Saturday, November 10, 2007

Class, anger and blogging

Cathleen Shine reviews Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories in The New York Review of Books and it is a massive improvement over the Ana Marie Cox review of Pollitt's previous Virginity or Death! in the NYTimes. Although that's not especially high praise since Ana Marie Cox is trying to be the sucessor to the shallow catty Maureen Dowd.

Barbara Ehrenreich has a great response to it.

I haven't read Pollitt's latest book in its entirety, but have read many of the individual essays.

I'm a long-time fan of Pollitt but one thing that tends to annoy me about Pollitt is that her views are shaped by her upper middle class upbringing. She's lived a bit of a sheltered life which is a primary reason why she didn't learn to drive until she was 52. She learned to drive because she bought a house on the Connecticut shore. I learned to drive because public transportation in South Jersey is a joke and I needed to drive myself to a series of crappy low-paying jobs in third-hand junkers - one of those jobs was driving instructor.

Not to pick on Pollitt - inevitably the people who make a living as writers come from comfortable backgrounds. Because the decision-makers come from that class, and as with any career, it's who you know.

But at least, as a liberal, Pollitt doesn't let her own good fortune blind her to the harsh realities of the poor - one of the major differences between well-off liberals and well-off conservatives.

I have to wonder if her idealism causes her to get the arrows of causality wrong in her interview with Terri Gross. She and Gross discuss rambling guys and how women are supposedly attracted to rambling guys. Pollitt suggests that women are attracted to rambling guys because women want to be rambling guys themselves. This is pure idealism, and has nothing to do with the realities of sexual economics.

Rambling guys aren't sexy because they ramble, rambling guys can ramble because they are sexy. If the rambling guy wasn't sexy to begin with, few or no women would get involved with him. There are sexy guys who don't ramble - but sexy monogamous guys can easily find a partner. Which often leaves women who can't find sexy men with the option of settling down with non-sexy guys, or taking up with sexy non-monogamous guys. And since sexy rambling guys will ramble into many women during the course of their years of sexual attractiveness, it makes sense that many women will end up having some kind of contact with those guys.

This is not an idealistic empowering view of women. Although it isn't non-empowering either. It's rather neutral - it reflects the reality of the scarcity of sexy yet trustworthy men.

But it does piss me off - a leading thinker of feminism doesn't get that reality. In fact, I don't know of any professional thinker who does. They all have some idealistic explanation for the ways of the world, that are only marginally better than just-so stories of the evolutionary psychologists.

If it wasn't for this blog, I'd be even more frustrated and angry about this state of things. Not that I think my readership compares to Pollitt's. But it beats writing letters to the editor.