Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Intellectual Honesty Watch: Katie Roiphe Edition

Last week we discussed anxiety and motherhood, which was based on Katie Roiphe's experiences as a new mother headed back to work. In some parts of the Internets, Roiphe's article was attacked. We only attacked it for a very stupid paragraph.

Well, Roiphe has a new article up on Slate in which she states:
No, I am not responsible for the subtitle, nor did I see it until the piece was on the site, which is in no way unusual.)... To answer some of the other comments: Nowhere in the piece did I tell anyone else how to live. Nowhere did I suggest that my experience of the first days of motherhood was any better, richer, or more interesting than anyone else's. (To me, the addiction metaphor implies a derangement and desperation not entirely to be recommended.) Nowhere in the piece did I attack anyone for having a different viewpoint or experience. (Though frankly one does worry about the fragile commenter: If someone chooses to wear an orange dress are you hurt because of the implied critique of your yellow one?) Nowhere did I say that feminists hate babies. In fact, my own mother was a feminist, and I like to think she liked me.

While the first two sentences maybe fine, though they are quite debatable, the third sentence reveals a lack of memory. Last week, Roiphe wrote:
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment.
It seems to be quite the trick to blast a group of individuals, all of whom have, according to the author, the same dishonest viewpoint, but not "attack anyone for having a different viewpoint."


harrogate said...

Hmmm, solon, Harrogate is not so sure that the two are irreconcilable.

"Minor dishonesty" is interesting phrasing, Harrogate rather likes it in this context. Feminism in all its variants, like all political movements and ideological positions for that matter, are shot through with "minor" and "major" dishonesties.

That's what ideology does.

Harrogate still, though, finds Roiphe's originl article and this one to be for the most part painfully banal. Nothing she is putting out there seems to be stuff that hasn't occured to just about everyone who thinks about the subject.

M said...

Excellent point, Harrogate. I know that I have certainly considered all--or at least most--of Roiphe's points.

I do find it interesting that Roiphe describes her mother as a feminist but not herself. Of course, I always find it interesting when women around my age (I think Roiphe is a few years older) and in my profession (she is a prof at NYU in the Department of Journalism and has a Ph.D. in English) do not identify themselves as feminists. I find it especially interesting with someone like Roiphe, whose own mother is a noted feminist. I'm not arguing that all women have to be feminists. I do find it very, very ironic, however, that Roiphe has built a lot of her career out of publicly critiquing the very ideology that enables her to offer such critique. But then, I guess that is what feminism set out to do: to enable women to speak publicly about issues they feel passionately about. I wish at some point, though, that Roiphe would acknowledge that she is reaping the benefits of feminism AND then get on with her critique.

As an aside, I must confess that, having followed Roiphe's work off and on for some time, I find her so irritating for a variety of reasons that I want to contradict myself and refer to her as "Katie" rather than Roiphe.