I don’t know whether Katie Roiphe believes in God, but she certainly believes in the Great Godmother in the Sky, Betty Friedan.
You see, if you are a feminist you bear a primary moral responsibility to satisfy the ideological zeal of Mistress Betty, even now that she has passed over into the beyond.
If a woman does not define herself as Mistress Betty would have wished, junior members of the thought police, like Katie Roiphe, will call her out and will expose her as a traitor to the cause.
If she is not a feminist, it doesn’t matter. Feminists believe that all women are natural-born feminists. This means that all women can be forced to adhere to feminist values, lest they be denounced as sellouts to the patriarchy.
What could it be that has so agitated Katie Roiphe? Could it be the oppression of women in Muslim countries? Of course not.
Roiphe is lathered up because when she turns to the Facebook pages of her female friends she discovers, in the place where she was expecting to see their smiling countenance, a picture of a child.
Roiphe is grievously offended by the fact that these women should have chosen—dare I say, freely—to place a picture of a child on their Facebook page in the place where they should be, as Roiphe sees it, defining their personal identity.
Mistress Betty would not approve. To her zealous mind a woman’s identity is based on personal achievements, especially the ones associated with work.
And Mistress Betty would only approve of women who define themselves, above all else as feminists.
How many women will now think twice before putting up pictures of their children on Facebook? How many women will feel that they now have the right, even the sacred duty, to attack women who post pictures of their children as traitors to the feminist cause?
And what do you think Mistress Betty would have said about pictures of a woman with her husband or boyfriend?
For feminists, “wife” is the ultimate four-letter. Normally, feminists have no real argument with motherhood.
For reasons that escape me Roiphe emphasizes mothers and children; she ignores the possibility that the woman might also be a wife.
If you thought that feminism was about equal rights and free choice, think again. Putting aside the politics, feminists want to dictate how women live their lives.
If you think I am exaggerating, read what Roiphe wrote in the Financial Times:
If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?
Ay, there’s the rub. It’s all about “the construction of women’s identity.” Or so Roiphe would like.
In truth, feminism does not allow women to construct their identities freely. It insists that they construct an identity that would confirm the prejudice of ideological fanatics like Mistress Betty.
Of course, women, like men have the right to construct their social identity freely. But that does not mean that any man or woman creates his or her social identity out of nothing.
Society confers roles. You may or may not like it, but he women who are showing pictures of their children are not only expressing pride in their children but they are affirming their roles as mothers.
Feminism does not want women to define themselves as mothers or wives. It insists that they define themselves primarily as feminists.
Many of these women work. Many of them are in book clubs. Many of them are involved in causes, or have interests that take them out of the house. But this is how they choose to represent themselves. The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafés and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when fresh-scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes.
One wonders why anyone should care whether Roiphe or Mistress Betty is seriously offended, but, alas, many women take this swill seriously.
Think of it, these women belong to book clubs. They militate for God knows what… and they have the gall to portray themselves as mothers. That’s what Roiphe is saying.
For reasons that must be clear to feminists, Roiphe believes that these women are engaging in “a larger and more ominous self-effacement.”
You see, if you put a picture of young Clarissa on your Facebook page, you are effacing yourself, obliterating your identity in favor of your daughter.
Roiphe does manage to pay lip service to the importance of children:
One’s children are an important achievement, and arguably one’s most important achievement, but that doesn’t mean that they are who you are.
Of course, no woman thinks that she is her children. Roiphe, however, believes that being a feminist, sacrificing your life for an ideological cause is who you are. Why else would she worry about how Mistress Betty would feel.
Later, Roiphe adds that this use of a child’s picture is a “particular form of narcissism.” A strange thought, indeed, since Narcissus drowned while looking at his own image in a pond, not while gazing at pictures of his (imaginary) children.
I don’t want to say that Roiphe does not know what narcissism is. Perhaps she is just pretending not to know.
Still, I have no idea how she can assert that a woman who shows off her toddlers is saying that “I don’t matter any more.”
Apparently, she is so lost in her veneration of Mistress Betty that she does not understand that for young children mothers matter enormously. They matter so much that women work very hard trying to be good mothers, to the point where they share advice and counsel with other mothers.
And, these women are proud of themselves for being good mothers and are proud of their children. Only a zealot could see something wrong in that.
Roiphe believes that these women have sold out the feminist cause. In truth, it means that they love their children and take their responsibilities seriously.
Roiphe gets especially annoyed when she goes to a dinner party where her friend, “who wrote her senior thesis in college on Proust, who used to stay out drinking till five in the morning in her twenties,” is sitting around with other women talking about her children.
The indignity of it all. There ought to be a law.
We do not know whether we should be more in awe of the fact that she wrote a thesis on Proust or that she used to stay out all night drinking.
Which would be the greater achievement? Which deserves a place on her resume?
After a while you start thinking that this is self-parody. Didn’t everyone write a thesis on Proust? Have you ever read a senior thesis on Proust? If you ever have, you will never again see the act as the summit of human achievement. Take my word for it.
And how does it happen that staying out all night drinking makes its way on to anyone’s resume?
What sensible woman defines herself by her senior college thesis, her drinking binges and not by her being a mother to her children, or, Heaven forfend, wife to her husband?
Roiphe finds the development ominous. It would sorely displease Mistress Betty:
These Facebook photos signal a larger and more ominous self-effacement, a narrowing of worlds. Think of a dinner party you just attended, and your friend, a brilliant and accomplished woman. Think about how throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids.
What is even more ominous is the notion that Katie Roiphe and the feminist thought police should presume to dictate what women should and should not discuss at dinner parties.