In principle, feminism stands for the right to choose. It stands for women’s freedom to choose.
Most of us know that it’s a ploy. In Feministland a woman has the right to choose, but only if she makes the right choice. That is, if she makes a choice that advances the feminist agenda.
Witness Amal Alamuddin Clooney, human rights attorney, recently become wife of famed actor George Clooney.
Truth be told, few stories have interested me less. But then the story got interesting when Amal Alamuddin decided to change her name, to replace her father’s name with her husband’s, thereby producing a feminist freak out.
From a feminist perspective she had been spirited away, even kidnapped by the patriarchy. One feminist, Catherine Mayer—and no, I hadn’t heard of her, either—wrote an article where she cried out: “Give us back Amal.”
Given her zealotry we do not expect very much serious thought from someone like Mayer, but it is fair to note that Amal did not change her first name. She is still Amal.
Mayer was not writing in a trendy website like Jezebel; she was writing in Time Magazine. Thus, her views have a larger reach. And they help explain why no one reads Time Magazine any more.
For Mayer the enemy is not just Mrs. Clooney’s free choice, but the institution of marriage itself:
Throughout her adult life, this 36-year-old attorney specializing in international jurisprudence, extradition and criminal law has stood on her own merits — accomplished, independent, respected. Now her identity risks being spirited away as the sculptures she seeks to repatriate once were. Even in the 21st century and among First-World elites, marriage retains the power to transform women into appendages, while celebrity culture reliably reduces females to ciphers.
At its onset second-wave feminism was widely seen to be anti-marriage. And it was widely seen to have precipitated a wave of divorces. Eventually, even Betty Friedan walked back her early negative views of marriage and childrearing.
For the new Mrs. Clooney, Mayer offers as a wedding present… insult, invective and contempt. In Mayer’s eyes, Amal been reduced to an appendage, a cipher.
As a rhetorical strategy Mayer is acting like a cult leader threatening any woman who would choose to take her husband’s name upon marrying. Or, any woman who would—Heaven forfend—abandon her career to bring up her children.
As it happens, the only person who believes that the new Mrs. Clooney has been diminished and degraded is Catherine Mayer. You would think that Mrs. Clooney had, horror of horrors, become a housewife.
Some might believe that Amal Clooney has a right to choose. After all, its her marriage and her life and her career. Why should she not be free to choose how she wants to conduct all three of them?
Mayer is having nothing of the idea. She remarks that the marriage was a grand media event and that therefore… whatever. She seems to believe that since the Clooneys are in the public eye she, Catherine Mayer has a right to tell them what to do.
Mayer is also saying that since Mrs. Clooney is a public figure she had a responsibility to sustain the feminist cause.
Surely, we do not have to strain to be more generous than the mean-spirited Mayer.
For all we know, Amal Clooney was thrilled to get married. Perhaps she wanted to have the wedding that she had. And, maybe she likes to dress fashionably. These are not crimes.
Mayer believes that Amal has sold out the feminist cause. At which point you have to ask what exactly does the feminist cause demand of women.
Strangely, Mayer is denouncing Mrs. Clooney in terms that resemble those that religious fanatics use to denounce apostates.
The problem — and the reason the media repurposing of Clooney from queen of jurisprudence to hair-queen matters — is that there is still a dearth of women who rise to prominence through their own merits, reflecting the harsh reality of a world resolutely skewed against female achievement.
Many interlocking mechanisms keep women down, but in watching the transmogrification — and trivialization — of Clooney we are witnessing one of the most pernicious of these.
Yes, indeed… more feminist tripe. Do you really believe that the media is focusing on Mrs. Clooney’s hair and dress because it is part of an organized conspiracy to keep women down? Must a successful professional woman walk around in overalls to receive the feminist seal of approval?
Would the feminists have felt any better if Mrs. Clooney had not married, had not chosen to dress fashionably and had not wanted, perhaps, to have a family? Would they have been more pleased if she had sacrificed her personal life for the cause?
Do feminists now want women to believe that they have to choose between marriage and career, or better, between fashion and dowdiness?
Mayer seems to think so:
A brilliant lawyer and strong female role model is being misappropriated, to be put on show as the latest exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women.
Whatever makes anyone think that Amal Clooney has been disempowered? And who allowed Catherine Mayer to criticize, even to excoriate women for exercising their freedom to choose?