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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reasonable creatures

Katha Pollitt read from her new essay collection, Virginity or Death!, at Barnes and Noble last night. Pollitt has been a major influence on how I think and write since I read her first essay collection, Reasonable Creatures. I admire her reasonableness and her skepticism, her ability to say "Really?" as in this column about Nicholas Kristof's insistence that feminists don't pay attention to human rights. She's a great antidote to Maureen Dowd. The other day, I leafed through the interviews in this transcription of Harvard's Global Values 101 course and was impressed by her comment that the feminist movement needs to get more radical because we're currently settling for less, an issue that she picks up in these essays about the "reframing" of the abortion rights movement. (Lani Guinier's interview in that book is also good.)

Here's an excerpt from her latest column from the Nation about Linda Hirshman's Get to Work and Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell With All That:

Hirshman's weakness is her assumption that the social problem of women's inequality can be solved if enough women make the right individual decisions. She mocks "the same old public day-care business that has gone nowhere since 1972." But really, isn't the stay-home vogue at bottom a response to the fact that society has failed to adapt to working mothers? Isn't choice feminism itself a way of dealing with the whole complex range of resistance to women's equality, by throwing up your hands and saying, Let each woman make her own tradeoffs? Unlike Flanagan, who wants women to give up the struggle, Hirshman wants individual women to fight harder and smarter, and that's great. But it only goes so far. If better personal decisions could bring about gender equality, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.

For another skeptical take on choice feminism, Meghan O'Rourke's response to Hirshman's book on Slate.


Anonymous Anonymous on Thu Jun 29, 12:01:00 AM:
A crucial subject that should be discussed much more. I stongly believe that the fight for women's rights is far from won and that actually we have been silenced by the myth of equality...but some women don't seem to agree. Thanks for introducing me to Pollit. More women like her should be heard and read. XXOO.