Did you hear the one about funny feminists?
Check the repartee between New York Times columnist Gail Collins and writer Stacy Schiff, author of the forthcoming “Cleopatra: A Life”, in Wednesday’s Opinionator column. They wax feminist about everything from Mama Grizzlies to Manolos, and give us a chuckle or two along the way. Funny, stand-up style, in a true story kinda way. Here’s a taste:
Gail Collins: I can’t resist the temptation to talk about women in politics even though I know we should be counterintuitive and debate the use of drones in antiterrorism operations.
Stacy Schiff: We can do that next time. Besides, I’m not sure topics divide neatly along gender lines when the individual tackling missile defense systems, nuclear nonproliferation and the Middle East is someone who once made national news with a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
True, that. (Google Hillary and cookies and you get 668,000 hits) Now, onto Grizzlies:
Gail Collins: One thing I’ve been surprised by during the current election season is the ongoing argument over whether Sarah Palin or her Mama Grizzly candidates could be regarded as feminists. Can I tell you how amazing it is to hear anybody fighting for the title?
Stacy Schiff: It is a word that can clear a room, isn’t it? Maybe only “bedbugs” does so faster.
Let’s hit shoes:
Gail Collins: Every time I go on a speaking tour I get questions from sad middle-aged women who want to know why their daughters all insist they aren’t feminists. They might be planning to devote their lives to healing fistula victims in Somalia, but they won’t let anyone call them feminists because they think it means being anti-man, or wearing unattractive shoes.
Stacy Schiff: Partly the word has been deliberately sullied, like “liberal” and “progressive.” It spells man-hating, militant, and, especially, no Manolos.
If it makes you feel better, I just texted my 17-year-old to ask if she considered herself a feminist. “If by feminism, you mean equality,” she answers, “then yes.” It’s not a word that appeals, because her generation thinks the work has been done. They’ve been reading articles about the End of Men. Somehow the news that men who work full-time make on average 23 percent more than women do seems to have escaped them.
And back to the Grizzlies:
Gail Collins: Do you think the Mama Grizzlies really can be feminists? I don’t think you can throw a woman out of the club because she voted against the stimulus bill. But if feminism simply means supporting equal rights and equal opportunities for women, I don’t see how a feminist can be opposed to government programs that provide poor working mothers with quality child care.
Stacy Schiff: Exactly. The issue is no longer first-rate intellect, or first-rate temperament, but first-rate opportunity. Which is where the Mama Grizzly business really falls down.
An actual grizzly mom is a single mom. She lends a whole new definition to full-time homemaker. If Dad shows up it’s probably to eat the kids. What Mama Grizzly wouldn’t believe in school lunches, health insurance and quality childcare? Who’s going to look after the kids while she’s off hunting? It’s really, really clever to put this powerful vocabulary — pit bulls and grizzlies — in the service of disempowering people. Kind of like death panels in reverse.
Strangely enough, politics may just be the one realm in which having kids imposes no penalty on women. Kids are practically a necessity. For scientists, or Supreme Court justices, or chief executives, or the woman who wants to learn to fly F-l8s off an aircraft carrier, it works differently.