Neither impressed, nor welcomed, by feminism

Growing up girl in the 1980's

The author with two of her daughters in 2008.

Last week, I ran an article elsewhere about what mothers of sons know about feminism. Kellyanne Conway had given an interview to the Washington Post in which she disavowed feminism, in part for how feminism expects mothers to veiw our sons. I too have a huge problem with the assumptions against men. That’s what that piece was about.

I remember one encounter with a woman who was a nurse and wife to one of my dad’s collegues. They were over for dinner and she froze me, a 17 year old girl, out for asking her about nursing. She’d rather I set my mind to being a MD or she wasn’t going to waste her time even mentoring me for an evening.

A few such encounters in real life and and in print left me neither impressed, nor welcomed, by feminism.

As a decade passed, I had softened, or maybe I had simply forgotten how feminists treated other women. I had started reading feminist works again in early law school. But any warming to feminism was undone by the Monica Lewinsky affair, specifically her victimization by powerful feminists who insulted her and, um, bent the knees for Bill Clinton.

I was in law school and a few years past my feminist rejection when the Lewinsky scandal broke. We talked about it often in study groups, trying like good baby lawyers to disentangle the sensation from the legal issue: Clinton’s perjury.

I saw a young, naive, and infatuated woman not unlike my girlfriends or I had been at various points a few years before. I remember thinking how mortified I would be to have all of that information in the public domain. I don’t contend that she was blameless, having an affair with a married man, but that the man was far more powerful than she was. Aside from the legal and the sensational, Lewinsky’s plight was a classic example of an old sexist power play.

Yet I watched declared feminists treat her abysmally. Maureen Dowd told ABC that “feminism died a little bit” in the Clinton years. And she won a Pulitzer Prize for memorializing it. Our feminist elders were going to protect their careers — that was clear. And it was also crystal clear that everything they had told us to demand in the new woman friendly workplaces, they sure as hell were not going to back us up. It was their way or no way, and it turns out their way was not as idealistic as we had been lead to believe.

Feminists fret constantly that conservatives want to turn back the clock, yet they were the ones cattily competing for the privilege of kneeling before a powerful man, because he was pro-choice of course. In years since we’ve learned a whole lot of bad behavior was overlooked if a man supported that cause.

All of this, up to and including the recent parades of pink vulvas in America’s major cities of the Clinton Archipelago, makes feminism unappealing for many women.

Frankly, I’m not sure which is more absurd, the idea that felt vulva suits are politically persuasive or that they made men who feel like women feel bad because they don’t have vulvas. We have real problems here, and there are bigger problems for women world wide. Yet our female leadership is wearing knitted pussycat hats and pretending they are making a statement. Well, they are making a statement, just not a good one.

A follow up to this post, on the political consequences of the feminist abandonment of Monica Lewinsky.