Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What's a Modern Girl to Do?

Well, this article is depressing as all hell. I don't think it's meant entirely seriously -- Maureen Dowd cares more about being provocative than she does about being right -- but the statistics she cites in the "Power Dynamics" section are enough to make any thinking woman gag (particularly since for every 16 extra I.Q. points we use to think about the statistics, we're becoming 40 percent less likely to get married). I don't have any idea what to do about that.

But I do know that the feminist movement was not designed to limit women's choices by telling us that we have to keep our maiden names or always wear flat shoes or go to law school and then make partner. Rather, it was designed to open those choices up so that they were as wide and varied and full as men's, so our lives could be as wide and varied and full as men's. We feminists sometimes condemn more traditional female roles (as Dowd implicitly does in this article) because it's hard to see a woman choose not to take those hard-won freedoms; but choice, possibility, is really what feminism is all about. No more, no less.

So here is what I think we Modern Girls should do:

  1. Know what will make us happy. For some women it's a husband and family. For some women it's job satisfaction. For some women it's sexual liberation. For some women it's a Prada dress. For some women it's intellectual work. For some women it's a clean house. For some women it's a really good book. For some women it's religious service. For most of us it is all of the above, or several of the above, or some of the above plus a bunch of things I've left off.
  2. Go after that. Or as much of that as we can.
  3. Let go of the need to have all of it. We probably cannot have it all perfectly, but we can have a lot of it badly, and if it makes us happy, that' s more than good enough.
  4. Recognize that every woman has the right to make different choices, just as every man does.
  5. Support each other. Or at least, if we can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
  6. Wear the clothes and makeup that please us and suit whatever situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes this will involve dressing to look sexy, because that is a perfectly acceptable thing to want to do and to do. I quote Bootsy Collins: "You have to bring some funk to get some funk." But sometimes this will involve sweatpants. Both have their time and place.
  7. Use birth control.
  8. Protest the Samuel Alito nomination. However one feels about abortion (and my own opinion varies wildly), it is a personal question, not one for the Supreme Court to decide. And the moment he gets confirmed, it's decided.
  9. Take care of ourselves. Physically: Sleep. Eat right and exercise, with occasional dark chocolate. Emotionally: Communicate. Rest. Spiritually, if so inclined: Be quiet. Pray. Mentally: Read Jane Austen as well as Us Weekly.
  10. Love deeply -- our friends, our boyfriends, our parents, our husbands, our lovers, our siblings, our children, our work, our communities, our activities, our pets, even our things -- and value all the love in our lives, not just the kind we get from men. I get frustrated sometimes when I read a novel and a character decides that his or her career success really doesn't matter because s/he doesn't have anyone to share it with (particularly when this is the big personal epiphany leading to the romantic climax) -- privileging romantic love over every other kind of love that exists. God knows romantic love may be the most dizzying and dramatic and intoxicating love there is, and the most satisfactory when it's reciprocated and fulfilled; but it is likewise the least predictable and the least controllable, and often the hardest to find. So let us love our friends (particularly our girlfriends), who will be there in every circumstance; our work, especially if it offers the pleasures of service or accomplishment or creation; our families and homes; our lives, with or without romance. The loving, the emotion, is what gives meaning.
  11. Feel free to disagree with me -- and make our own rules.


  1. hrm.. You should check out the Maureen Dowd interview in New York Magazine. I believe that is online at www.nymetro.com or something.

  2. >sigh< no matter what she says or what our reactions to her are, Maureen Dowd is...well, Maureen Dowd. I'm not seriously at all she means things.

    After all, (if my memory serves me correctly) she makes references back to the "Sarcasm is dangerous. Avoid it altogether" line from that book her mother gave her. No, not On Becoming a Woman or 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger (that made me snort), but the one that advises that you "[think] of yourself as a soft mysterious cat" -- How to Catch and Hold a Man. Yes, avoid sarcasm. It's dangerous. :-P

    That being said, I fully agree with everything else you say. Because, well, you're Cheryl & you're good like that :-)

  3. Love your rules. A good response to the depressing article.