Sexism in the Head
THERE is a point in life when every woman is a feminist. Generally it’s in the college years when ideas have more glamor and excitement than they ever will have again, or in the first years out on a job, which teach the truth of feminist books and pamphlets. The men during those years are still there to be argued with; they haven’t been drained off by marriage.
And since feminism is the only idea a woman can really grasp in her nature, can feel without having to know very much about the history or literature of the movement, discussing the position of women with men is a good preliminary to (or substitute for) sleeping with them, a disguised way of discussing oneself. It makes life personal again at a time when the personality feels the first thrust of the world’s indifference.
And it does so again later, after a divorce or two or a number of years without satisfaction in marriage or advancement in a career, but the men are now in short supply, and a woman who feels a sense of connection with feminist philosophy in her late twenties or early thirties is apt to feel isolated by it. The position has lost its sexiness; its capacity to illuminate life in personal terms has become a negative one. To a healthy woman it becomes a burden-she can move faster and farther without it; but to the less fortunate-those who can’t expel the poisons of self-pity or sexual jealousy or utopian reed-feminism is a solipsistic haven, a place in the psyche where all the bad and bitter feelings unite, where unbearably personal failures are rationalized by a belief in organic failures in society. Feminism, because it is fundamentally self-expression with nothing outside the self to express, can be outgrown even when there remain feminist issues to be cleared up. At twenty it’s useful and fulfilling to be a feminist; at thirty (and over) it’s indulgent and wasteful and, at the present moment in history, not a little crazy.
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