Reader K.A. thinks that we are too mean and catty here at InkWell. Here’s K.A.’s e-mail:
“I first want to say how important I think it is that an organization like IWF exists and I laud you for your efforts to give a voice to those of us who want to see women advance but who don’t believe in the dogma or methodology of radical feminism. I check your site once a day for news and routinely read your position papers, often forwarding them to friends.
“However, although I am also quite interested in the issues you post about on InkWell, I find that many of the entries are heavy-handed. You approach a lot of issues in a way that is biting and far too socially conservative to effectively represent the ‘thoughtful and caring mainstream women’ whom you claim to speak for. For instance, your most recent entry [Welfare Reform–An American Success Story, Jan. 11] began by chronicling an important contribution to welfare reform, but rapidly devolved into careless advocacy of [Kay] Hymowitz’s derision of the values of one woman (values that are just assumed to be universally held by impoverished women). The reason [Jason] DeParle left that out is perhaps because it is not at all critical part of the welfare reform debate; it is an irrelevant and baseless insult).
“You are also quick to use divisive labels like ‘professional Bush-hater’ and occasionally write articles that are simply in poor taste, such as the one lambasting Susan Sontag [Susan Sontag–RIP Please!, Dec. 29] in the wake of her death from cancer. I think your organization as a whole would alienate fewer ‘mainstream’ women if you came across as less harsh (harshness, after all, is what alienates so many people from radical groups like NOW) and addressed the issues without making so many ad hominem attacks.”
Thank you for your thoughts and your evident interest in InkWell, K.A., and let me respond briefly. I was not engaging in “derision” of former welfare mother Angela Jobe, profiled in Jason DeParle’s American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare. As DeParle and the book’s reviewer Kay Hymowitz noted, Angela is in many ways an admirable person who, thanks to welfare reform, now works hard to support her children and possesses the knd of self-esteem that accrues to those who have accomplished something worthwhile. Still, as DeParle reported and Hymowitz pointed out, Angela is still making bad decisions: using money that could have gone for a more reliable car to buy things her children didn’t need and letting her daughter hang around with a prostitute. I don’t think that all low-income women make such poor choices, but clearly enough of them do to create a culture in which Angela, for one, didn’t see that she was acting unwisely. That’s why, as Hymowitz noted, welfare reform isn’t enough to bring about the cultural changes that would boost the Angela Jobes of this world (and their children) into the middle class.
As for Susan Sontag, of course I’m sorry that she died of cancer, and I said so. Too many of my own family members (including my father and, most recently, a beloved aunt) have succumbed to cancer for me to treat that disease lightly. But Sontag was also a public figure, and as a public figure she said many things that were either silly (“The white race is the cancer of history”) or flagrantly off-base (as when she blamed the 9/11 attacks on America itself). You can’t ignore this sort of thing. Sontag was undoubted brilliant and rigorously trained in the life of the mind (the University of Chicago, Harvard), but she squandered her intellect chasing a bizarre array of left-wing causes. I wish she hadn’t, but I’d be less than honest if I failed to point out that that was exactly what she did.
As for social conservatism, yes, we at InkWell bewail the carnal free-for-all that accompanied the Sexual Revolution. That’s because it’s helped create the cultural conditions that continue to make life tough for Angela Jobe. Bearing three children out of wedlock to a career criminal and irresponsible father is not a good thing.
“I agree 100 percent with the first sentence of your last paragraph: ‘Women should resolve to get all of the facts.’ Social Security was not designed to be a retirement plan—it is a security net to keep Americans from falling into the throes of poverty in old age, during disability, and while raising minor children who have lost a parent. It has been one of the most successful government programs ever designed and only needs some attention to bring it into the 21st century to remain adequately funded for the future. If you truly believe the stock market is a better place to invest, let’s let the government put the money into a SAFE investment, rather than millions of uninformed investors lining the pockets on Wall Street with high commissions and even higher administrative costs.”
L.K., you seem to be ignorant of no-load mutual funds, which is where most of my husband’s and my retirement monies are invested. Be that as it may (and I don’t think most middle-income investors are as stupid as you seem to assume), I’ve got to agree with you that any investment system, even one run by the government, would be preferable to the Ponzi scheme of transfer payments that constitutes today’s Social Security system. The “some attention” that you say the present system “only needs” will consist of skyrocketing taxes for younger earners when the current system goes bankrupt in a few years, as it inevitably will. Yet this–plus cutting benefits–is the only fix that the opponents of President Bush’s reform plan have so far been able to come up with.