Feminism

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Quick Question

Still on hiatus, but: Do you think a woman might have written this article differently? Less (no pun intended) unctuously, so that it didn't smack of a penance/redemption quality? Or am I being too sensitive a reader here? I am a big Delta Burke/Designing Women fan. Snippets from the article:

But the uppers stopped working. The pounds piled on. And she began a journey - well ahead of Kirstie Alley's - into obesity, humiliation, self-acceptance and image adjustment. Ms. Burke was a very fat actress.

[. . .]

She recalled how keenly she envied less hefty peers, Ms. Alley among them.

[. . .]

She looks a bit chubby, unequivocally pretty and entirely real.

[. . .]

When the cable television series "Queer as Folk" made its debut in 2000, Sharon Gless was barely recognizable as the onetime pixieish star of "Cagney & Lacey." In the current Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Kathleen Turner cuts a much less svelte figure than she did in the movie "Body Heat."

[. . .]

But old vanities die hard, and she talked about her body and her bulges without all that much prodding.

Silent Femmes

Lest anyone think I hadn't seen it: Amy Sullivan addresses the "gender gap in punditry."

Political magazines—with the notable exceptions of The Nation and Salon—are run, edited, and written by men (indeed, the masthead of our own magazine, which has launched some of the sharpest pens in journalism, includes only four female names in the list of 36 former editors; that's 11 percent.) Even in that brave new democratizing world of blogs, the professional bloggers all have names like Mickey and Eric and Andrew and Josh.

As a female editor at a political opinion magazine, I've bucked this trend, but I've also worried about the absence of women's voices in my field. With a paltry 10 to 20 percent of opinion pieces in major newspapers written by women, surely editorial page editors could improve their percentages without lowering their standards. Is it the case, however—as Estrich's righteous, old-style-feminist “let us in the door!” cry would have it—that the problem is mainly one of gender bias? When I considered whether to take this job, one of the first questions I asked was why there had been so few female editors at the magazine. The response—women just don't apply for the job—was both surprising and unsatisfying. The disturbing truth is that women's voices aren't rare in political discourse because of blatant sex discrimination; they're rare because women don't raise them. But that's because women themselves have been raised to feel ill-at-ease in the rough-and-tumble, male-dominated world of political expression.

Sullivan traces this phenomenon back to elementary school classrooms and notes that several notable female commentators -- "Meg Greenfield, Molly Ivins, Ellen Goodman, Anna Quindlen, and Jodie Allen" -- went to women's colleges. Women have to buck their socialization, their teachers' biases, etc. and speak up, Sullivan argues. I want to say more about this article, as well as Dahlia Lithwick's piece, Michael Kinsley's, and Kevin Drum's latest, but I have more pressing things to do right now, unfortunately.

New Meow Power

For those interested, a new issue of Meow Power just came out. The theme is "The Academy, Writing and Gender."

Joan W. Scott on Equality and Difference

Placing equality and difference in antithetical relationship has, then, a double effect. It denies the way in which difference has long figured in political notions of equality and it suggests that sameness is the only ground on which equality can be claimed. It thus puts feminists in an impossible position, for as long as we argue within the terms of discourse set up by this opposition we grant the current conservative premise that since women cannot be identical to men in all respects, they cannot expect to be equal to them. The only alternative, it seems to me, is to refuse to oppose equality to difference and insist continually on differences -- differences as the condition of individual and collective identities, differences as the constant challenge to the fixing of those identities, history as the repeated illustration of the play of differences, differences as the very meaning of equality itself.

Joan W. Scott, Gender and the Politics of History, Revised Edition, 1999, p. 174-175.

Are a few queen bees enough?

Here's another take on the underrepresentation of women in op-ed positions. Sterrett says, "There are more male columnists than female columnists, just as there are more straight columnists than gay columnists, and more white columnists than black columnists." Yes, and ideally I'd like to see more African American, gay, lesbian, and working-class columnists. Not because it would be all PC and everything, but because just maybe it would be good to get a variety of perspectives on current events and issues. One's social location informs (doesn't determine, but does inform) one's perspective. Standpoint theorists didn't get it all wrong. Sterrett then writes, "Where [Susan] Estrich is wrong is in assuming that bare stats directly relate to an individual writer’s ability to inspire change." Okay...but then:

Consider the Newspaper of Record, every Republican’s favorite news organization. They have five regular males on Op-Ed (kind of), and one female. It’s Brooks, Friedman, Herbert, Kristof, and Krugman, versus Maureen Dowd. The reason that’s not as bad as it seems is that Dowd, the only woman, has all the power.

Ask anyone who regularly reads the Times’ op-ed page what Bob Herbert’s last column was about. A clever response would be “Iraq,” since that’s mainly what he busies himself with, but no one actually knows. Does Bob Herbert even remember? He’s a fine writer—despite having the foreign-policy IQ of a tubeworm—but his work is regrettably forgettable. Same goes for all the others, even the sole conservative, David Brooks.

Dowd is the only one that matters. That’s not to say that the others are completely without merit, but clearly she’s the star writer. She may be but a small slice of the Times’ sweet, maudlin, left-wing pie, but she’s what everyone’s waiting for.

It’s not enough to look at the statistical evidence. Percentages are good for grading tests, but rather ineffective when determining the place of women in editorializing. There are more men than women writing op-eds, but women are certainly equal to men in terms of prominence. Just ask Bob Herbert.

So one woman is okay, if she's a queen bee? Or "token," as Prof. B. said? In fact, just read her post, it's a lot better than this one.

I heart the BUSTies

BUST is my favorite magazine for many reasons, but they've just given me another one: an interview with Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal in the Apr/May 2005 issue. As many of you know, I've been into such books for a long time. The interview isn't that great, but here are the high points:

  1. When asked whether or not she is a feminist, Pascal responds with an emphatic yes.
  2. When asked if she feels she's affected her readers, she says, "I think I have. I think I've hit them when they're at their most idealistic moment and I've given them the classic values I believe in: honor, caring, responsibility, love, truth, courage. All those beautiful things. I hope that they'll aspire to them."
  3. And here's the best one:

  4. Pascal is coming out with a new novel, Sweet Valley Heights, slated for publication in late 2005, which "will revisit all the familiar characters, now in their late 20s and early 30s and living in a gated community, and Francine promises it will be outrageous."

Will I read this book? OH yes. I can't wait.

Livin' in the Republic of Gilead

I want to do my part to spread this NARAL Flash movie (via Feministing) about pharmacists' refusal to distribute birth control. As you might expect, I'm outraged at the thought that women are denied access to Plan B, birth control pills, etc. I guess there are always county health departments, but who's to say people in far-right-leaning areas won't rally together and pass local laws against distributing birth control at those? Can they do that?

Also, what about condoms and spermicide? Are the pharmacists seeking to refuse the sale of those as well? In the news stories I've read, I haven't seen that point addressed. My guess would be that the pharmacists' ostensible argument would be that morning-after pills are abortifacients, blah blah blah, but birth control pills? That's where it gets shaky for me. Pharmacists for Life defines oral contraceptives as abortifacients because they supposedly don't always prevent ovulation. If ovulation is not prevented, the pill's thinning of the uterine lining serves as a failsafe to keep the embryo from attaching. Plus the pill causes the Fallopian tubes to "move," which might somehow affect the embryo, but they don't say how. But I mean, if they've got a "totally 100% pro-life philosophy!" as they claim (keep those women barefoot and pregnant! We need to increase this sparse, sparse population we've got!), shouldn't they stop carrying condoms and spermicide too? What would happen if they started denying men access to birth control? That I'd like to see.

Over at Hit & Run, they (predictably) claim that it's obviously not in a business's interest to deny sale of products they can profit from, and the market should punish these pharmacists, not the government. I'll aid in that venture, that's for sure. If they do pass these "conscience clauses," I hope they include an addendum saying that the pharmacies that opt out of selling oral contraceptives will be required to display a designation to this effect, some symbol or message. I mean something BIG, right out on the sign in front, something you can see from the road so you don't even have to go to the trouble of stopping there only to be subjected to the degrading, infantilizing, protectionist experience of being denied your right to birth control. And require them to put the designation in all newspaper ads, phone book listings, etc.

UPDATE: More at Bitch. Ph.D. and a crucial point at Luckyhazel.

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