"Oh, for the love of Betty Friedan!"

That's what you would have heard me exclaim if you'd been sitting next to me as I looked over my regular news sites Friday morning. The cause of my issued expletive? An article in the Times Online entitled "Madonna syndrome: I should have ditched feminism for love, children and baking."

"Oh, this'll be good," I thought, as I began reading the article by ex-"feminist," Zoe Lewis. I was not disappointed. Lewis, in part, cites the life of Madonna as evidence that women who strive to make it big eventually revert back to a desire for children and a traditionally matronly life. The rest of the article is a mix of pseudo-science and sexism. Here are a couple clips from the article:
"I was led to believe that women could “have it all” and, more to the point, that we wanted it all. To that end I have spent 20 years ruthlessly pursuing my dreams - to be a successful playwright. I have sacrificed all my womanly duties and laid it all at the altar of a career. And was it worth it? The answer has to be a resounding no."
"I thought that men would love independent, strong women, but (in general) they don't appear to. Men are programmed to like their women soft and feminine. It's not their fault - it's in the genes."
"As I write this I feel sad, as if the feminist principles that my mother brought me up on are being trashed. Am I betraying womanhood? No, I am revealing a shameful truth. Women are often the worst enemies of feminism because of our genetic make-up. We have only a finite time to be mothers and when that clock starts ticking we abandon our strength and jump into bed with whoever is left, forgetting talk of deadlines and PowerPoint presentations in favour of Mamas & Papas buggies and ovulation diaries."
Excuse me while my head explodes, messes up the floor, and then the little bits of my exploded head explode again. Let's take a look at what this article really says about women.

1. The article forgets the reality that there are a vast array of feminisms (pl.), from womanists, to new feminists, to post-feminists, to marxist feminists, to amazon feminists, and so on and so forth, all with different agendas, ideas, and standpoints. The plurality of feminisms are widdled down into a single all-encompassing 'feminism,' which is portrayed as the simple choice between 1) being a working woman or 2) fufulling one's so-called "womanly duties" by being a stay-at-home mom.

Employment equity is forgotten about, physical abuse is forgotten about, rape is forgotten about, the struggles of racialized women are forgotten about, religious inequality is forgotten about, issues surrounding contraception are forgotten about, the culture of eating disorders emerging in young and college age women is forgotten about.

By suggesting that feminism is singular and merely represents the choice between work and motherhood, Lewis and the Times are completely degrading all that the word encompasses. The 'feminism' that they are talking about is nothing more than a caricature.

2. Since when does having a child, baking, or being in love preclude you from being a feminist? Since when is it one or the other? Gee, I guess that batch of oatmeal squares I made last week was more politically loaded than I thought.

3. I don't even know where to start with this idea that "men like their women soft and feminine." For one, Lewis is blatantly assuming a heteronormative standpoint. Let's wave as the voice of lesbian women, third gendered persons, and two-spirited persons are thrown out the window, shall we?

And then, excuse me, but holy genetic determinism, batman! You're telling me that what men like is programmed by their genes? Oh, right, the 'I want a soft woman gene,' that's right next to the 'I like plaid gene.' I mean, seriously? There are plenty of men -- I know plenty of men -- who dig fierce women. And who said that as soon as you become a mom you have to become "soft" or "feminine"? If you think that, you've obviously never met my grandma.

4. And what's this shameful truth that once that maternal clock starts ticking "we abandon our strength and jump into bed with whoever is left"? Alright, so I'm 21, and nothing on me has started ticking yet, but I still feel pretty confident in stating that this is ridiculous. Not every woman goes batty for babies when she's on the heels of menopause.

The average number of children per woman has been going down since the mid-30s and, at the same time, the number of couples who are childless by choice is increasing. That's not to say that some women don't decide that they want children when their period of fertility is drawing to a close, but it certainly isn't universal.

As for "jumping into bed with whoever is left," that's most sexist things I've heard in a while. It suggests that women's biological desires are so strong as to completely incapacitate their rational judgement, that baby-mania is enough to drive a woman to hop in the sack with someone who is otherwise abhorrent. Thanks Zoe, that's a really flattering summation of my 'biologically-determined character'!

To be fair, though, Lewis does offer a few points of balance in her article. She says "wife and mother should be given parity with the careerist role in the minds of feminists." I dig that. she also states "I wish a more balanced view of womanhood had been available to me. I wish that being a housewife or a mother wasn't such a toxic idea to middle-class liberals of yesteryear." Again, a very valid point. But these moments of validity are quickly followed and invalidated by outrageous sexist statments, and are thrown in at "the back of the bus" -- or the end of the article, which most readers don't get to.

All in all, this article represents the common misrepresentation of feminisms offered by the mainstream. Moreover, when you're done with it, you can read other articles from the "Explore Women" section of the Times online, which include Fashion, Beauty, Diet & Fitness, Relationships, Family, Celebrity, Body & Soul, The Way We Live, and Horoscopes. Oh yes, we're a complicated sex.

Now, will someone please pass me the sports section?


posted by Ashley Girty @ 1:56 PM,


At February 7, 2009 at 6:30 PM, Blogger crustina said...

Those quotes made me bash my head repetitively on my desk.

At February 8, 2009 at 5:29 PM, Blogger Aso said...

Too much patience on your part to argue nicely and rationally with those absurd but very popular ideas! Well-done!

At February 17, 2009 at 10:42 AM, Blogger vanessapetey said...

Zoe Lewis obviously doesn't know much about Madonna. ;0 Well done Ashley!

At February 22, 2009 at 11:07 PM, Blogger Pierre said...

Oh my, that Zoe Lewis is just the essence of ignorance, isn't she? :D

I think 90% percent of us guys know what the deal is better than her.

Haha, being 'batty for babies' reminded me of something funny:

Great stuff, Ashley. This post made my day. :)

At March 22, 2009 at 4:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're fucking awesome!


Post a Comment

<< Home