New York Times columnist Judith Warner's latest web column, "Dangerous Resentment," sees "archaic, phantasmagoric" hatred in the case of Montana State professor Bridget Kevane, arrested for child endangerment for leaving five pre-teen kids (three of them her own) at a mall so she could get some rest. In a piece for a parenting magazine, Kevane painted herself as a victim of the country's hatred of educated women, and Warner channeled Kevane's piece for her column, the original title of which was, judging by the URL: "Don't Hate Her Because She's Educated." Actually, Kevane provided another reason to dislike her, though Warner took her side in the controversy:
Two years ago in June, Bridget Kevane, a professor of Latin American and Latino literature at Montana State University, drove her three kids and two of their friends -- two 12-year-old girls, and three younger kids, age 8, 7 and 3 -- to a mall near their home in Bozeman. She put the 12-year-olds in charge, and told them not to leave the younger kids alone. She ordered that the 3-year-old remain in her stroller. She told them to call her on their cell phone if they needed her.
And then she drove home for some rest.About an hour later, she was summoned back to the mall by the police, who charged her with endangering the welfare of her children.
Warner is taking all her case facts from Kevane's first-person account in Brainchild -- the magazine for thinking mothers. (There's elitism worth hating right there. Does that imply most mothers are unthinking?) Warner argued that "Kevane's error in judgment" didn't add up to anything like child endangerment. Fair enough. But then she goes off the rails in "phantasmagorical" fashion:
The issue I want to take up today, however, is not that of tricky choices, or over- or under-involved parenting, questions that have already been discussed with much gusto elsewhere. What really sent my head spinning after reading Kevane's story was the degree to which it drove home the fact that our country's resentment, and even hatred, of well-educated, apparently affluent women is spiraling out of control.
This is a rehash of the self-satisfied liberal canard trotted out to defend Hillary Clinton, et al.: That males, especially conservative males, just can't handle strong, educated women. One can't help noticing that Warner is only getting one side of the story: Kevane's, straight out of the elitist parenting magazine. Given that this victimized "well-educated" woman is having her story told sympathetically and in a one-sided way by a journalist (?) for the New York Times, perhaps the environment for them isn't really all that unfair.Then came the really kooky part. When pinning the blame, Warner came around, as she has done before in her columns, to the threatening anti-feminist bewitcher that haunts the dreams of all properly educated liberal women: Sarah Palin.
This simmering resentment is common and pervasive in our culture right now. The idea that women with a "major education" think they're better than everyone else, have a great sense of entitlement, feel they deserve special treatment, and are too out of touch with the lives of "normal" women to have a legitimate point of view, is a 21st-century version of the long-held belief that education makes women uppity and leads them to forget their rightful place. It's precisely the kind of thinking that has fueled Sarah Palin's unlikely -- and continued -- ability to pass herself off as the consummately "real" American woman. (And it is what has made it possible for her supporters to discredit other women's criticism of her as elitist cat fighting.)
Warner sees Victorian-era sexism alive and well today, which hardly explains the puzzling fact that she is getting paid by a major American news organization to publish psychobabble.
The idea that women with "major educations" are somehow suspect, the desire to smack them down and tell them "to be quiet" is hardly new. At the end of the 19th century, as increasing numbers of women began for the first time to pursue higher education, a campaign began, waged by prominent doctors, among others, against these new unnatural monsters, whose vital energies were being diverted from their wombs to their brains. In the last quarter of the 20th century, feminists were routinely delegitimized as brainy elitists ignorant of and unconcerned with the plight of ordinary women.
And guess who's helping to smack women down and put professors of Latino literature in jail? Yep.
This is why Palin -- in her down-home aw-shucks posturing -- is the 21st-century face of the backlash against women's progress. This is why Kevane could be threatened and humiliated in front of her kids, menaced with jail time and ultimately railroaded into cutting a deal with the prosecution, once she realized she'd never be popular enough with local jurors to have a shot at making a successful not-guilty plea in court. (Paradox of paradoxes, as part of her deferred prosecution agreement, she was sentenced to even more education: in the form of a parenting class.)
The hatred of women -- in all its archaic, phantasmagoric forms -- is still alive and well in our society, and when directed at well-educated women, it's socially acceptable, too. Think of this for a second the next time you're inexplicably moved to put an "elite" woman in her place.
What if you're quite explicably moved to put a deluded "elite" female columnist in her place?