there are really only two kinds of women: ball breaking bitches or complacent penis-worshipers.
In reality, however, women are varied and complex, and so is feminism. Nothing wrong with Riot Grrl ethos, by the way. But that isn't and never has been all there was, and there are branches of feminist politics that I am not down with. (Did you miss the whole "Feminist Sex Wars" thing?) I know plenty of fierce, aggressive feminists who are agitating for feminists of color, queer feminists, trans and genderqueers, for reproductive rights and immigrant rights, organizing workers for the labor movement, for anti-rape campaigns and fighting intimate-partner violence, agitating for sex workers rights and critiquing the anti-trafficking movement, and attempting to aggressively fight back against the waves of anti-choice, anti-repro-rights, anti-women, anti-trans legislation and violence around the U.S. Authenticity actually isn't defined by how many people you offend, by the way. There are lots of different kinds of activists too, and mass movements are not coherent unified campaigns, they're wild and messy and have lots of different kinds of people using different kinds of tactics. The most solid and healthy movements grow and adapt, and listen to the critiques. There's a difference between staying true to one's purpose, and just being controversial because you think controversial is the only important action, but without any meaning behind it. ... Which basically I think was the real purpose of the whole article.
Look, there might be a valid point hidden underneath all the mush, which is that "choosing everything even choosing to choose to be treated like crap as long as you're choosing it then you're still a feminist" would be the image of a movement that had lost its way, IF that were in fact where feminism is. I
The best of any real political movement isn't what the media generally flock to for their daily feeding frenzy of sensationalism, and mistaking what the media image broadcasts for what feminists are actually doing is a huge, huge mistake. "The Nice Girl"? Puh-lease.
I also think this is a subtle dig at the notion that when someone says, "hey the way you're doing feminism is oppressive to me," shit, maybe people should listen. Making your movement inclusive and safe for all women and people that support feminist politics, including: trans women, trans men, lesbian/bi/pansexual women, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, sex workers, stay-at-home moms, etc., is NOT "selling out" or "watering down" or "getting distracted from the real issues." These are the real issues. The problem is when your adaptations are happening for the benefit of the powerful and privileged, the owners of the means of production just so they can feel comfortable and not threatened, instead of adapting to the needs of the oppressed. Learn the damn difference. Where the difference is is debatable, but learn the motherfucking difference first.
What's sad is that, while you've fallen for the weak corporate propaganda about "everything choice is feminist!" You miss out the more serious problem with the choice argument. Under economic and physical coercion, when agency and alternatives are desperately compromised, then "choice" deteriorates and consent is severely restrained. "Low-consent" situations are real-- sometimes they're economic decisions, "It's more cost effective for me to stay home and my husband to go to work because I make less than it costs for childcare, but I really miss my job." Other times they're social-- the pressure to be thin, to be pretty, to spend twice as much money on clothes and cosmetics and beauty products. Choice is a complicated thing in a capitalist system where choice is severely constricted by the need to make sure that one has food, shelter, clothing, etc. But there's nothing feminist about taking away women's choices just because those choices "aren't feminist." Or not feminist enough. For you. For fuck's sake.
"I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice."Yeah so about the rest of the women who are raising their children full time? Because their partners make more than they do, because their wages weren't enough to offset the cost of childcare, because they valued raising children unlike most of this country, apparently. Because, shit, government assistance pays better than some part-time jobs in some areas? Or because of disability, of themselves or their child? Are they allowed to make feminist choices? Or maybe they just really like raising kids? Or, maybe they're a military family that moves on average every 2 years and constantly changing jobs for every move just isn't the life they want? What about stay-at-home dads? Are they "not adults" because they rely on their spouses to pay the rent? Hmm.
The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.No. The whole point was that women were being treated like less-than-human and second class citizens, without legitimate minds of their own, without the ability to control their own bodies and their own lives. Plenty of women have always worked, but not always for wages, and definitely not fair and decent wages. Women of color, working class women, poor women, women without husbands or male dependents to rely on. For women whose status in life never included the luxury of marriage magically providing home-bound 50's era white middle class bliss, who knew they had their whole lives to look forward to working to keep families afloat, "entering the work force" was not "liberating," it was just part of every day life. Hey-yo! Your white privilege is showing.
Let's please be serious grown-upsOh I wish you would. When will you be joining us, exactly?
Newsflash: Real, serious grown-ups, realize how much of their lives are dependent on other people. You depend on your partner for emotional support, you depend on your boss to give you a paycheck regularly, you depend on the police to protect you from violence (well, maybe), you depend on family and friends. You depended on your parents to raise you to 18 (or whatever age you left college and officially left their care, 22, 24, 26?) You know, you depend on your landlord to maintain your apartment. You depend on the bus driver to get you to work. Once upon a time you might have depended on your children to take care of you in old age, but you know, that's mostly a pipe dream now. There's a million and one ways that society is knitted together by depending on each other.
"Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own."What's ironic is that there were strong feminist critiques of this Classical Liberal idea of society and freedom, from materialist and socialist feminists as well as cultural feminists. For ignoring the material experiences of inequality and unequal distribution of resources. For being too androcentric, since men were the ones creating the culture of hyper-rational justice-based ideas about freedom and ethics instead of care-based and relationship-oriented models of ethics. For being too Ethnocentric because Classical Liberal theories were largely Western Culture's creations and highly individualistic, and don't represent the values of more collectivist-oriented cultures.
But, unfortunately, these critiques weren't written by Simone de Beauvoir so I guess I should forgive Elizabeth Wurtzel for not being familiar with them.
Despite the veiled attempts to justify the article by saying, "it's only about privileged rich women," what is actually written is in fact a monstrously privileged pile of shite. I mean, let's say we actually know a few of these privileged wives of the 1% who really do this, that we can verifiably say, "I know that you're just full of shit because you don't even spend time with your children and what you really mean is [X, Y, Z pampered past-times.]" Writing a whole article about it? Not bloody likely.
Here's a thought: if Elizabeth Wurtzel actually wanted to address the women her article claims to be about, it wouldn't be published in The Atlantic. Shock. Awe. I honestly have no idea what the demographic being described (what is Jivamukti?) actually reads, but it's clearly nothing I subscribe to. And, back to that commercialization of "Girl Power!" point: anybody can use the "it's my feminist choice" as a throw away line, that doesn't mean they have a shred of devoted feminist politics, so why you're getting all in a tizzy over it I have no idea. You're upset about how people use the word "feminist"? Yeah, I'm annoyed by how people use the word "socialist." I don't think Sarah Palin is a "Feminist." Whatever. Recognize when people don't know wtf they're talking about, get over it. 1300 word essays, unnecessary, generally.
Lastly, what is feminism? If we go by the article's own definition it would be "equality." If so, the feminist movement has nothing for, no interest and really nothing to say to the 1%. The 1% is a plutocratic super-class of uber-rich. They are majority men, white, able-bodied. In general they have the luxury to take or leave whatever political positions suit their fancy, including the 5% of Fortune 500 Companies who are women and the small percentage of people of color. There are plenty of billionaires who espouse progressive politics-- but progressive politics is not about them, and looking to them to model progressive politics is beyond ignorant. Feminism is not about the wives of the 1%, it's about largely women of color, working women, middle class women, trans women. The women who always had the power, privilege and wealth to buy themselves a doctor pre-Roe v. Wade for a safe abortion were not the reason abortion was legalized. Looking to the absolute top of the hierarchy pyramid for political movements about the oppressed masses-- what planet are you even from? "Failing as a feminist is a unique problem of the wealthy." No, it isn't, because the wealthy don't give a crap about feminism, socialism, or welfare, or any sort of progressive politics. The point of being wealthy is that you can bloody afford not to. Which is why, I have no qualms at all about critiquing the rest of this article while ignoring the so-called "target audience," because that really isn't the target in the first place.
"...there really is only one kind of equality -- it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo -- and it's economic. If you can't pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent."Really, your economic analysis is shitballs, woman.
The idea that every man (or woman) is an island and can never rely on anyone else, that all of their accomplishments are all built up by themselves is Ayn Randian Libertarianism at it's worst. It's total b.s. The powerful class loves it because it means they're never to blame whenever they muck up the system. Ironically, somehow this whole screed is supposed to be about the wives of the "1%", but somehow you're parroting back those same "pull yourself up by your bootstraps!" total economic independence lines and "take responsibility for your actions!" garbage that the GOP regularly struts out for every election. I wonder why that is?
So back to shitty understandings of the economy: were you in a coma for the entire 2008 financial crisis? Have you been completely blind for the past 4 years of economic meltdown? Have you looked at the EU lately? What part of "globalized economy" do you not understand? The economic ups and downs of in one country have dramatic influences on the economic well being of women in another half way around the globe. If you can't understand that, you should not be talking about economics. (Just for the record: this rule applies to most of the talking heads on TV, but that's not the point.)
Do you even know the words "Student Debt Crisis"? There is a considerable demographic of recent college grads over the past few years that ended up moving back in with their parents because of crippling college debt coupled with a down economy and high unemployment rates. Get your facts straight before you get all high and mighty about who is and is not an adult based on who pays the rent.
I find it convenient that this article has so much disdain for relationships of any sort, given how important relationships actually are for human beings as social creatures and as support networks. It's convenient, because it models so well patriarchy's image of the ideal man as head of household, master of his domain and dependent upon no one, while quietly ignoring all of the social relationships that actually got him there.
I have to admit that when I meet a woman ... who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better -- but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed. I'm not much of a moralist -- I have absolutely no right to beThat much is right. You absolutely have no right to make judgements about whether someone chooses to get married or whether they work outside the home. Honestly, you don't. No-- stop right there, stop writing!
-- but in the interest of doing what's right both for me personally and for women generally, I have been strict with myself about earning my keep. For the longest time I would not date anyone who would now be called a one-percenter because money and power are such a potent combination, and if I am going to be bossed around, I don't want that to be the reason. When it's come up, I have chosen not to get married. Over and over again, I have opted for my integrity and independence over what was easy or obvious.I don't even. "Earning your keep"? I think this phrase says more about the quality of your relationships than anything else you have written. If you really think the only thing you can contribute to a relationship is what you bring to the table by way of wages-- I am so, so sorry. But, this holier-than-thou perspective about marriage is just ridiculous. Really, you protected your integrity by not getting married? No. No you did not. And you're ridiculously conflating "marriage" and the possibility that a partner might have money into "getting married for money" in ways that really have nothing to do with each other.
Also I just want to say: Getting married is neither easy nor obvious, but I congratulate you on your heterosexist bullshit.
Look, full disclosure: I have extremely complicated feelings about marriage. I have difficulty, at times, celebrating when someone announces a wedding, because I feel that society largely expects "Oh, wedding! Everybody loves weddings! Weddings mean happy!" And that hasn't really been my experience. Neither my own wedding nor my previous marriage fit that pattern, and that hurts. But I promise you my getting married didn't somehow erase my "integrity" or undermine my ability to think, feel, act and make decisions as an independent person. I'm an independent person with strongly held values regardless of whether I'm someone's spouse, girlfriend, slut or casual fuck buddy. Because it's who I am.
Let's just gloss over my skepticism as to whether "passing up" on dating a 1%-er actually happened all that often. Yes, money and power are heady and intoxicating for some people, sure. But let's be real, it's unlikely you really turned down dating someone who was otherwise well matched and compatible with your vision of yourself as an independent person with strong political positions and a conviction about working outside the home. What's more likely: someone who grew up with money and power often haven't the faintest idea what it means to not have them, and thus was never going to be compatible with you in the first place. Alternatively: You have serious relationship and commitment issues and not getting married has not a damned thing to do with your politics. Take your pick.
Really, well balanced relationships are not about being "bossed around," and if you are-- it means something is wrong. It's not about being rich. Men bossing around and beating up their wives happens across all strata of society. My ex-husband was emotionally abusive and tried to boss me around. I assure you he did not grow up in the lap of luxury. Patriarchy creates men with sexist ideas about women among all classes. So you can take your whole "I'm a better feminist because I didn't get married" and just shove it.
"...these women are the reason their husbands think all women are dumb, and I don't blame them. [...] The men, the husbands of the 1 percent, are on trading floors or in office complexes with other men all day, and to the extent that they see anyone who isn't male it's pretty much just secretaries and assistants. And they go home to...whatever. What are they supposed to think?"Oh great, so now a tiny segment of the entire population is responsible for why the most powerful men in the country with the most privilege and status, in the most powerful country in the world, think all women are dumb. Look, these men also think that most of the rest of the world is, by comparison, dumb and beneath them. And really, if you grew up in the lap of luxury you'd probably have the same opinion, even of other women. The culture within the impenetrable 1% is not, in point of fact, the fault or the failing of feminism everywhere. This is idiocy.
"Because here's what happens when women go shopping at Chanel and get facials at Tracy Martyn when they should be wage-earning mensches: the war on women happens"No. No. Stop writing. Nothing you write makes sense. Just stop.
"Rich women are the cause of the War on Women." WOW can you say misdirecting blame? I mean, wow! WOMEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE WORLDS ILLS! Women are responsible for war! If only they let their men dominate them more, they wouldn't be so aggressive! Women are responsible for raising gay men, they hover too much! DO YOU EVEN READ WHAT YOU WRITE?
Your politics is shit. Your analysis is shit. You have no idea what you're talking about. The "War on Women," as it's been labeled, has been ongoing for the past 40 years in an attempt to reign in and undo the "damage" caused by Feminism, the Gay Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. The "War on Women" is about society's patriarchs freaking the fuck out over losing just a few of their UNEARNED privileges. The "War on Women" along with the attacks on Organized Labor and Voting Rights are all motivated by aggressive conservativism that is afraid of the future.
It's both insulting to feminism to suggest that this is all women's fault for not reigning in their husbands enough (or something), AND just plain ridiculous if you really think that a few rich women from Princeton were really going to magically change their husbands minds about women's rights by being a little more assertive. You have woefully failed to analyze a god. damned. thing. How institutions create an insulated upper class with a unique culture, how patriarchal capitalism keeps women out of the upper echelons of society except as wives, play things or subservient workers and therefore protects the sexism that is rampant in corporate culture. How upper class women learn to trade a certain brand of sex appeal for access to power and privilege through relationships with men and why individually "opting out" just means those same men will go and find other women elsewhere without changing anything. Not. One. Single. Thing.
Please stay the fuck out of politics.
"To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met -- none of whom do anything around the house -- live in New York City and Los Angeles"There is apparently no trace of irony about what it means to be writing this article while making all of your statements about "stay-at-home moms" based on this kind of sampling. I don't. I don't even. I don't have it in me to give this what it deserves by this point. But here's a question, if those are the only stay-at-home moms you've ever met, who is the one with privilege in this equation exactly?
"But let's face it: It is not a selective position. A job that anyone can have is not a job, it's a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is..."Let's just ignore the percentage of women who can't have children-- they can adopt! Yeah okay. Let's get to the heart of this: "It is not a selective position." Translation: Nobody chooses to be a mom. Everybody just does it, like pooping.
...In which case the whole argument about how women should have the choice to decide IF and WHEN to have children is a moot point, isn't it? Oh, damn.
Feminists have also strongly critiqued the idea that child rearing is not work, and that, to quote the article's tag line "being a mother isn't a real job." I don't need to look any further than the rest of the tag line, "--and the men who run the world know it." Hey, that's right. Who exactly created the cultural values that determined that child rearing wasn't "real work"? Gosh, men. Funny how that happens. ...I wonder why that might be? Could it be, that raising children is critical nation-building work, but that by declaring it as "women's natural place" the men of the world could continue earning the material benefits without sharing any of the profits with women? Consider: birthing and raising children is absolutely necessary for a given society to reproduce itself and instituting it's values in children so that they grow up to fulfill whatever roles that society believes they should have. This is why conservatives freak out so much "about the children," and why white supremacists are all "not enough white babies!" and while Nationalism is often about controlling the nations' women, or more specifically, controlling upper class women so that they have babies. And often, preventing lower class women from raising their own. Note: the upper class women that Wurtzel's article spends so much time bemoaning, build their privilege on the backs of lower class women who serve as cooks, housekeepers, and nannies.
... But I suppose Wurtzel's never read any of those feminist critiques either. Hrm.
And all the cultish glorification of home and hearth still leaves us in a world where most of the people paid to chef and chauffeur in the commercial world are men. Which is to say, something becomes a job when you are paid for it"Cultish glorification" is one thing. When the upper class glorifies only the women of the upper class who stay home to do the "hard work for raising our country's future," but vilifies lower class women who want to stay home instead of work, and largely emasculates stay-at-home dad's, that's called a double-standard. And it deserves to be roundly bitch-slapped. But also, for the right thing, which is this: the "ideal stay-at-home mom" is "white, straight, and wealthy," and isn't an image all mothers get to access. Further, not all women want to be mothers, and not all mothers want to stay home. It's oppressive from all angles.
But devaluing the work that women do and calling it feminism? No, fuck you.
Now let's talk about this general tone of "Feminism is Dying" or "Feminism is in Crisis" that is woven throughout as an undercurrent in the entire piece. Neither I, nor point of fact neither can you, Elizabeth, remember the level of feminist activity in the 60's and 70's that are now counted as the great "Second Wave" of feminism. For I wasn't yet born, but you were barely out of high school by the time the 70s drew to a close, so as a point of fact when you try to add your article as yet another mark in the historic "decline" since the "Hay Day" of feminist activism, you're already treading dangerously into ahistorical re-writing.
But let's agree to split the difference and note that yes, the feminist movement has gone through a lot of change-- N.O.W.'s statement of purpose is far less radical that it was when it was founded, for instance. (They used to advocate much more strongly for economic issues.) More than one generation of young up and coming feminists have struggled with older generations who resent generational differences of perspective. It's been 40 years since Roe v. Wade and every year the push from "Pro-Life" groups to repeal women's right to choose inches forward, restricting access, closing down clinics, and we lose more and more abortionists with living memories of the pre-Roe v. Wade era-- And with them, the expertise to handle complications from illegal abortions. The welfare state, which might have been the ladder towards a social structure that supports women's full economic equality with adequate access to childcare, paid maternity leave and helping divorced women return to the work force as well as provided support for female retirees who generally live longer than men (who may have been their pension-provider), is crumbling (being aggressively attacked by the GOP.)
Few women today readily identify as "feminists" (was there ever a time when the majority did? I have no idea.) I regularly have students in my classes, in my major field of Gender & Women's Studies, who are apologetic about "sounding feminist," or are outright negative about feminist politics. Mainstream women are equally likely as their male counterparts to only recognize feminist caricatures, the "FemiNazi" Radfem Man-Haters that Rush Limbaugh so often fears, rather than someone like myself as what "feminism" is. Most people have no idea that there is a huge difference between Socialist/Materialist Feminism, Radical/Cultural Feminism, Liberal Feminism, International Feminism, Intersectional Feminism, Trans Feminism and the specific writings of different major feminist theorists and writers. I've lost more than one male partner over my feminist politics because he saw me as "too aggressive" and scary. There is wide spread disbelief that the Wage Gap still exists (newsflash: it does) or that women experience gender-based discrimination, and street harassment and rape culture is just as strong as it ever was, if not stronger.
So yeah, maybe there's a decline. But then again, maybe not. This whole "waves" idea is kind of bullshit if you study the history of women's progressive activism deeper. Betty Friedan, did not, in fact, invent feminism. And most of these markers of so-called decline can often be traced to aggressive anti-feminist backlash starting in the 80s. If you think that there was ever some moment in time where Feminists all had it together and feminist politics was perfectly united, that there was an identifiable moment where it all just came together for the zeitgeist and now we've fallen away from our perfect unified movement, you're delusional and haven't studied your books as much as you seem to want people to think you have. The feminist movement has been fomenting for centuries, this is just where we are right now, in the U.S.
But, hey, let's be lazy and instead just blame the "War on Women" on the small subset of women married to the 1%! That makes sense.
Set, match, game.