Feminists, their sense of entitlement ruffled, are up in arms that the New Yorker magazine has dared to hire a female writer who doesn’t toe their line.
Inkwell can’t imagine what it’s going to be around the water cooler when Caitlin Flanagan, the daughter of Berkeley radicals who is now a self-described critic of the feminist movement, shows up for work at the venerable magazine.
Ms. Flanagan sent the gals into a tailspin back in March when she penned a cover story for The Atlantic Monthly bearing the provocative title, “How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement.”
Since I haven’t read Ms. Flanagan’s 12,000-word piece, I’ll let the New York Observer, which profiles Ms. Flanagan in a recent issue, describe it:
“Ms. Flanagan argued,” the peach-colored paper reports in a profile headlined “The Anti-Feminist Mystique,” “that upper-middle-class women have achieved their goal of having both a career and a family more often than not by employing–or, she maintained, exploiting–other women lower on the class ladder: nannies, on whom they don’t always bestow the same benefits they demand for themselves, like Social Security and maternity leave.”
Adding insult to injury, Flanagan believes that “when a mother works, something is lost….If you want to make an upper-middle-class woman squeal in indignation, tell her she can’t have something. If she works, she can’t have as deep and connected a relationship with her child as she would if she stayed home and raised him.”
The outcry has been deafening. “Tapping into the turgid well of upper-middle-class women’s guilt, the piece drew ‘an extraordinary number of letters, Julia Rothwax, a spokeswoman for The Atlantic told the Observer.
“It set off a debate,” the Observer continues, “among women writers who still proudly wear the ‘feminist’ mantle: Ellen Willis and Lynne Sharon Schwartz, among others, raged against Ms. Flanagan in The Atlantic’s letters column, while book groups, bloggers and dinner-party conversations from Scarsdale to Santa Monica have busily dissected in the piece.”
“A common reaction,” according to the Observer, “was: Who is this privileged woman to suggest that because I go to work, which I have to do out of necessity, I am not connected to my children? And since when is hiring a nanny necessarily exploitation? Or, as one blogger wrote, “How to Make a Caitlin Flanagan / Take: / One jigger of [anti-gay activist] Anita Bryant / One jigger of [actress and children’s advocate] Jane Russell / One jigger of [right-wing firebrand] Ann Coulter / A dash of pretentious language (for faux sophistication and New Yorker credentials) / One quart of self-entitlement, an expendable income / Mix. Serves establishment.”
Well, you can imagine how angry the feminist establishment was when word got out that the New Yorker had hired Flanagan. Ms. Flanagan says she knows about feminists, though.
“I used to teach high school,” she told the Observer. “Feminists are very much like adolescents, they get hysterical so often!”
PS. The Other Charlotte has also commented on Caitlin Flanagan (“My Servant Problem–I don’t Have Any”), and, as you might guess, her observations are more interesting and offbeat than those of the feminists.
On one hand, TOC noted that the “very real economic problems of these nannies and other servants fall completely under the radar screen of the self-satisfied upper-middle-class literatae who indulge their feminist fantasies upon other women’s backs. If you’re looking for an oppressed woman, Flanagan writes, why not look at your own housekeeper?”
TOC added, however, that, “while there is much truth to what Flanagan says, especially about feminists’ snobbish assumptions–fine, maybe for upper-middle-class professionals but devastating for the working class and underclass–that women with children don’t need men. But her final analysis–that women ought to feel guilty just because they have servants–is entirely misplaced. There’s a difference between exploiting servants and just having them that Flanagan doesn’t seem to understand.”