Ideas for columns come from many places. Recently one came from an unexpected source. My San Francisco twenty-something grandson wrote a very indignant e-mail about an article he had read in the Bay Guardian, and suggested
that I would probably want to address the subject. When my grandchild shares my beliefs and issues enough to get this mad, I'm going to listen.
When he calmed down after reading the article by Analee Newitz he wrote me about it. I have changed his language somewhat to get it past my editor. "What the hell is this stuff about women "surrendering" to their husbands
to make a happy marriage? This weird working woman who considers herself a feminist wrote a book about women giving up any semblance of control or sharing of "power" in marriage and how happy everybody would be. What's
going on? I hesitate to ask you to read the book because I'm afraid it might make you go into a fit."
He was quite right about my not reading the book. I would have "gone into a fit," But I looked up the article and found several others, along with a review of the book and the first chapter. Wow, where did that woman
come from in the year A. D. 2001? She must have met up with Dr. Laura somewhere.
"The Surrendered Wife" by Laura Doyle sounds like a Middle Ages romance with men in suits of armor charging up and down the field with lances raised, while their women gently waved their scarves in a delicate ladylike
fashion. Her thesis is that women should be allowed to keep their hard won careers and be their assertive selves at work, but leave their brains and ability on the subway on the way home. When they arrive home they should
abandon the myth of equality, and surrender all their identity to their husbands. I'm not sure what happens to the children.
Well now. I wonder how many hard working American women will buy that. Doyle calls herself a "conservative feminist," whatever that means. That is an oxymoron anyway. Conservative means conserve things the way they are.
Feminist means shake 'em up a little. Sounds as though "conservative feminists" are trying to create a brave new world of submissive women. Sorry, too late. I'm afraid the genie is out of the bottle.
Thanks to the women's movement (I will consider the sensitivity of some of my readers and avoid the "F" word) women have made great strides in thirty years. We have had to contend with male attitudes, and that has not
been easy. But more recently we are faced with a female backlash. Susan Faludi pretty much explained it in 1991 in her book "Backlash". But hers was a carefully reasoned, intelligent analysis. Now we have Laura Doyle and
Dr. Laura. Doyle says, "My mission is to teach women about the power of surrender. It is my own world peace crusade."
Women have known about surrender throughout history. Their
only route to power has been in the manipulation of their men. Now they are gradually gaining some power of their own and approaching equality in the work place and in their private lives.
"Conservative Feminsim" wants to have it both ways. Newitz writes, "Women will be aggressive breadwinners at work and submissive wives in the home. The fantasy is that once women have surrendered, the domestic sphere will
become peaceful, a welcome respite after a long day of getting whiplash from smacking one's head against the glass ceiling."
In its essence feminism has never meant anything more frightening than a belief in political, social and economic equality for women and men. Like all social movements, it was radical in the beginning, and has grown very
slowly. But since the seventies a lot of doors have opened, doors that had always been closed, and we are now approaching some rational equality between men and women. I hope the "Conservative Feminists" are don't succeed
in slamming the doors shut.
Gloria Steinem said it best. "Men of quality want women of equality."
Thanks for the idea, Ian. Keep up the good fight.