Feminism—and the trivial women who take it seriously | Bleader

Feminism—and the trivial women who take it seriously


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The Wednesday Tribune Perspective page has me wondering about the duties of an op-ed editor. Is the bigger part of the job lining up a rotating roster of regulars—columnists you can count on to tell us today what they told us last week and will tell us next week? Maybe so—and maybe that’s why when I dropped my wife off at Midway in the morning I told her to take the New York Times to read on the plane even though I hadn’t looked at it yet.

Or is the bigger part of the job finding guest essays that surprise and astound us because they are so off-the-wall—either very smart or very strange?

The Wednesday Tribune treated us to an essay by Rachel Marsden that had originally appeared a few days earlier in Human Events—a conservative journal with a stable of writers that includes Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and Pat Buchanan. Marsden, formerly of Fox News, told us what she thinks about feminism. She'd noticed that two topics in the news in recent days have been former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the subject of a new movie with Meryl Streep, and the recall of breast implants in Europe. She ingeniously posed a question: “Did it ever cross Thatcher’s mind that women’s lives could be meaningfully enhanced by surgically strapping gel packs to their chests? How did women get from Thatcher to this?”

I believe no one had gotten from Thatcher to the gel packs before Marsden herself—a monumental leap the Tribune found so astonishing they decided to print her essay. It broke so much ground it could be compared to a sinkhole. In Marsden’s big picture, Thatcher, “one of the greatest women in history,” was no feminist. On the other hand, these days “women augment their bodies with silicone, fillers and Botox; prance around on reality television shows, and collect big money for lending their names to parties in Las Vegas, all the while extolling the virtues of ‘independence.’” This, declares Marsden, is the present ersatz state of “female empowerment.”

Like some other female critics of feminism, Marsden makes it clear she’s the real article. Back when she was on cable television, “I struggled with showing my legs and cleavage . . . while largely muzzled from contributing anything meaningful. It was an empty existence not worth the money it paid.” So she got out; and if that makes her an “ingrate” in the eyes of women “who would have done anything to fill my stilettos,” well—“So be it.” She declares her indifference to marriage and children. She confides, “Here’s the harsh reality about exceptionally accomplished women: It’s a quiet, lonely, very private and incredibly long struggle. It’s a lifelong commitment.”

And it is virtually impossible for such gifted and committed (if self-pitying) women to be feminists, Marsden explains. “Feminists generally make a life out of feminist activism. Accomplished women are busy focusing on other things.”

We know that a social movement has made deep and permanent inroads in a society when even people who repudiate it embrace its values. I feel a little sorry for Marsden. She doesn't find a lot of love on the Human Events site, where some commenters object to her deficient family values, but she can’t allow herself to look for it where it does exist. One of the goals of feminism when it came into flower back in the 60s and 70s was to make the lives of exceptional women less harsh and less lonely. But gal pals are not an option for the daughters of Margaret Thatcher. One must suffer.

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