The letters pour into the ‘Bag!

First, “Redneck Feminist” with a double whammy: She hates that we dissed the late Andrea Dworkin for her personal appearance but can’t see why we don’t diss the very much alive John Bolton for his personal appearance. (For the back-story on this, see This Charlotte’s Andrea Dworkin, Resting in Man-Hating Peace, April 12 and The Other Charlotte’s The Andrea Dworkin Roundup, April 19. Then read TOC’s Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, April 20, in which TOC wonders whether the Washington Post’s fashion critic, Robin Givhan didn’t have a political agenda when she remarked that the shaving-brush mustache atop the upper lip of U.N. ambassador-nominee Bolton looked “like it should be attached to geek glasses and a rubber nose.”)

Here’s what Redneck Feminist writes:   

“If Robin Givhan ‘came perilously close to saying that Bolton should not be confirmed because of his appearance,’ then the IWF came even closer to saying that Andrea Dworkin shouldn’t be taken seriously because of HER appearance. Hypocrisy s–ks, ladies. But I’m sure you can find a way to justify it.”

Oh, we can, Redneck. Yes, Givhan is a fashion critic, and Bolton’s Groucho mustache and crumbled shirt-collar are fair journalistic game for someone on her beat (just as Andrea Dworkin’s rat-sanctuary ‘do was fair beat on mine and TOC’s). Every time I look at a newspaper photo of Bolton, who looks like the understudy to “The Nutty Professor,” I laugh out loud myself. Yet, as TOC noted, Givhan crossed the line from fashion criticism to political criticism when she added that an officeholder’s looks “certainly can be a measure of one’s respect for the job.” So Bolton shouldn’t be confirmed because he doesn’t have Christophe cutting his hair? I don’t recall Givhan writing anything similar about Janet Reno, who must certainly have been the worst-dressed public official of all time.

By the way, I want to throw in my two cents about Bolton’s alleged chasing a government contractor down the hall 10 years ago (see TOC’s Horrifying Tales of Rudeness!, April 21). That event alone constitutes ample grounds for confirming him for the U.N., in my view. Maybe he can chase Kofi Annan down the hall and right into the East River.

Inky reader K.H. takes issue with my dig at the “pay equity” folks who’ve been staging equal-pay bake sales to protest the fact that women working full time make only 76 cents for men’s dollar (see my Honk If You Dined on 76% of a Muffin Yesterday, April 20) . Our position here at the IWF is that such statistical claims are bogus, because they don’t take into account the individual choices of women, especially women with children, to follow career paths that frequently result in lower earnings.

Here’s K.H.:

“I wonder what you say to women who live in Wyoming who have a college degree and earn wages that a man with a high school degree earns? Do your forum just deny the statistics? The facts on the ground here in Wyoming suggest women make less than man for the same work. It must be a relief to just dismiss such unnerving and frustrating facts, especially if you don’t live here. I have two sons and two daughters and I can’t think of a reason why I would encourage them to stay in Wyoming except to take on the monumental task of making things better for everyone here, especially women.”

My response: You don’t have to live in Wyoming to be a college grad and earn a lot less than a man with a high-school diploma. Last year I taught college Latin for a salary that would have made the campus plumber laugh out loud. I could have been a plumber, too–or a trial lawyer or a chef–but I made the choice to work with words because it’s work that I love. Women with children make choices, too–often for less stressful, closer-to-home jobs with fewer hours than, say, driving a truck or building a highway. Most women know that, and it’s why “pay equity” is not a top priority for them.

Now for reader P.E. on another post of mine, which started out as an observation that the same people who make fun of Roman Catholic clerics for supposedly wearing female clothing are all for transvestites’ wearing female clothing (see Dresses Like Woman, April 19). As an example, I linked to a “baby-wearing” website that was all for little boys’ wearing their sisters’ dresses–so non-sexist! “Baby-wearing,” by the way, is the stylish practice of carrying Junior tied to your body in a sling 24/7 instead of parking him in a playpen or crib. Naturally my remark drew the ire of a crunchy-con baby-wearing reader (see the Mailbag for April 20).

P.E. e-mails:

“[A]s a mother of five…who’s all about cultivating ‘independence’ in my babies (and getting a good night sleep), I was quietly cheering you on. I am loathe to make comments about parenting styles….But it seems to me that ‘mother as slave to children’ is often held up as the alternative to the ‘home alone, mother as careerist’ model that many of us ‘crunchy-con, neo-con, plain ole con’ mothers want to avoid.

“And ‘baby-wearing’ (honestly, the very words should alert people to the fact that this is insane) seems to me the height of ‘mother as slave,’ at least in most instances. Creating such a completely child-centered world seems to me to be counterproductive in so many way. One risks raising children who are monsters, who see their mother only as a personal attendant, always on call to address their every need or desire. And most adults cannot function in such a world for very long; not surprisingly, they then flee – often back to those careers which represent the other extreme of absentee parenting.

“I am often asked by mother who indulge in ‘baby-wearing’ or other similar practices (co-sleeping, feeding on demand, never letting a child cry itself to sleep, and my personal favourite, the dreaded ‘crafts’) how I cope with five kids. My answer is always that I don’t do for them anything like what the questioner does for the one or two she is carrying around her neck. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I wouldn’t walk over burning coals for my kids (at least I hope I would), if they needed it. But when they’re healthy and dry and well-fed, I’m not going to sling them around my neck.”

I myself am loathe to criticize other women’s parenting styles, and if a mom wants to make like a Guatemalan in the coffee fields and tie little Murgatroyd around her waist while she vacuums the living-room rug, who am I to complain? But as one of five children myself who was definitely not “worn” during my infancy, I tend to agree with you, P.E. I can’t imagine any mother of a large family burdening herself that way for years on end just so the babies won’t ever cry. I feel the same way about “co-sleeping”–aren’t adults entitled to a little privacy?

Now for a letter from B.G.–a guy, no less!–protesting a post by TOC that objected to the growing military practice, pushed on by radical feminists, of placing female soldiers in harm’s way in front-line combat (see Feminist-Sanctioned Violence Against Women: The Stealth Plan, April 19):

“Charlotte Hays should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that it is the duty of men to protect women. So if a WOMAN fights in a war and is captured and tortured and then killed on some godforsaken field, it’s a tragedy, but if a MAN does so he’s just doing his job? Please.

“Hays and other ‘traditionalist’ women seem to think they’re on the side of men for ripping into feminists who want to see equality on the battlefield (and elsewhere). By all means, leave me in the hands of the feminists if it will save me from Charlotte Hays. The feminists might actually see me as an equal, rather than as a meal ticket, personal valet and unpaid bodyguard. Death to chivalry. Long live equality and basic human decency.”

Oh-kay. Death to chivalry to you, too, B.G.

Now, back again to that perennial fave, Andrea Dworkin. Both Charlottes’ posts pointed out the surprising fact that Dworkin, although a longtime self-professed lesbian, had actually gotten married, in 1998, to one John Stoltenberg, a self-professed gay who, among other things is an editor for the AARP magazine (bet you hadn’t known the AARP glossy, with its cover-photos of buff Middle-American seniors jet-skiing and exploring the Florida condo market, was edited by the spouse of one of America’s leading radicals). So TOC, alluding to the gazillions of member dues that AARP is pouring into the fight against Social Security reform asked:

“Does this sound as if the AARP, touted by the Mainstream Media as an apolitical outfit selflessly looking out for the interests senior citizens, might not be that apolitical after all?”

That provoked reader “Justine,” who asks:

“Where exactly do you reach this conclusion? Somehow you jumped from point A to point C and I’m lost. Is it because gays are incapable of doing anything without a ‘homosexual agenda’? Is it because rad-fems are incapable of logical reasoning and doing anything without man-hating viciousness? Is it because people with political view different from yours obviously can’t be honest people? Thats the only possible connection I see, given the material you provided.”

And reader T.T. thinks it was unkind of us to call attention to Dworkin’s famously informal grooming:

“I linked to your blog for the first time through your unbelievably nasty and adolescent giggle-fest over Andrea Dworkin’s physical appearance. I’d assumed the IWF to be a little more like a well-educated think tank, not this breathless, Cosmo-depth, Wonkette-style c–p.”

Oh, T.T., call our output excrement if you like, but please don’t compare us to Wonkette!

As a matter of fact, Dworkin made her appearance part of her political statement: That women who want to look good are kowtowing to evil, hated men. So we fought politics with politics and said she looked terrible. Nonethless, if you read my post carefully, you’ll see that I had some good things to say about her–and TOC noted that several other conservative pundits liked and respected her, too. Dworkin had the courage to break with femnist ideological orthodoxy on several key issues: She refused to find pornography and prostitution “empowering”; she exposed the hypocrisy of mainstream feminists in giving a pass to Bill Clinton for having sex with an underling in his taxpayer-funded office because Clinton supported abortion rights; and she not only supported the death penalty for convicted wife-and-son murderer Scott Peterson but refused to deny, as the feminist millitant did, that he had committed two crimes, not one, in the slaying of his unborn child.

Indeed, the more I think about Dworkin, the more I like her. Too bad she insisted on clothing her wisdom with pointless au courant man-hating.