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Naomi Wolf doesn’t have anything to say to me

October 19, 2011

[News Update: On the one day, I sit and bitch about Naomi Wolf, she gets arrested. So Weird. Anyway. This post is not about what happened last night.]

In the first few pages of her first chapter (Work) from The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf pumps out a lot of statistics for us. She tells us that women work a lot (twice as much as men). She talks about how women’s roles outside the domestic sphere are systematically met with resistance from the patriarchy. Her famous thesis is that women are burdened by a mythical beauty standard that works effectively to drag her down.

The failures of American and even European state-funded child care act as an effective drag on the momentum of this immigrant group. [women’s group]. But those women who can afford to have been hiring poorer women to do their domestic work and take over their child care. So, the tactic of obstruction from lack of child care became inadequate to hold back the class of women the power structure had the most to fear.

According to Wolf, the group of women “who the power structure had the most to fear” were educated women who had jobs that afforded them child care help. This is the only time in the chapter, that these “poorer women” are directly evoked. In a chapter about labor.

Re-reading The Beauty Myth will end before it really begins.

It is the complete erasure, utter absence of acknowledging that women of color, actual immigrant women (not the entire gender of women, who she refers to as an “immigrant group who are the majority”) have been working (and working hard) long before white women started graduating from college and getting jobs in offices. It is safely flinging women of color to far off “developing/third world countries” to avoid discussing the labor of the woman who is cleaning your house, taking care of your children, serving your food, working in your factories.

The one-income household was a fairy tale for communities of color long before it became one for white communities. It is beyond me to understand how one writes a chapter on labor rights without accounting for class and race. Unless this counts.

There has never been such a potentially destabilizing immigrant goup [women’s group] asking for a fair chance to compete for access to power. Consider what threatens the power structure in the stereotypes of other newcomers. […] Third World patterns of grueling work at low pay. And the African-American underclass in the United States is feared for the explosive fusion of minority consciousness and rage.

The patriarchy are trembling at white women (like no other “immigrant group”) and will work to keep her down. Classic. To equate women with the term “majority immigrant”, one must necessarily include all women (women of color, poor women, etc.). But when it comes to describing what the “majority immigrant group’s” experiences might be, we must be compliant in dismissing the experiences of poor women, women of color. They only matter when they are needed to make a clever, rhetorical point.

Time to spin away from that center. In fact, it’s long overdue.


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