Monday, November 23, 2009

Response to For Her Own Good

Having just re-read For Her Own Good written by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deierdre English in 1978 I was prompted to write the following:

Dear Barbara,

I've just finished re-reading For Her Own Good and find it as significant, if not more so due to the Ambiguous Liberation section of the Afterward which shows that we are still, over thirty-years later, still at the starting line.

Especially relevant are:

...[E]very advance in women's legal status seems to represent a further erosion of male responsibility. p. 320

...[T]oday's neo-romanticism is at best a degenerate descendant of the sexual romanticism of the nineteenth century. It makes no claims to intellectual rigor....and appeals to the ghosts of patriarchal religion. p.320

But there is a deeper level of corruption to today's has been too thoroughly colonized, for too long. Its ideals do not come from the Bible...but from Madison Avenue. Etc. p. 320

The “neo-rationalist” program for women, then, is to break out into the marketplace, but without making any social provision for the children... p. 322

These then are the ideological poles which dominate sexual politics in the late twentieth century—the “romanticism” of the sun-belt suburbs or the “rationalism” of the paperback self-help shelf.” p.322

And where is feminism in all this—the force which reopened the Woman Question in the first place. Is it prepared to project a new ideal, a moral outlook, a way for women—and--and men (emphasis added) to live?...Feminism hesitates, unable to intervene in the dominant polarization between neo-romanticist and neo-rationalist ideologies. pp. 322-3

The reason we hang back is because there are no answers left but the most radical ones. We cannot assimilate into a masculinist society without doing violence to our own nature, which is, of course, human nature. But neither can we retreat into domestic isolation, clinging to an archaic feminine ideal. p. 323

The Woman Question in the end is not the question of women....[T]he Woman Question becomes the question of how shall we all—women and children and men—organize our lives together...And this is the only question. p.323

[I]t is not we who must change but the social order which marginalized women in the first place and with us all “human values.”...A synthesis which transcends both the rationalist and romanticist poles must necessarily change the masculinist social order itself. p.324

As a foremother of the current women's movement, I and others involved were about changing the masculinist social order itself. Not only to free women but men as well from their rigidly proscribed roles. And in this regard I feel, at least looking at the younger generation of men, i.e. my grandsons, I feel they have become freer from the constraints on their emotional and domestic side than many younger women have been freed from the sexual object ideal—aided and abetted by Madison Avenue and Hollywood & TV.

The role model for today's young women to emulate is either the predatory/seductive type or, as evidenced in so many contemporary films and video games, depicted as being tougher and better fighters and killers than are men.

The sixties-seventies Women's Movement left me when instead of working with other outcast groups to change the nature of this society, women were first enticed into and then co-opted by the system we sought to change and then adding insult to injury they sought to prove they were better at the male game than the men.

And, at the end of the day where are our children in this debauchle? And, Women's Studies have metamorphised into Gender Studies. And, women's right to choose is again under threat. And, women are now dying in battle alongside their male colleagues, and for men-at-war the rape of their female colleagues and those of the their combatants' women is still justified as a warranted response to battle fatigue. And, the list goes on.....

Thanks for once again getting my dander and hackles up! And my very best wishes to you where, in your latest book, I see you are still calling to task the “feel-good, don't worry, be happy” movement in face of any adversity!

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