The Paper Bag Princess
This seems to me to be a real “old school” feminist book, whose ultimate message is that women are more courageous and clever than men, that they should be celebrated for giving insensitive men the what-for, and that ending up uncompromised/ing and alone is a happy ending. (Never mind that it was written by a man.)
Some days, Senator Clinton’s campaign for Democratic presidential nominee felt like an old school feminist campaign, at least when it railed about the sexism that she had to endure. No question, she had to endure some sexist treatment, as she has since she first became a public figure. Senator Clinton’s own individual history also played a role in her experience with the media. But there is something stunningly self-absorbed about those that would focus on Senator Clinton’s gender as the basis of unfair treatment, while subtly but repeatedly playing the race card against Senator Obama.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Senator Obama attracts younger women voters is that those voters don’t necessarily see the world purely in terms of intractable gender conflict. While I would not suggest that the two are moral equivalents, Senator Clinton is of the same absolutist, battle-hardened generation as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. It may be that a younger generation is more interested in how one might transcend the divisions of race and gender (and sexual orientation, culture, class, etc.) Trying to transcend these deep allegiances can be threatening stuff for people across the political spectrum. Lately, according to Susan Faludi, Senator Obama has been criticized for being not only too “cosmopolitan” and post-race, but also for being somehow post-gender.
So what might this younger generation hope for in terms of policies and personal arrangements? Lisa Belkin published an article last week about truly equal domestic partnerships, within which both partners really share equally in domestic chores. Something like
When it comes to other aspects of
The resistance to the policy has been strong in some quarters, not only among institutional daycare advocates, but among some feminists. For some, the problem with the policy is that in practice it provides financial support to reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, and sends the message that mothers in particular should not work while their children are young. But the policy is only retrogressive if one values the ability of women to move into the traditional (and still ultimately anti-family) workplace over womens’ and families’ collective ability to choose for themselves what is best for them. Gender equality in the workplace is unquestionably important and it remains frustratingly unattained. On the other hand, empowered and self-actualized women (and men) could point to lots of good reasons to stitch together more flexible work arrangements, or even to stay home, while their children are young. Perhaps the next piece is to support more creative approaches to careers and workplaces as well.
While the paper bag princess may have chosen to skip off to the sunset alone, many women today may choose to see themselves as part of a more nuanced and collaborative dance that permits them to move in and out of “traditional” gender and work roles, and untraditional ones, across time. As destabilizing as this might be for the old warriors, it is a whole new way to be hopeful about the future.