A Beautiful Quote About a Difficult Subject
A Welcoming Priest

Are Men Necessary? - Maureen Dowd

Having just started the book this evening (late this evening), I haven't arrived at the answer to that question yet. 

However, I did come across a paragraph that irritated me (in the Introduction)(the second paragraph is the irritating one):

Maybe we should have known that the storey of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted forty years. 

And that all the triumphant moments of feminism - from the selection of Geraldine Ferraro to the Anita Hill hearings to the co-presidency of buy-one-get-one-free First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton - would unleash negative reactions toward women.

Now, what do all of these women have in common?  Yes, they are feminist icons.  For their independent accomplishments? 

Geraldine Ferraro - first American woman vice-presidential candidate (1984) from a major party.  Yes, that's an accomplishment, but it comes from having been picked by Walter Mondale.  They lost by a landslide, and she later lost in a run for the Senate.  A triumphant moment for feminism - if not for the Democratic party.

I remembered that there were other woman vice-presidential candidates, including Tonie Nathan, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate twelve years earlier in 1972.  She was the first woman to receive an electoral vote and also the first Jewish person to receive an electoral vote.  That electoral vote came from Roger McBride, a Virginia elector who voted Libertarian rather than for Nixon/Agnew.  Four years later, he would be the Libertarian presidential candidate (He is also the great-grandson of Laura Ingalls Wilder). 

The other one I remembered was Angela Davis, Communist party vice-presidential candidate in 1976, 1980, and 1984.  And, the very first woman vice-presidential candidate in the U.S. was Marietta Stow, who, in 1884, ran with Belva Lockwood of the Equal Rights Party.

To get back to quibbling with Ms. Dowd, why didn't she pick an example of a successful female candidate?  One who actually won an election without having been picked by a man?  Margaret Thatcher probably is too conservative for her, but, without feminism, would Baroness Thatcher have become Prime Minister?  Or maybe, instead, she could have mentioned Hattie Caraway (D-Ark), first woman elected to the Senate in the 1930's. 

But, let's move on.  Anita Hill, whose testimony at Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings damaged his reputation even though it failed to prevent his confirmation.  It took courage to testify, and I suppose that one could say that it was a feminist triumph that allegations of sexual harrassment were aired in the Senate rather than being swept under the rug.  But, again, why Anita Hill as the feminist triumph, rather than Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court?  Or, if Justice O'Connor is unacceptable in her book for having been appointed by Ronald Reagan, how about Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

And First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton of "buy-one-get-one-free".  One could say that she was elected, sort of, along with her husband.  But you could say that about any First Lady - going back to Martha Washington.  Strong minded First Ladies aren't a new thing either - Abigail Adams was referred to by critics as "Mrs. President" for what they assumed was her excessive influence over her husband.  Senator Clinton is the first ex-First-Lady to be elected to the Senate, but, as we have seen above, there are other female firsts in the Senate.

So I found the "triumphant moments of feminism" rather flat.  No Sally Ride, first American woman in space, or Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space?  The first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton, was, in 1921, too early for this book.  Amelia Earhart  is also too early - having been the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1931.  In 1934, Lettie Whitehead became the first woman to head a major U.S. corporation, Coca-Cola (for more firsts see Famous Firsts by American Women). 

Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to have her name placed for nomination for a major political party, although, in 1964, Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination.  But Senator Chase's history doesn't fit in with Ms. Dowd's.  In Ms. Dowd's history, women burst out of the shadows in the 1960's.  Now, there was a great change for women in the 1960's, but women's accomplishments go back farther than the last 40 years.  Senator Chase also was the first woman to be elected to both the House and the Senate, she served on the House Naval Affairs Committee during World War II, and she was the first to speak out in the Senate (in her Declaration of Conscience) against Senator Joseph McCarthy and his tactics.

Or, if we want to head into the 1970's, there's Sarah Caldwell, the first woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera...

And if I can write a whole blog post on two irritating paragraphs in the introduction, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the book!

 

Comments

Jennifer

Yup. Now, if there was any question before, I'm pretty sure I don't need to read the book. :)

Moomin Light

It actually turned out better as it went along so I wrote another post about it. I don't always agree with her politics, but it was fun to read (at least in places). And she even had a section of more significant female firsts.

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