When Feminism Means Knowing How Just Screwed You Are

| Fri Jan. 11, 2008 12:46 PM EST

Kids are so ungrateful. Mine decided to get sick during Iowa and New Hampshire. If you haven't 'slept' in two day old clothes on a 'Mom barcolounger' on the peds ward next to your mysteriously sick child, sans toothbrush, you just don't know misery. I'm only just now trying to make sense of it all, the whole 'future of our nation' thing. Having been news deprived during such a pivotal time, I have a new appreciation for why Josephine Average is either so disgusted with us (the media) or so overwhelmed that she just watches reality TV instead. What a goat rope. A few things jump out, though.

We're stiiiill doing the "big hypocrite feminazi Hilary is riding her husband's coat tails" thing. I guess Eleanor Roosevelt did, too. Even in those days, homegirl could have gotten elected to something, if any woman could - would that be coat tailing, too? Lordy I'm sick of this particular sack-o-crap. Let's unravel this little mental do-si-do, shall we? Identifying as a feminist means:

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A) You hate men, children, marriage, heterosexual sex
B) You reject anything traditionally gendered (stay at home mothering, etc.)
C) you put yourself first, always and only
D) if your husband cheats on you, you must divorce him immediately.
E) you can't take a back seat to your husband for the good of the family unit, not for even a moment, not even to raise your kids while he gets famous, then leverage the success you made possible for him to your own advantage. No matter how worthy you are in your own right.
Define the terms, control the debate. And, oh yeah, 'Iron my shirts'.

Anne Applebaum, whom I usually find so bracing at Slate, shocked me with this:

There is no escaping the fact that Hillary chose the most traditional path to power. I certainly wouldn't want her as a model for any of the young women I know. "Get into Yale Law School - and then find an upwardly mobile spouse." What kind of advice is that?

Wow.

Fortunately, the other "XX" bloggers at Slate have fired back with passion and reason, but what is it with women hatin' on other powerful, ambitious women? Hilary chose the "traditional path to power"? She chose to painfully sublimate her own personal desires for the good of her marriage and family. I only know about a million smart, talented, ambitious feminist women hiding their lights under a 'husband basket,' wiating either for his career to catch up or for their kids to get older. Feminism often means understanding just how inescapable gender roles are. Unless, of course, you're one of the few women to whom the above actually applies.

Are we to believe Hilary knew Bill would be so successful and that she couldn't? Or, even less believably, than she was willing to work for? Hilary was a star long before she met Bubba and there was no reason to believe she didn't see her professional future as unlimited. For women, especially in the 1970s, it's having a personal life that's the problem, the unknown, the uncontrollable. Thank God that little problem doesn't exist anymore. She didn't gamble on Bill becoming a star. She gambled that she still could, once she'd gotten her family squared away. If all she'd wanted was her Mrs. why not just plant flowers along the highway like Lady Bird Johnson, or tout child literacy, the stuff of traditional First Wives? She could have been the Hostess with the Mostest but what she wanted was to find out what she was made of. Instead of applauding her for standing by her man and waiting for her turn, instead of women acknowledging that most of us have been there and done that, we pretend fat meat aint greasy. She isn't a feminist (i.e. selfish, man-child hater.) She's a hypocrite. As for staying with a man who humiliated you with his hoochies - how rare. Women neeeever do that.The same conservatives who want to outlaw divorce condemn her for not setting his saxophone on fire and locking him out of the White House. God forbid they might check to see whether the operative definition of feminism is the problem here. But if we did that, we'd have no way of blaming the victim; damned for being traditional, damned for merely thinking non-traditionally. Iron those shirts with a smile on your face.

There's hypocrisy here. It aint Hilary's.

Occam's Razor, y'all. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the explanation. Unless understanding isn't really what we're up to. She didn't sell feminism out, she sold herself out, like most women do. She put her own needs and wants on the backburner. For her husband. For her daughter. For her family. If you think your wife didn't do it for you...well, let's just go with that.

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