Zelda Bronstein Replies

Zelda Bronstein Replies

I end my article by calling for a better feminist conversation. Joanne Barkan’s response is what I have in mind, not because I agree with everything she says—I don’t—but because she meets the issues, and does so in a manner that invites real dialogue.

Barkan persuades me that my premises need clarification, and, in one instance, a significant edit. She thinks I regard all feminists as leftists—a false impression that I partly attribute to my reference to “the women’s movement and the rest of the left.” In fact, I expect American feminists to be—not leftists, but democrats (so strike “the rest of” from the foregoing citation).

Here are some of the other assumptions that inform my argument: Health care reform is a profoundly democratic issue; thus I expect it to interest feminists. Single-payer is the most equitable model of health insurance available; therefore I expect feminists to endorse it. Political nepotism threatens democratic accountability; therefore I expect feminists to question it. If feminists aren’t democrats and/or don’t support single-payer and/or resign themselves to official nepotism, especially the marital variety, I want to know why.

In other words, I’m looking for an all-out debate over feminist politics. It’s the wish for such an exchange rather than the quest for a single-minded feminism that moved me to write “Feminist Pundits.” Contrary to Barkan’s claim, I consider not only when and how many feminists assessed Hillary Clinton’s career in health care reform, but also how they went about it. The problem wasn’t only that most feminist commentators said “too little, too late”; it was their unwillingness to confront hard questions. Barkan’s rejoinder is a welcome, regrettably rare exception.

On the other hand, it’s hard to see how the political dialogue is advanced by the quibbling, acutely personal replies of Katha Pollitt and Barbara Ehrenreich. Pollitt insinuates that I simply pan her appraisals of Rodham Clinton, when actually I give them an emphatically mixed review. Among other things, I approvingly echo her request that feminists “try something different” from the adulation of pro-choice dignitaries. I’ll echo it again, in paraphrased form, as a query for Pollitt herself: why not try a more collaborative approach to (feminist) discourse?

I put the same question to Ehrenreich. It turns out that her “grave misgivings” about me pertain to my having seen only one of her numerous attacks on Hillary Clinton and hence having concluded that she has been too generous to the First Lady. Having now read her Mirabella piece, I retract any aspersions I cast on her for having hung back in her criticism. The fact is, however, that I also laud both her mordant characterization of the Clinton plan and her critique of feminist truckling to the White House. As Ehrenreich realizes, we share some major political commitments. Given these co...