Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ann Bartow on Flanagan and Hirschman

Always insightful, Prof. Ann Bartow says all I want to say--but better:

From the Department of WTF: Are Linda Hirshman and Caitlin Flanagan the Dominant Voices of Contemporary Gender Discourse?

The idea that Hirshman and Flanagan dominate the discourse about the status of women in this country is pretty alarming. The reason that this is so, however, is fairly obvious: They confirm some of the worst stereotypes about women generally and feminists particularly, and in so doing, they buttress the patriarchy magnificently. Flanagan attacks feminists for being opposed to nurturing and motherhood and sex, and Hirshman seems to confirm that feminists are indeed opposed to nurturing and motherhood, and are incredibly nasty and intolerant of dissent as well. Flanagan reinforces the patriarchy directly, by telling powerful men what they want to hear: women are happiest as willing, subservient helpmates. Hirshman provides the patriarchy with abrasive evidence that many negative beliefs about feminists are true: we despise motherhood and think only of our own self-interest.

This dominance of the mainstream gender discourse is bad for the women that Hirshman and Flanagan don’t speak for, and I count myself among them. As for what can be done about this, well, one solution is simply to try to drown both of them out.

Prof. Bartow goes on to recommend, in lieu of Flanagan's and Hirschman's books, this book by Katha Pollitt: Virginity or Death! : And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time for those looking for a more nuanced and balanced discussion. And, as Prof. Bartow says:

Pollitt has no appeal to the patriarchy she challenges so eloquently, but the patriarchy isn’t in control of everything! The feminist movement needs more “personified visibility,” and people like Pollitt can serve many of us a lot better than Hirshman....Walking around with that book in plain view in South Carolina is going to be awesome! Maybe I’ll get the cover silk-screened onto some tee shirts as well!