On American feminism, from Chapter 11, The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, by Albert Jay Nock, 1943:
Toward the end of my term as an editor in New York I stumbled on a statement that considerably more than half the national wealth of the United States was in the hands of women. This interested me to the point of taking measures to find out if it were true; and it was true, to my surprise. I knew that the dean of St. Paul’s had described American society as an ice-water-drinking gynecocracy, but did not imagine that his view could be borne out by anything so cogent. I immediately formed the reasonable notion that so large an amount of economic control combined with full political equality, full equality of educational and cultural opportunity, and an unprecedented liberation from traditional disabilities,–all this should be showing some distinct and salutary social effects. I not only saw no signs of any such effects being produced, however, but I also saw no signs of any disposition to produce them, still less of any sense of responsibility in the premises; and this excited my curiosity. Considering the great enlargement of opportunity for American women to do what they liked with themselves, I was curious to see what, if anything, they were actually doing; and I made this a matter of observation and inquiry for several years, whenever occasion offered.
Putting the results in a word, I found they were contenting themselves with doing exactly what men do. Their conception of their new-found liberties and the use to be made of them did not reach beyond this. All the evidence I could turn up tended with unfailing regularity to this conclusion. Women entered the same trades and professions as competitors with men, played politics with the same unscrupulous predacity and mountebankery*, shared the same unintelligent habits of mind, accepted the same cultural standards, the same codes of life and manners.
*a mountebank is a “flamboyant charlatan”
Is there any better station in American political life these days than to be a female graduate of Harvard Law who started out life as a poor single mom living in a trailer? (Or, perhaps, to be a black lesbian female graduate of Harvard Law who started out life as a single mom in the ghetto—her baby daddy having been shot in a gangland slaying on his way to her house with milk and bread for her and the child and her lesbian partner. But to be all those things might make one appear to be feeding predaciously at the deep trough of the American victimization culture).
Such is the tale of Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Governor of the State of Texas. But it’s not true. It hasn’t even the ring of “essential truthiness” as Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News described Ms. Davis’ narrative. In her apologia of Ms. Davis, Ms. Carlson observed about journalism, that it is nothing “but organizing facts into a compelling narrative”. But see, the narrative needs to begin with facts.
Here’s the “compelling narrative” of Ms. Davis’ background, as posted on her campaign website:
Raised by a single mother, Wendy began working after school at age 14 to help support her mom and three siblings. By 19, she was on her way to becoming a single mother, working two jobs just to make ends meet.
Knowing that education was the only path to creating a better life for her young daughter, Wendy enrolled at Tarrant County Community College. After two years, she transferred to Texas Christian University. With the help of academic scholarships, student loans, and state and federal grants, Wendy became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, graduated first in her class, and went on to Harvard Law School.
Incidentally, notice how the statement, “By 19, she was on her way to becoming a single mother” sounds like something to which she aspired? And well, looking back on things now, and how important is the narrative to her political ambitions, a bit of truthiness was probably revealed in its tone. She was on her way at age nineteen to writing the perfect script for an ambitious female politico in 21st century America. Or, at least that’s probably how things feel today.
But here’s what actually accrued, according to The Dallas Morning News:
Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.
A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.
The article goes on to say that it was her dad that had introduced Jeff to Wendy. Her dad owned a Ft. Worth dinner theater and was friends with Jeff. So, even the part about her being raised by a single mom sounds a bit fanciful.
But all you need to know about Wendy Davis is what she said when she and Jeff were divorced, and he was awarded custody of their daughter:
“She did the right thing,” he [Jeff Davis] said. “She said, ‘I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.’”
Could there be a more selfish woman in America? (Yes, yes, I know. Of course there are more selfish women in America. So far as selfishness in American women goes, you can never be too skeptical.) She gave up custody of her daughter because it wasn’t a “good time for me right now”, even as she was making good money as a Harvard Law graduate, the tuition for which was paid by Jeff Davis from his cashing in his retirement account, and by taking out an additional loan. Jeff Davis noted the irony that Wendy decided to move out on the same day in 2003 when he made the last payment on the loan for her schooling.
Ms. Davis gained notoriety for filibustering the Texas Senate about a year ago to prevent the passage of a restriction on abortion past the age of fetus viability—a restriction to which even Ms. Carlson did not object. No matter, the theater of the filibuster in her pink running shoes worked its magic, and Ms. Davis made a name for herself, which she leveraged into a run for governor, and recently, a fluff piece on NBC’s Today Show.
A former colleague explains Ms. Davis’ character, from The Dallas Morning News article:
“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”
He said: “She’s going to find a way, and she’s going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn’t true about her, but that’s just us who knew her. But she’d be a good governor.”
With that last comment, he must have been worried of a potential reprisal, scared that she might figure out who it was had offered the assessment. Because a person who puts political ambition above even their own issue is a person who hasn’t a proper sense of priority, i.e., is a person who would make a very bad governor, so his final statement hardly flows from his description of her character. Unless it is imagined that the sleazier the politician the better.
A more insightful and truthful narrative of Wendy Davis’ life might go something like this. She was born into a white middle class family that suffered financially, like most do, when its principals divorced. She decided to get married and pregnant at a young age, perhaps to escape a dead end life at home, as compels many a young woman who pursues the strategy, but with the security of a husband in the breach. That marriage ended in divorce, like so many of its type do, probably because she figured out she had struck a poor bargain. She then struggled a bit as a single mom, but with both parents nearby to help her out (she waitressed for her dad at his movie theater and moved in with her mom after living in a trailer for a short while), the struggling wasn’t terribly severe. She then used her beauty and her dad’s connections to seduce Jeff Davis, a moderately successful lawyer, and hitched her star to his, using him to get through two years at Texas Christian (an outrageously expensive private school in Ft. Worth, TX) and then three years at Harvard Law (an outrageously expensive private school in Massachusetts). Once she had ridden his train as far as she felt it might take her, she jumped off to travel solo for a while, bringing her roughly to today, where she tries to make out like she got where she is all by her pretty little lonesome self.
Wendy Davis’ narrative of her life ought to have a disclaimer like the lead in to the 2013 movie, American Hustle, “Some of this actually happened”. In her ability to massage the truth by both commission and omission, she shows at once her bona fides as a lawyer, a politician and a feminist. Lawyers and politicians lie; feminists, as Nock pointed out in the opening passage, use their new found liberties to behave just as men would. Nock wrote that in the early 1940’s. Plus ca change.
In the Dallas Morning News article, Davis acknowledged some problems with her narration:
“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
“Broader, looser language” is a euphemism for obfuscation and prevarication, things at which male politicians have been always expert. Once she perfects the art, she might even be qualified to serve on the Federal Reserve Board.
Incidentally, she’s really pretty. A bombshell blonde. Label her political career, blonde ambition, because at least regarding her education, it appears to be her beauty is what financed it.