Monday, January 14, 2008

What I Learned Yesterday, Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Yesterday was a busy day at the New York Times op-ed pages. A women's day! Can you believe that? I knew you couldn't, but I swear I'm not lying. Honest and cross my heart. It's so cool!

First there was a piece by Lorrie Moore, titled "Last Year's Role Model". See, feminism is no longer in fashion at all, so it's ok to write about that and to tell women that they missed their chance to get equality and that now it's too late:

Does her being a woman make her a special case? Does gender confer meaning on her candidacy? In my opinion, it is a little late in the day to become sentimental about a woman running for president. The political moment for feminine role models, arguably, has passed us by. The children who are suffering in this country, who are having trouble in school, and for whom the murder and suicide rates and economic dropout rates are high, are boys — especially boys of color, for whom the whole educational system, starting in kindergarten, often feels a form of exile, a system designed by and for white girls.

So there was that shining moment and women failed to grab it but got instead the total dominion in the school system. Awesome! We rulz!

Though I feel so bad for the boyz. Must be awful not to have good role models:

Perfect historical timing has always been something of a magic trick — finite and swift. The train moves out of the station. The time to capture the imagination of middle-class white girls, the group Hillary Clinton represents, was long ago. Such girls have now managed on their own (given that in this economy only the rich are doing well). They have their teachers and many other professionals to admire, as well as a fierce 67-year-old babe as speaker of the House, several governors and a Supreme Court justice. The landscape is not bare.

Boys are faring worse — and the time for symbols and leaders they can connect with beneficially should be now and should be theirs. Hillary Clinton's gender does not rescue society from that — instead she serves as a kind of nostalgia for a time when it might have. Only her policies are what matter now, and here — despite some squabbling and bad advice that has caused her to "go negative" — the Democrats largely agree. But inspiration is essential for living, and Mr. Obama holds the greater fascination for our children.

So I learned that politicians and Supreme Court Justices are selected to be role models and that rich white bitches already have plenty but the boyz don't. And boyz are more needy (well, we knew that already, dear diary, about their needs, hee), so they need not only all the presidents but also eight out of the nine Supreme Court Justices and it's still not enough, I guess. Do you think Lorrie really means that if Huckleberry gets to be the president all the Hispanic and black boyz will feel elated? I'm not sure, but then I have like a girl-brain. It's so hard to think politics and so boooorrriinnggg!

Dear diary, right after Lorrie's saga Kaitlin Flanagan piped in. Yes! Two women in a row! Which shows that Lorrie was right. Grrrlllpower! Kaitlin is worried about us teenage girls because we get pregnant if we have nookie. She calls fucking nookie elsewhere, in those articles where she talks about how much she hates modern women and women who have jobs and mothers who don't stay at home and especially feminism. But Lorrie already told us that feminism is so out of fashion, it's OUT. So nobody smart would be caught dead in feminism.

Anyway, in this piece Kaitlin pretends not to hate feminism so that she can be sad over how badly it has failed to protect teenage girls against the dangers that are out there. You know, like boyz. Wait, I'm getting all confused here. Wasn't it boyz who are in trouble? Now it's us. How did that happen? Can you sort it out, dear diary?

This is what Kaitlin sez:

We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?

Biology is destiny, and the brutally unfair outcome that adolescent sexuality can produce will never change. Twenty years ago, I taught high school in a town near New Orleans. There was a girls' bathroom next to my classroom, which was more convenient for me than the faculty one on the other side of campus. In the last stall, carved deeply into the metal box reserved for used sanitary napkins, was the single word "Please."

Jeesh, that's scary stuff. Dear diary, do you think that I should stay at home now? Maybe I get preggers and shit if I go out or maybe I shouldn't go to college because then some boy won't be able to? Or I end up scratching the word "please" with my bare fingernails on some used rag can somewhere? Because biology makes me do that? Fuck biology, sez I. Hugs and kisses, dear diary.

For more adult takes on these two pieces see The Carpetbagger Report on the first one and Whiskey Fire and Pandagon for the second one.