Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Feminist Grannies Gettin’ Busy?

Kay Hymowitz surveys a plethora of navel gazing literature (with titles like Sex and the Seasoned Woman and--I’m not making this up--Still Doing It, Better Than I Ever Expected,) from aging feminists that reveal something even more amazing about feminism than my suggestive title might indicate: feminism seems to have come full circle. Hymowitz notes that although they remain defiant in their attitudes and hyper-organized and effusing in their methods, the practical effect of their "politics" is now almost apolitical. ". . . their personal is no longer very political; even their political isn’t very political. Nobody’s putting it this way, but it seems that liberation politics have become irrelevant to what is now their most pressing concern, which – depending on your emphasis – is: how to bring meaning to their dwindling years, or how to avoid being mistaken for their grandmothers."

Put another way, after a lifetime of war against nature expressed in an attempt at cultural revolution (i.e., a kind of war on society and its perceived oppression of women in favor of patriarchy), it turns out that the battle must turn inward in order to complete itself. When your war is against Nature it (naturally) turns back in on You. So now feminists have turned their attention toward the best ways of fighting bad knees, bad hips, sagging skin, diminishing sex drives, and, of course (the perennial) "lack of fulfillment." All of which begs these questions: If feminism has been such a boon to women, why are these chicks still complaining? If careerism is as fulfilling as they claimed it was in the late 60s, why are they still unfulfilled? And if nature is irrelevant respecting sex differences, then why aren’t all the old guys writing exhaustive accounts of their exploits fighting impotence and night trips to the toilet? Finally, is the new feminist anthem: "I am Woman, Hear me Moan?"

There are a hundred other questions (both serious and not) this thoughtful essay brings to mind, so read it all. Worth a few mugs!   

Discussions - 17 Comments

Julie, a very funny - and very, very wicked - parting line. (PS: your general point was true, IMHO.)

No, really, that was very funny. In feminism, not much has changed about the central point; the self. Only the externals have changed for these women. But the complaints of these feminists are not different than those I remember hearing my grandmother and her friends make as they played bridge in the afternoons in Pittsburgh nearly fifty years ago. They were escaping a boredom as well, and yet maybe having more fun than the modern females. I recall a lot of laughter, and it wasn’t over the cards.


But Julie, aging is no fun at all. No, it is the physical part of aging that is no fun. Other fun doesn’t really change at all. Rain still feels good on your face. When I wake to the resident catbird’s song, I still smile. I have a grandchild who says funny things and hugs me hard, instead of my children, who tend to lecture me, now, since they know more about life than I do. I let them, and then try to make them laugh about themselves, which I think they will find more useful in the long run.


And maybe that is the saddest part of those women cited in the article and about whom you speak. To take oneself so seriously, especially in age, becomes another kind of death. To seek pleasure and not to seek to give it: What a waste of time!


But if these people put their time and effort into themselves and it keeps them out of politics - well - that is all to the good. Let them spend their money on Botox, viagra, yoga lessons, aura readings and plastic surgery and neglect to give it to political organizations that will give you and I grief in the public realm. Absorb them in the personal, please.

Kate’s right on. Their self-absorption is a good thing...the more time they spend staring into the mirror, the less time they have to remold us knuckle-dragging red-staters into Gaia-worshippers!

A feminist divided against herself....?

O.B.,
Wasn’t there a book, which title I remember from my youth as Our Bodies, Our Selves? It always sounded schizophrenic to me, or else to resemble my great aunt’s Christian Science teaching of mind over body control, as Mary Baker Eddy proposed it.


Was this the sort of competitive dichotomy you had in mind?

Dear Kate--Yes, I don’t begrudge these women their natural desire to fight the hands of time. There is nothing wrong with wanting and trying to appear attractive. I don’t even think that (with the proper mental attitude) there is even anything wrong with some of the more extreme measures women sometimes take like Botox, etc. I just find it amusing that, as you say, they are so serious about it. It is sad that they are so bent out of shape about aging.

That attitude, I think, comes from a constant sense of "me against the world" that now is almost second nature to them. They fought "the man" and now they are fighting God. I think it must be exhausting and, frankly, really boring to be that obsessed about oneself. I know that there is nothing that interesting about me or my person that could sustain my brain for such an extended period of time! And not to have a sense of humor about oneself and the slow decline of one’s youthful beauty is (apart from being pathetic and depressing) unattrative! It is the ultimate irony! They try so hard to be attractive that they make themselves ugly from the inside out. Who notices the wrinkles on the face of a laughing, happy, and well-groomed woman? This is kinda goofy and, besides, a long way to a short point--but it’s general emphaisis is correct. Part of this, too, comes from the sad fact that many of these women do not have happy or healthy relationships with men and, thus, they are in a constant state of competition with one another (i.e., forever "dating"--which must be some kind of special hell, in my view).

Julie,
The only really bad thing about remaining attractive is that, if attraction happens, you have that very awkward thing to deal with. I begin to think my grandma and her friends might have been happier in their jolly, sagging, but contented, fleshy plentitude, than my lean and hungry contemporaries. But they weren’t healthier, and health is something. To discipline the body is to keep it liveable while we have life. Dealing with a body that has sort of been allowed to run amok is painful. I am watching the generation ahead of me deal with knee replacements, hip replacements, over-taxed hearts and under-taxed lungs and muscles. Those things frighten me more than my wrinkles.


On the other hand, waking up and seeing a face in the mirror that is as rumpled as the bed one has just left is just dismaying some mornings, but amusing on most. "Oh my, what happened here?" is the response on the more aware mornings. It is really better to have something else to think about.

Kate: You’re right, health is something. But then again, it isn’t everything. And, try as we might to take care of it, sometimes our health slaps us in the face no matter what we do. (And I know that can sometimes serve as a convenient excuse.) But the precarious nature of our health is a good reminder to us to be humble and also to enjoy the good fortune (and the results of our virtue) while we have it. It’s a reminder that ultimately, we’re not really in charge--at least not of everything. A sensible mean between a war on nature and relinquishing the reigns over to her is difficult to achieve. It is even more difficult to achieve that balance along with a good sense of humor. Still, if I had to pick between a perfect balance and the sense of humor, I’d take the sense of humor and occasionally enjoy a good laugh when I fall on my ---. In the hierarchy of goods, I think humor fills a vastly more important need than health. It’s best to be perfect, of course. But it’s better to be somewhat out of shape and sane than physically healthy and neurotic. And, I think most men would agree that the former is also more attractive.

I think all of this stems from a post-modern worldview. Once we reach Hegel’s end of History, there is nothing left for (wo)man to do except experience pleasure. This to many on the Left who are pushing to achieve this in America, not only should the government provide universal healthcare and mandate gay-marriage, but also ban smoking and McDonald’s. They are not after personal freedom, they are after forcibly making everyone as happy as possible. This, of course, requires everyone to be fit and healthy so they can engage in an active sex life until their late 30s at which time they may decide to have a designer baby or two. Unfortunately, as we can see from the article, the paradise the Left is attempting to establish on Earth is not all that great in the long run.

Andy -



Once we reach Hegel’s end of History, there is nothing left for (wo)man to do except experience pleasure.



Can you explain that a little more. I’m having a hard time seeing how the eventual "Aufhebung" (a sort of lifting of rational unity to a supreme unity) Hegel predicts will lead to that . . . ???

There will be no more human concerns, no more problems to solve, etc., etc. Everything will be provided/taken care of via the State. And since History/Providence is actually God, there is no eternal other than what we can make eternal here on Earth. This is why Europe and the American Left are so into perfecting medicine, cloning, stem cell research, etc. They want to be sure there is a fresh heart availible once theirs stops working. Once people are in the mindset that we’ve reached the stage in human Progression at which we do not have any more worries (because we have universal health care and we look good naked because we’re not allowed to smoke or eat McDonald’s) then there is nothing left for us to do as human beings except find ways to occupy our time.

Hegel does not explicitly predict that, no, but he also does not say what the end of History will look like once it is reached. Post 11 attempts to explain what and why it would be.

Given the state of the world, I do NOT see the end of human concerns. Though I do see the point about people having no sense of anything eternal. But, Andrew, I do not smoke nor eat MacDonald’s, and I even have a pretty good health insurance policy, and, my dear, let’s tell people that physical perfection does NOT arrive, not here.

Julie, my husband asks if you know if Andrea Dworkin is amongst those feminists battling Nature?

Kate: I’m no expert on Dworkin’s writings and have only a general familiarity with them. Based on that, I’d have to say that ultimately, yes, Dworkin was just as much at war with Nature as any other feminist. Insofar as she called for a kind of unnatural equality between men and women, she denied the natural equality and inequality between them. On the whole, she had some good points (particularly about pornography) but she was overly-simplistic. In trying to reduce everything that society did to a kind of hostility toward women, she became absurd. All feminists strike me, as a woman, as being very unhappy about the fact of being a woman. And, since I rather enjoy it, I find them all pretty sad. To sum up (simplistically--or not) my thoughts on the equality of the sexes I’d say this: we are equally valuable but extremely different--except when we’re not. Which is to nothing more than to say that it is a delicious mystery. Feminists can never quite reconcile themselves to that mystery and they don’t find it delicious. Too bad for them.

Julie,
Then I know little more about Dworkin than you do, except that she toook a principled stand against our seeking to be attractive to men in any way, especially the visual. To be attractive like that was to invite rape, and in one screed I read long ago, written by her, all sex between men and women was reduced to rape. I think my husband’s point was that Dworkin was at war with Nature in another sense, quite unlike those feminists in the original article.


But I like what you write about the mystery within the relations between the sexes. Are we variations on the theme, which is the likeness and image of God?

Which is the likeness and image of God? Neither alone and both together would be my guess. But I’m no expert on God any more than I am on Dworkin. I knew she was accused of equating all sex with rape but, then, she denied that claim. I was not aware that she thought it was wrong to wish to appear attractive--though I have seen her picture and well . . . I guess that’s an extreme and perverted version of Puritanism--or, to put it differently, what you get when you apply Puritanism equally and in the same way to both sexes. Whatever it is, it strikes me as unhinged and extreme. And people think I’M harsh? But, ultimately, I think it still comes down to the basic and fundamental thing that all feminists have in common and that is this: they deny either that there are important differences between the sexes OR they deny that those differences must have important consequences. Once you accept that premise everything--even some of the common sense you generate (e.g., porn is bad for the soul)--starts to sound like mush-mouth. And again, there’s no humor in it . . . no willingness to laugh at our shortcomings and failings . . . let alone accept them and move on. It is a kind of intellectual arrogance that says if I cannot go to the mountain then I will make the mountain come to me. Of course, that never works, does it?

But, yes, yes, in the likeness and image of God must mean neither sex alone and both together and certainly with the masculine predominating, hence Father and Son as expressions of two-thirds of the trinity.


Most feminists I know have very harsh standards for men and do not like to be equated with them. We do have a niece who is trying very hard to be a man and denies her differences from a man in the way you suggest. I think they are all very confused as to the importance and relevance of gender differences because they hate them, as you put it, and embrace them at the same time.


Then, to defy and deny the natural way of things is to make oneself one’s god, and then where are you? If god-like, you would not need to have humor at your shortcomings and failings, because such things could not exist. If I were my own god, I wonder if I could laugh at myself?


But I was thinking, perhaps some of us are just more laughable than others. Perhaps it it is easier to laugh at ourselves, or maybe I should just speak for myself, because of such obvious short-comings, failings, and internal absurdities. Such things, and the pain of them, or pain, period, can tip nearly anything into a place where laughter and humor become necessary. In our family, it is the stuff of legend that the funniest we have ever been together was when my beloved father-in-law was dying.
We never stopped laughing because to do so was to face the truth and that was just too hard, so we told funny stories and laughed ourselves silly through the event and past the funeral process. Consider laughter as the great natural anaesthetic. Some of may need more of that than others.


And fallibility, the ungodlikeness of some of us, makes a pretension of great personal dignity, of "fulfillment," and the centrality of self. So some of us are pretty funny stuff, and to rouse a laugh, especially in others, laughter being a gift, is a good thing.

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