Saturday, January 14, 2006

O'Beirne, baby? Burn

During her recent press junket for a book release, NRO's Kate O'Beirne challenges Coulter for the "Bigmouth Rightwing Harpy of the Year" award --- and wins!

Thanks to Jane over at firedog lake O'Beirne's scathing comments about feminists aren't going unrewarded. Do make a stop at and write a review; let O'Beirne know what you think of her book!

I did. And went to both junior and senior proms, actually.

All fun aside, O'Beirne's words are designed to spark a war where none should exist: between the majority of women who essentially want the same things: parity of income, equal representation and to get as far as we can and want on the merits of our own talents.

How this translates into harming society, hating men or any of O'Beirne's attack rhetoric is beyond understanding. Truthfully, it's not worth considering.

Beyond her scope of study, the rest of history is filled with women who were characterized as "radical" for their time: Woolf, George Eliot, George Sand, and the Olcott women, to name a few.

First, Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). Her humanist views, affair with a married man, and literary themes regarding marriage in the book MiddleMarch (1871-72) scandalized those around her in the Victorian age.

When she visited Cambridge University in 1873 and discussed with F.W.H. Mayers of "the words of God, Immortality, and Duty", she pronounced "with terrible earnestness how inconceivable was the first, how unbelievable was the second, and yet how peremptory and absolute the third."

Not to be outdone, France's George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin) carried on numerous love affairs outside marriage, most infamously one with Chopin. Refusing the confines afforded women in 19th century Paris, Sand spent the bulk of adulthood dressed as a man in order to explore what life didn't have to offer her gender:

"I ask the support of no one, neither to kill someone for me, gather a bouquet, correct a proof, nor to go with me to the theater. I go there on my own, as a man, by choice; and when I want flowers, I go on foot, by myself, to the Alps."

Clearly she was ruining the 1800's as people knew them. Of course, she had a little help from the American Olcotts: Louisa May and her mother.

Noted Concord, MA transcendentalists Bronson and Abigail Alcott raised their daughters to believe strongly in equal rights and opportunity. Mrs. Alcott wrote of being disturbed by the roles afforded women up to that time:

"Wherever I turn I see the yoke on woman in some form or other. On some it sits easy, for they are but beasts of burden. On others, pride hushes them to silence; no complaint is made, for they scorn pity or sympathy. On some it galls and chafes; they feel assured by every instinct of their nature that they were designed for a higher, nobler calling than to 'drag life's lengthening chain along.'"

~Journal of Mrs. Alcott, 1843

And Louisa herself, in books, essays, even letters to friends, championed what she called "the mothers of the Revolution" for women's rights:

Having great faith in young America, it gave me infinite satisfaction to find such eager interest in all good things, and to see how irresistibly the spirit of our new revolution, stirring in the hearts of sisters and daughters, was converting the fathers and brothers who loved them. One shrewd, business man said, when talking of Woman Suffrage, 'How can I help believing in it, when I've a wife and six girls who are bound to have it?'

And many a grateful brother declared he could not be mean enough to shut any door in the face of the sister who had made him what he was.

So I close this hasty note by proposing three cheers for the girls of 1876 -- and the hope that they will prove themselves worthy descendants of the mothers of this Revolution, remembering that

'Earth's fanatics make, Too often Heaven's saints.'"

~Louisa May Alcott, letter to Lucy Stone, 1876

Now, quite obviously, I've selected but a few examples to illustrate the larger point that women who paved the way for the freedom and opportunity we and our daughters enjoy had what were considered at the time to be outlandish beliefs and lifestyles.

Cherrypicking examples, no matter how certain one is in the rightness of their beliefs, is never a good thing, however.

Yet it's just what O'Beirne does: from the caustic caricatures on the cover to her withering rebuke of a television character played by Sarah Jessica Parker on HBO, she demonizes all champions of female rights through direct maligning of four. One of whom isn't even a real person.

Where the comparison between this blog entry and O'Beirne's poison-penned book ends is here: I could easily spend days, even weeks, listing the very real women who were movers and shakers for the women's movement and later beloved by subsequent generations for their efforts, truly painting a large picture perspective of women's contributions to society.

Despite more resources, a book deal and (one assumes) more time, she could only offer a few "examples" of women her title indicates she believes are "making the world worse."

Most likely because the entire construct exists only in the mind of reactionaries like O'Beirne.
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