Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lori Ziganto, liberal feminist

What is old is new again.

The following rules appear in Helen B. Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood (Santa Barbara: Pacific Press, 1963).  (Source:
  • Accept him at face value.  Don't try to change him.  
  • Admire the manly things about him.  Don't show indifference, contempt, or ridicule towards his masculine abilities, achievements, or ideas.  
  • Recognize his superior strength and ability.  Don't try to excel him in anything which requires masculine ability. 
  • Be a domestic goddess.  Don't let the outside world crowd you for time to do your homemaking tasks well.  
  • Work for inner happiness and seek to understand its rules.  Don't have a lot of preconceived ideas of what you want out of life.  
  • Revere your husband and honor his right to rule you and your children.  Don't stand in the way of his decisions, or his law.  
These rules and the vision they offer of the proper role of women are opposed to the kind of feminism I accept.  Lori Ziganto appears to accept these rules.  And yet Ziganto calls herself a feminist.  (And war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.)  Among Ziganto's confessions are the following:
  • "I enjoy being able to cry and win an argument by default."
  • "I don’t like math. Icky. Oh, so icky."
  • "I like not having to mow the lawn. I like pretending to be so mechanically impaired that I can’t even figure out how to put gas in it, never mind pull that string thing to start it."
  • "I like being able to run screeching from the room at the first glimpse of a spider and have a man come running to save the day."
  • "I like staying home with my child without feeling as if I am not 'fulfilling my potential' by not having a career. If I were a feminist, I’d beat myself up daily over that fact."
  • "I like dressing up and looking pretty and I like when men notice."
And if that weren't enough to establish that Ziganto accepts Andelin's 1963 view of the proper role of women, Ziganto also writes:
While [you feminists] were busily pant-suiting yourselves and trying to become men, other women were out there raising families and learning through actual living. You old school Feminists forgot (or chose to ignore; y’all are big on paying lip service to “choosing”) the greatest thing that sets us apart. Being a Mommy.
As I have said before, I am a feminist, and I have nothing against the choices Ziganto has made.  I only hope that she made those choices autonomously.  But the important point of feminism is that women have in the past been expected to make the same choices Ziganto has made.  Women haven't always enjoyed the freedom that Ziganto now enjoys, and Ziganto enjoys that freedom thanks to feminism.  Ziganto appears to be completely oblivious to that fact.  Ziganto further reveals her obliviousness in this rant against liberal feminist pro-choicers:
The fact that you care more about my uterus and its “rights” than I do is kinda gross. Why the heck are creepy, middle-aged men and militant lesbians so obsessed with my reproductive rights? I have never, not once, woken up thinking “Gee, I hope my reproductive rights are protected today”. What are reproductive rights anyway? Wouldn’t that mean the right to reproduce?  
(Note Ziganto's implicit identification of liberal feminists and militant lesbians.)  The reason Ziganto does not wake up worrying about her reproductive rights is that feminists have fought to ensure that she has those rights.  Those rights guarantee (within reason, for no right is absolute) not only the right to reproduce but also the right not to reproduce.  Ziganto's ignorance about this point is, I believe, feigned: her column is a celebration of the freedom to be a non-autonomous bimbo, after all, and she's trying to play the part.  (Perhaps she thinks that certain men find that attractive, for one of her workaday concerns appears to be increasing the likelihood that men fantasize about copulating with her—as if her feelings of self-worth depend on it.)

But I wonder whether Ziganto is really being completely forthcoming with her readers.  If she really wants to take the word "feminism" back—and by that, she means "reject feminism entirely"—if she really believes that the proper role of a woman is that of mother and homemaker, and if she really believes that women can all lead completely fulfilling lives by raising children and keeping house, then why is she wasting valuable time working on her blog? Shouldn't she be tending to her husband or her child or her home?

Now, I know you're busy begging for money, Lori, but let's dispense with the bullshit, shall we?  And let's talk plainly.  You and I reject radical feminism, the only kind of feminism you and the rest of you responsibility-free talkers and bloggers want to talk about, since you all are so skilled in the art of the straw man fallacy.  So that leaves a more moderate feminism, i.e., the one I've endorsed, as up for debate.  Now, your going outside of the home to find fulfillment as a blogger (for money!) suggests that you are actually a liberal feminist like me.  If you really want to deny that, then you should hand your blog over to a man (and change its name to Snark and Balls?) and devote your full attention to your husband, child, and home, yes?

(I wonder why the conservative bloggers like to end sentences with "yes?"  I mean, I just did it and I didn't really get a thrill out of it or anything.)

The tension in Ziganto's beliefs and behavior is really indicative of the fundraising function of her profession.  She is in the business of raising money, and what raises money won't necessarily cohere with her behavior or her actual beliefs.

What I am really trying to do here is compel Ziganto and other self-professed "true feminists" to reject the straw man that all feminists are radical feminists.  I want her to admit to being a liberal feminist.  Her ridiculous post about being a mad non-feminist notwithstanding, she actually rejects the patriarchal vision of the proper role of women.  How else can we account for her assertion that she and other "true feminists" "are angry at being treated like children who aren’t capable of running their own lives, even down to what foods we eat"?

(I thank my spouse for valuable discussion which contributed to this post.)

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson