Or The White Lie of Feminism?
Either way, I bought it.
After returning from (formerly known as) Third World countries in late summer of 1979, I went to a bookstore in Columbus, Ohio and bought paperback copies of The Feminine Mystique, The Female Eunuch, Against Our Will, and Women and Madness. Anyone likely to speak a little English in the continents I'd just visited had been a man. I was like a third sex most of that year, educated for a life most alien to these parts.
Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Susan Brownmiller, Phyllis Chesler—they're all white women, but what strikes me today is that what they wanted specifically was what white men have. Money from labor. Income directly from the market, GDP dough. Power. This would bring the freedom to do as they pleased.
Uh huh. Sure.
First, nonwhite and poor women have always worked—on the farms, in the shops and factories, raising the kids in the white mansions along with their own babies back in the fields and the slums. Their men beat them, too, but they were already providing for their kids, inside and outside the domicile. They weren't waiting for sociology grad Arlie Hochschild to discoverThe Second Shift for them—they were brutally familiar with the second, the third shift, all the shifts, because hungry mouths do not shut up until they're dead. And they did most of this while pregnant or nursing. Until they were dead, too.
Second, white men don't do what they do alone. They have three generations of custodial females, both white and nonwhite, providing personal infrastructure—ironed shirts, meal plans, bedding service, social management. Plus: these women also raise their kids, the ones resulting from their consensual, as well as nonconsensual, uterine deposits.
So when I was sent out to get a job and raise my own kid with my newly minted degrees, I didn't have a clue.
I remember at my 1990 Florida State interview in Orlando, one of the professors smirked "Ah, you want to have it all!" I was busy that year finishing grad school and giving birth, so had not yet heard the expression. "I what?"
Eventually I learned that the phrase was coined by white working women who had children. It was likely more myopic than malicious, since these women were coping with the fallout of taking on white men jobs, after all, a mission doomed to fail with only partial gear.
Imagine jumping out of a plane with only half a parachute!
Except no one says so until it's too late. Mid-air, baby in tow, I fell and fell. And fell.
The Lie said I was fully prepared for it all, that papers could be written and published, classes designed and taught, and my daughter could read and travel and dream as I had. The Lie said my little darling could ice-skate at five in the morning and I could get to my 8 AM logic class. She could tricycle around the Mount Laguna campground and I could finish grading all the midterms by Monday morning.
The Lie said middle-class white women needed no support, no village, no neighbors, no friends—in any case, none came forward—so I dumbly believed I could do it all.
Until I couldn't.
When I landed in the psych ward for short-term California disability, no one said my life was untenable, only that I was...sick. The pharmaceutical cocktail devised for my deficiencies sanctioned deployment right back to the front lines the following semester.
The Lie said I was fine now. You don't need adequate gear, girl, you just need to get back to work! Pay those bills, pay off those PhD loans! Get the kid fed, bathed, and to bed!
That's what women, servants, slaves—us essential workers—that's what we do.
So I kept on going, until I couldn't, believing it was somehow possible to do what men do without that battalion of women keeping shirts clean and pressed, whipping up meals, raising the children, spoonfeeding evenings and weekends so you can recharge for white collar Monday-to-Friday.
Angela Davis calls this bourgeois feminism or glass-ceiling feminism, though for the singular and unwealthy, it has more in common with subsistence farming.
My Bavarian Welsh Caucasian heritage stuck me right in the middle of this mad deception.
Trying to fulfill both paid and unpaid labor roles is logically indefensible and physically unsustainable. The Lie of White Feminism is to act out the script for Supported Man while simultaneously performing the script for Supporting Woman.
The Lie has only been heightened by pandemic home isolation and school closure, sticking the children and mothers at computers IN THE SAME ROOMS, while climate catastrophes, barbaric wars, and angry fathers continue to take out both the bodies and the rooms in the fully destroyed homes. When this happens, the GDPs struggle along until governing statisticians get the deception of paid and unpaid labor functioning again.
Yes, there are now female economists saying that the GDP of a country exists by virtue of the unpaid female and slave labor, though as far as I can tell, outside of the books and academic journals, no one pays much attention to them. Governments, corporations, and universities continue the delusion of the average rational man buying and selling his average rational stuff in sync with his average rational self-interest…while whoever dresses, cleans, and feeds him is not mentioned. Or even mentionable.
And yes, Ginger Rogers did it all backwards and in high heels…but what if she'd only had partial gear, or only one shoe, or an amputated leg? What if she could only breathe every other breath?
Hey Fred, you try it!
See Fred stumble. See Fred fall. Poor Fred.
You know, once Fred stumbles, it'll be all Ginger's fault, that bitch.
Nice going baby, you've come a long way.
15 APRIL 2022