Backtalk

HILLARY’S GLASS CEILING

Having served for five years with Hillary Clinton on the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, I was delighted to read at last an article that acknowledges how much fun it is to work with her (“Who is she?” November/December). Like others who have told this to reporters repeatedly since the election, I had despaired of ever seeing it in print. Unfortunately, your writer’s condescending description of what Mrs. Clinton accomplished as chair of the ABA commission reveals a singular lack of understanding of the other information that those of us quoted in your article provided.

She writes that “the panel’s first report was a one-page resolution . . . attached to a skimpy-looking document.” I’m sorry that Ms. Martin dislikes the standard ABA format for presenting resolutions and reports, but “skimpy” is hardly the appropriate word for a report that was seventeen single-spaced pages. Moreover, it has never been my experience that lengthy is synonymous with effective, which this report certainly was. Innumerable men told the commission that this report enabled them to understand for the first time what the gender-based problems are that continue to confront women in the legal profession.

The fact that this issue is taken so seriously throughout the profession today is largely attributable to the work that the commission accomplished under Hillary Clinton’s leadership.

Lynn Hecht Schafran
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
New York, New York

One cannot but admire Nina Martin’s industrious effort to provide critical insight into Hillary Rodham Clinton as leader. Martin’s portrayal all but places Hillary in the docket awaiting a verdict. Still to be determined is whether there is a personal agenda behind her public one for selling Americans on universal health care. Still unclear is to what extent she uses her implicit authority as First Adviser to the president.

Yes, she is far more moderate than liberals or moderates like to concede. Yes, she subordinated her career to her husband’s. Yes, she is an expert at political strategy, including that grand old Washington game of compromise. No, the debate about who Hillary is, what she is, will not end soon.

Writing about another is an imperfect task at best, and there may be good reason why mystery writers have it all over such journalists as Martin, who strive to be both thorough and credible. Assuming the role of executioner works nicely in fiction, where it is imagination and invention–not accuracy or integrity of purpose–that sell the product. Even Martin, who constructs an impressive if weighted case against Hillary, is moved to temper her criticism. Applying the whodunit technique to real people is a temptation Martin and other responsible writers know to avoid.

Donnie Radcliffe, author
Hillary Rodham Clinton: A First Lady for Our Time
Washington, D.C.

What’s up with Martin’s “Who is she?”

Somehow, after pointing out [Hillary’s] huge shortcomings, Martin concludes, “The most inspiring thing about her is not that she cares but that she tries,” and seems satisfied that Hillary is doing what she can! I am sorry, Ms. Martin, but I do not share your benevolent attitude. In the real world, millions of Americans are depending on the health-care reform she is spearheading. Anything less than success spells disaster.

Next time, the author should try writing a conclusion in line with the rest of the story. Something like, “Based on her past history, the choice to put Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of the American health-care system seems to be an attempt on the part of Bill Clinton to repay his wife for the support and sacrifices she has made in her professional career.”

Ryan Kent Richardson
Columbia, Missouri

CULTURAL DIVIDES

In Dale Maharidge’s article on cultural separatism (“Can we all get along?” November/December), I think he does Donald Northcross an injustice. Northcross concentrates on one group (at present, young black males) because he thinks he can make the greatest impact there. This is by no means the same as calling for racial separation. Everyone who wants to improve society should probably limit his/her action to where it can have the best effect. The fact that Mr. Northcross wants to get blacks out of the “victim mode” suggests that he would like them to take a full place in American society. I applaud such efforts.

Donn Kushner
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I’ve lived in Orange County [Southern California] for eight years. Here we all live in white stucco houses attached to the backs of garages. We automatically open the garage door as we arrive home, drive in and close it behind us. We don’t have that awkward, time-consuming hello with our Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, Iranian, East Indian, Pakistani, and Caucasian neighbors, and we don’t have to interact with the Latinos that come throughout the week to tend all visible landscaping.

My daughters’ class pictures look like the United Nations. There are families from every country on the planet that has an upper class. But any opportunity this environment presents for engaging our children in the world is missed because parents form only superficial relationships with families of different races.

Cora B. Judd
Irvine, California

Citing the example of the Founding Fathers in an argument for more open immigration (“Nativist son,” November/ December) ignores the historical fact that [for] centuries immigration was a tool for seizing the continent and taking it by force from its native inhabitants. Furthermore, the unnamed studies supporting immigration to which Editor in Chief Jeffrey Klein alludes must not include the work of Dr. Donald Huddle, professor emeritus of economics at Rice, who finds the costs of public-assistance programs far outstrip the taxes paid by recent immigrants.

In addition, increasing numbers of Americans see immigration in the context of global overpopulation, with no desire to see our country become an overflow basin for problems of population elsewhere.

In this context, would Mr. Klein view U.S. aid for Third World family planning as racism, or resort to that other favorite liberal cudgel: genocide?

John Walker
Coaldale, Colorado

WHAT STINKS IN OHIO?

No mistake about it. Releasing your story about Waste Technologies Industries (“Where are you, Al?” November/ December) on Halloween could not have been timed any better.

The concurrence is worth noting because your story is scarcely more than Greenpeace public relations masquerading as credible and responsible journalism. Mother certainly had the trick-or-treat spirit this year!

Had your story included any of the information we provided, you would not have been able to promote the oppositionists’ top-ten misconceptions about our legally permitted and strictly regulated facility. For the facts about our company, call (216) 385-7337.

Raymond J. Wayne
Waste Technologies Industries
East Liverpool, Ohio

Mother Jones is continuing its investigation into the Ohio incinerator and how the Clinton administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are handling its operation. An update to our story will appear in the March/April 1994 issue. –Editors

Your piece on Al Gore and the East Liverpool incinerator well informs us once again that U.S. environmental-protection policy is shame and sham, a dirty story full of dirty pictures of dirty men and polluters and poisoners apparently willing to do ninety-nine cents of environmental damage to pocket one penny of profit. As Montesquieu observed, “When the savages wish to have fruit, they cut down the tree and gather it.”

Henry Raiken
Cleveland, Ohio

Today we had a call from Vice President Gore’s office wanting to know if we wanted him to autograph [the copy of Earth in the Balance that] we had returned to him at the suggestion of the article in your magazine. I told her no, we were returning the book to remind the vice president that we elected him and Clinton (not the other way around) because he was an environmentalist, and that we are very disappointed in the actions he has taken so far.

Dorothy Harte
Palm Springs, California

OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE

Bill Dedman claims to provide an evenhanded, inside view of both the rank and file of Operation Rescue and the coalition of pro-choice advocates (“Both sides from the inside,” November/December). Yet his article detaches the groups involved from the complex political context of the situation. This enables Dedman to claim categorically that Operation Rescue members are “peaceful,” “committed,” “flaky, but cool” people with loving families, while pro-choicers are “vulgar,” “hateful,” “antisocial,” “frivolous,” and “apoplectic”–a “ragtag bunch of college-age kids” with no political agenda.

As many Mother Jones readers undoubtedly know, Operation Rescue’s long-term goals include the creation of a Christian nation, eradication of sexual minorities, destruction of university programs, ostracizing of non-Christians, and the elimination of public support for “degenerate art.” What Dedman does not indicate, however, is that nearly all of the pro-choice activists in his article represent one aspect or another of their vision of the enemy: lesbians, gays, bisexuals, non-Christians, graduate students, and artists.

The tactics we chose may have appeared at times to be discourteous. But make no mistake: members of Operation Rescue don’t hate us because we are not polite to them; we are not polite to them because they hate us. And as Mary “Mother” Jones herself said in 1915, “When I get worked up, I am not a very polite character.”

Matthew Ruben, Sara Weaver, Jeffrey Maskovsky, Sandi Vito, Jacquelynn P. Brinkley, Jacqueline Ambrosini (plus thirty-eight others)
Planned Parenthood
Southeastern Pennsylvania

From when I first started reading Mother Jones, I’ve come to two conclusions about the articles therein: I enjoyed and agreed with most of the opinions expressed, but unfortunately I also found many of the articles to be biased, and wished that more of the other side’s opinion was expressed.

[But in “Both sides,”] the reporter did not automatically assume that the reader would be pro-choice (although I am, and it’s likely that most of your readers are), and presented the organizations involved pretty evenhandedly, simply letting hypocrisy come out where it might. When I read an article by a reporter who seems to have an obvious opinion about the issue, I can enjoy and be informed by it, but I tend to trust the journalist a little less than one who lets the facts speak for themselves.

Carl Larson
Mill Creek, Washington

Many Americans are religious. I am one of them.

I grew up in the home of a Methodist preacher, am active in my own church, and believe in the value of religious involvement. But many people who are deeply religious do not agree with the religious Right or the beliefs of those who oppose abortion.

People intent on making abortion unavailable are trying to close the clinics and are terrorizing doctors, clinic workers, and patients. They are having an impact.

Yet, the Dedman piece has no sense of outrage at the tactics being used against the clinics. No outrage at a doctor being murdered and the man who shot him feeling righteous. No outrage at doctors being hounded at their homes and churches and family members bearing the brunt of hatred. No outrage that there are now large areas where no legal abortion services are available.

People who “defend the clinics” aren’t really doing that. Instead, they are defending the women who seek medical services, and they are defending the principle that abortion should be a personal decision. The “defenders” wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the tactics of the opposition.

Sarah Weddington
(Attorney for Jane Roe, Roe v. Wade)
Austin, Texas

I was kind of insulted by Kathleen Quinn’s arrogant decision (“Defend the moral high ground,” November/December) that pro-lifers who are willing to compromise aren’t really “sincere” in their belief that abortion is murder. Does she really think we’re too dumb to know the difference between willful murder, justifiable homicide, and self-defense?

In the same issue, Bill Dedman (“Both sides from the inside”) quotes Planned Parenthood Director Joan Coombs as saying (of pro-lifers), “Who made them God?” Actually, that’s the main reason most pro-lifers think abortion–as well as capital punishment, assisted suicide, and euthanasia–is wrong: because we’re NOT God, and the deliberate destruction of human life (whether actual or “potential”) should be the LAST resort among a humane people, not the first.

Christine A. Lehman
Los Angeles, California

Dedman’s piece is the kind of reporting I would give my right arm to see in the daily papers and weekly newsmagazines. In these, abortion is treated like a political football game.

Most strikingly, Dedman’s piece, and Quinn’s to a lesser degree, reveal the rigid orthodoxies underlying the abortion- advocacy position. So frequently, the pro-life position is portrayed as based solely on–as the Planned Parenthood director in Dedman’s piece says–a “commitment to a set of values” which is “a little scary.” Quinn and Dedman, however, show that nothing less than a commitment to a specific set of values animates abortion supporters as well. Values which give rise to some incredible chants and behavior, I would add.

Helen Alvare
Pro-Life Secretariat
National Conference of Catholic Bishops Washington, D.C.

The equation implicit in “Both sides” is faulty. On one “side” are people legally providing important health-care services to women.

The other “side” consists of people who intentionally engage in criminal activity with the aim of preventing these women from having access to health care. That they may be polite while they seek to deprive women of their rights seems a very small point.

Elizabeth Hrenda-Roberts
Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

CAN THE CAMERA LIE?

Pedro Meyer and I have long corresponded on issues relating to digital imaging. So I respond to his recent publication in Mother Jones (“Truth & fiction,” November/ December) as a fellow traveler, but one who wishes to react to his assertions on the nature of photojournalism. While I completely agree that “merging photographs can be more real than the isolated image,” I do not feel that this compositing technique is “no less journalistic than traditional photojournalism.”

There is no danger, as I see it, if a photographer merges several images together and it is made clear that what one is looking at is a collage. The greater interpretive possibilities that exist when a photographer is given various images to select from and combine should be vigorously explored, as Pedro does.

There is a great danger when the facts of a situation are reconstituted and reported without such an advisory. The obvious example in the U.S. was the right-wing senator, Joseph McCarthy, who effectively attacked opponents by manipulating photographs to make it appear that they were in intimate contact with communists. For McCarthy, the greater truth was their leftist leanings, and he was going to show what they were about by borrowing from the credibility of the photograph–the public trust in a recording of a small segment of the visible universe–to make his case.

We would all be afraid of being so attacked by individuals or institutions less sympathetic to humanity than Pedro. This is not to disparage the effectiveness of Pedro’s imagery. What he is doing is social commentary that depends also on strategies of the artist, not just of the reporter.

Fred Ritchin, Author
In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography
Riverdale, New York

Pedro Meyer responds: I certainly can’t find fault in Fred’s observations with regard to the dangers inherent to image alterations and how they affect photojournalism. His McCarthy example, though extreme, makes the point quite eloquently.

Let me elaborate, then, why from my perspective, altered images such as those I made are no less journalistic than traditional photojournalism. I find the key to this question in Fred’s sympathetic stance toward my images. What he is saying, if I understand correctly, is that he will take my images at face value because it is I who stands behind them. In doing so, he has made a monumental leap in the way that photography has been viewed throughout its 150-year history. If we move the responsibility for the veracity of an image from the picture itself toward its maker, then we are approximating the world of the written word.

I can’t understand why we should separate alterations that I as a photographer see fit to do from those of a journalist who polishes his words and edits the order in which the paragraphs reveal the facts of a story. Let’s not confuse subjective with fictional. Two of the images reproduced in Mother Jones I consider subjective (“Biblical Times” and “Blind at Mass”); two are fictional (“Moses and Wonder Woman” and “Temptation of the Angel”). The first two I would not hesitate to consider journalistic representations; the latter two are by any standard fictional. The method for producing them was the same, but the intentions were not, and therein lies the difference.

WOMEN’S STUDIES REDUX

I would LOVE to see “feminist” taken off the list of dirty words (“Off course,” September/October). It’s not going to happen on the academic level until women’s studies starts practicing real inclusivity instead of trying to punish patriarchy; until dissenting women students are no longer ostracized; until we destroy the secret formula (deification of victimization + disregard for women’s traditional roles, add a dash of middle-class liberal guilt) to the easy A. “A” should be for Achievement–independent thought and hard work–not for Anguish, Adrienne Rich, and Admission of one’s membership in the cult of the oppressed.

Molly Phinney
Dartmouth Class of ’92
New Haven, Connecticut

We, the faculty of the four women’s studies programs featured in Karen Lehrman’s article, are writing to express our deep disappointment with such a dishonest and uninformative report. We welcomed your reporter to our campuses, listened patiently to her questions, and painstakingly tried to explain our curriculum to her. We were dismayed that the resulting report was a melange of distortions arranged around the author’s own preconceived agenda.

There are, however, several positive points about women’s studies that we would like to place before your readers. First, we dispute that our programs can be pitted against each other. We are not football teams in competition but colleagues pursuing our common intellectual goals in diverse ways.

Second, because Mother Jones has chosen to generate debate without substance, we can only advise your readers to resist Lehrman’s stereotypical formulations. No single and simple “trend” could sustain the growth of women’s studies in the last twenty-odd years, and explain our success in meeting all the rigorous tests required to secure the approval of hundreds of universities.

Third, we are disappointed that Lehrman was unable to grasp the connections between feminist scholarship and classroom practice. The Socratic method, discussion, student-led projects, and fieldwork, for example, are hardly new and revolutionary concepts in higher education.

Finally, we are as proud of our links with nonacademic communities as we are of our significant academic achievements. Women’s studies programs are eager to place our knowledge at the service of journalists and our fellow citizens.

The Women’s Studies Faculty at
Dartmouth College
Smith College
University of California at Berkeley
University of Iowa

When Betty Friedan published The Second Stage in 1981, she might have launched the end of the battle of the sexes. This brilliant book advanced the need for women and men to work together to change society so that neither would be oppressed. Betty was vilified by the other leaders of the women’s movement for such a heretical stance. Susan Faludi held her responsible for contributing to the so-called backlash. Sadly, Betty did not fight back. She capitulated to the bullying of her terrified “sisters.” Ms. Lerhman’s article reminds us that the intimidation of small-minded bullies is still the organizing factor in the current women’s movement.

Judith K. Sherven, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Los Angeles, California

We expect assaults from right-wingers–but from an organ of the progressive Left labor movement? And with Mother Jones’s name on the masthead? Was the magazine’s namesake not precisely the kind of woman deplored by Lehrman–a woman for whom bare convictions meant nothing unless manifest in the world? Or do I misunderstand that remarkable woman’s credo? It may be that the venerable Mother Jones (which in the same issue romanticized boxing and ran a three-page, violent cartoon strip about a would-be TV producer killing himself with cigarettes) is still in “Strike!” mode, as if we all were Wobblies again–and all persuaded (to a man) of the virtue of aggression, even in dealings with one another.

Sandra F. VanBurkleo
Department of History
Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan

I should know better than to get bent out of shape about the responses to Lehrman’s article. I should just accept as a given the fact that campus feminists will always choose to hide behind thinly veiled, pseudointellectual jargon, rather than engage in honest discourse. I should come to terms with my “ignorance,” my “male identification,” my political incorrectness, my contributions to the patriarchal order; after all, women like me, who do not necessarily agree with your agenda, are just putty in their hands, right? I’ve heard it all before–I’m a recent graduate of Antioch College. Traditional male pedagogy needs to be challenged, but using eager young women as empty vessels with which to indoctrinate a radical political agenda is certainly no challenge to the educational status quo. It’s merely a rehashing of an old established model, used by teachers of yesteryear, to assert ideological influence over impressionable pupils.

Jennifer Paul
Newark, Delaware