Saturday, July 02, 2005

It's called compassion, stupid

The Washington Post has a piece on the feminist response to O'Connor's retirement. Unfortunately, some feminists are deriding her decision to step down in the wake of her husband's Alzheimer's. From the article:

But not the Chief Woman Lawyer of America -- she shouldn't quit to take care of her family, should she? What kind of message does that send?

"I was on a radio show and someone called in to say, 'Would we ever see a man retire to take care of his spouse?' " says Suzanna Sherry, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who has written about O'Connor. "This is why she's never been considered a feminist's feminist. A feminist would say: 'Well, why would she do that?' "

I find this argument ridiculous and offensive. Any reasonable person would want to stop working when a) they've been doing it for decades b) are 10 years past standard retirement age, and c)their husband has Alzheimer's. Her husband's mind is detiorating before her eyes, and frankly, she should spend the last months/years of his semi-sentience with him. Anyone who has experience with the heart breaking complexities of Alzheimer's care knows that. Hell, you don't need real life experience, anyone who's ever even heard of Alzheimer's knows that. Her retiring to take care of her husband is not a feminist issue, and it shouldn't be framed as one.

In fact, screw you militant feminists. A recent string of indicidents over at Ezra's blog prove this point. There is a place, a truly important place, for feminist dialogue in this country. The protection of abortion rights, especially related to Supreme Court nominees, is one of them. Without feminist voices (and dollars), Democrats would have a difficult time avoiding a reputation as horrible obstructionists. But that feminist voice does not belong in critiqueing the logical and personal decisions of someone who often showed herself an enormous ally.

I truly believe in the ideals of feminism. I've marched with NARAL and Planned Parenthood. But the feminist movement in this country gets itself on slippery footing when it demonstrates a complete lack of compassion, as is the case in the Post article. It doesn't help anyone either to run around in blog comment threads demanding the author account for any anti-feminism in a film based on a comic book (A film, that, in my opinion, was one of the least sexist action movies I've seen in a long time). Feminists have done a damn good job turning people off left and right. Any movement that makes 50% of the population feel consistently attacked needs to do some serious reevaluating. To truly achieve feminist ends, we've got to improve that hearts and minds campaign. As it is, we're akin to our Army dropping packages that could be food or bombs-- men don't know when they should run, and it's made them rather skittish in our presence.


At 7/03/2005 1:06 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

I think the larger issue is the media is so hostile to feminism they look high and low to find someone to say something offensive so they can smear all of us with it. My militant feminist ass defended O'Connor immediately to someone who didn't know why she was retiring and his militant feminist and frankly misanthropic ass felt really bad for criticizing her.

At 7/04/2005 11:15 AM, Blogger Kate said...


I totally agree with you. Ezra and I talked about that point on the way home from the coffeeshop where I wrote the post. His point was that most feminists aren't like that, and mine was, definitely not, but here it is in one of the largest and most respected papers in the nation for everyone to read. It just demonizes feminists.

At 7/04/2005 7:02 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

No worries. I think another issue at stake here is that a lot of people don't know O'Connor's particular circumstances and that is confusing the issue. A lot of women are very angry and it is very difficult to remember that while we are all women who are adamantly pro-choice, we are individuals first. The area where one's politics and one's personal decisions mingle is especially gray for feminists, but I think this is an instance where it's clear that O'Connor's duty to her husband and to her own enjoyment of her life far outweighs her duty to other women as a woman.

At 7/13/2005 8:52 PM, Blogger Abby said...

I think that there are plenty of men who would do the same thing for a wife, btw. They probably wouldn't sacrifice their careers at the beginning of the relationship, but at age 75 I'm pretty sure that they would.


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