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News: Beating the Bitch

Ellen Goodman's views on feminism, politics and lopsided change

By Margo Pierce · March 19th, 2008 · News
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  Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman had a lot to say to the Woman�s City Club on March 13.
Joe Lamb

Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman had a lot to say to the Woman�s City Club on March 13.



The "tenacity of sexism," redefined values, double standards, baking cookies, the lopsided change of the women's movement, the irony of a female candidate for president being called a representative of the status quo and a lack of success in "convincing men of the intrinsic joy of housework" are just some of the topics Ellen Goodman touched on March 13 when she addressed the Woman's City Club.

The same day the former tough-on-crime New York governor was identified as a john in a prostitution ring, Goodman a syndicated op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe talked to an audience of almost 1,000 women and men about how far we haven't come in affecting meaningful and long-lasting social change for either gender.

'The agenda for women's values'
"When this campaign began, the question was whether the country was ready for a woman to be president," Goodman said. "One of the supreme ironies of the past year of the campaign for Hillary (Clinton) watchers is the icon of change became the icon of the status quo without ever achieving the change.

"The woman who was castigated for keeping her name, for not baking cookies, for being the personification of the uppity woman from the time she made her first speech at Wellesley College to the time she ran for the Senate, for the White House, became old politics. I was struck by the freedom with which a South Carolinian asked John McCain, 'How do we beat the bitch?' And he said, 'Excellent question.' Imagine what would have happened if someone had asked, 'How do we beat that uppity black guy?' and he had answered, 'Excellent question.'

"This is how I think that we, and not the far right, have to be value voters. American society has had this tension between two sets of values the values of individuals and those of the community, the I' and the we,' a desire to make it entirely on our own ... and a recognition that life only has meaning when it's shared with others.

The "tenacity of sexism," redefined values, double standards, baking cookies, the lopsided change of the women's movement, the irony of a female candidate for president being called a representative of the status quo and a lack of success in "convincing men of the intrinsic joy of housework" are just some of the topics Ellen Goodman touched on March 13 when she addressed the Woman's City Club.

The same day the former tough-on-crime New York governor was identified as a john in a prostitution ring, Goodman a syndicated op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe talked to an audience of almost 1,000 women and men about how far we haven't come in affecting meaningful and long-lasting social change for either gender.

'The agenda for women's values'
"When this campaign began, the question was whether the country was ready for a woman to be president," Goodman said. "One of the supreme ironies of the past year of the campaign for Hillary (Clinton) watchers is the icon of change became the icon of the status quo without ever achieving the change.

"The woman who was castigated for keeping her name, for not baking cookies, for being the personification of the uppity woman from the time she made her first speech at Wellesley College to the time she ran for the Senate, for the White House, became old politics. ... I was struck by the freedom with which a South Carolinian asked John McCain, 'How do we beat the bitch?' And he said, 'Excellent question.' Imagine what would have happened if someone had asked, 'How do we beat that uppity black guy?' and he had answered, 'Excellent question.'

"This is how I think that we, and not the far right, have to be value voters. American society has had this tension between two sets of values the values of individuals and those of the community, the I' and the we,' a desire to make it entirely on our own ... and a recognition that life only has meaning when it's shared with others.

"In American history, we saw that tension by divvying up the areas women maintain the values of care giving, men those of worldly achievement. Women were the keepers of community and family. We did the upkeep on relationships, on connections, and men did the upkeep on the values of the individualism. ...

"It is particularly a time to be talking about women's leadership and the agenda for women's values. Ever since the 2004 election, conservatives in this country, the far right, grabbed hold of that phrase values.' They call themselves the value voters.' They foisted upon all of us the idea that people vote on their values, and values' became a code word for the hot-button issues like gay marriage and abortion and stem cells.

"But did you notice how little was said about children ... about families or poverty or the environment or care-giving? That's what I want to talk about as a woman and as a veteran of that huge social change we call the women's movement.' ...

"To put it simply, women have had much more success not only in adapting to male life patterns but adapting to what is traditionally thought of as male values, than getting men to adapt to female values. ...

"We hear often that the Women's Movement went too far. This is often said by the daughters of second-wave feminists. But the truth is American women have not been the victims of too much change but of too little change. They are not the victims of my generation's success in making social change but in the limits of our success."

The many faces of 'lopsided' change
"My generation traded depression for stress not a bad bargain. But the much-heralded stress today has come from the fact that change has indeed been lopsided. Because I'm something of an economic determinist, I would also say that change has been lopsided because women still earn on average 70-odd cents for every male dollar. And as long as they are paid less in the workforce, they often attempt to overcompensate with the home-work.

"When we enacted welfare reform in the '90s and the Congress debated it again, Democrats and Republicans Congress, left and right have arrived at a consensus so radical that it was barely acknowledged. It was a consensus that says a mother's place is in the workforce.

"Now we have two completely conflicting images of the good mother in our society today. One side of the track the good mother, the maternal role model of the moment is the high-powered, corporate executive and professional who chucks it all to be with her kids. In the other side, the role model of the moment is the welfare mother who leaves her children for the workforce. There is no child care good enough to justify the working mother staying in the corner CEO office, and there is no child care lousy enough to justify the welfare mother staying at home.

"So in this movement we are only partly there. We have begun to open the door to women, but we haven't opened it much more than a crack for our values.

"And I don't think women will ever feel we have achieved equality in our own terms until we have achieved equality for our values of care giving, family life, community that we were assigned and have held high. We want to make it for ourselves and for our values."


See more about Ellen Goodman's remarks in the Porkopolis blog.


 
 
 
 

 

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