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Now after forced busing achieves integration at all schools, we must recognize the justice of women’s demands for creative sexual separatism. We must acknowledge the independent dignity of “‘female culture” by establishing “female studies programs” that will cleanse the sex-bias from our hairychested university curricula.
The “historical sexism” that lavishes attention on Napoleon while downgrading the contributions of Catherine d’Medici and Katherine von Bora must end. We must demand that the time devoted to Catherine the Great be proportionate to the real uniqueness of her behavior. Fairness demands that if Faulkner is studied, there must be equal time for Eudora Welty. The principle of literary sex parity requires trade-offs between Sinclair Lewis and Ayn Rand, or Norman Mailer and Taylor Caldwell. And breathes there a woman with a soul so dead, who never to herself has said, “One Hemingway deserves a Willa Cather?”
Some persons worry that women’s liberation will distract us from the all-important task of fending off environmental apocalypse. But that worry betrays an insufficiently systemic view, for the new science of “issue ecology” teaches that every issue is related to every other issue in this troubled biosphere.
Dr. Mary Calerone, director of the Sex information and Education council of the United States, recently demonstrated awareness of this when she told the Women’s National Democratic Club that, “The primary ecological system that all other systems need to serve is the relationship between a man and a women. It, too, is subject to pollution.” Clearly there are more forms of pollution under the sun than appear in the Sierra Club’s philosophy.
Dr. Calderone understands the charm of “environment” as a political issue. One cannot turn around (or roll over in bed) without rubbing up against environment. This is deliciously egalitarian. Anyone with a grievance is relevant now that “environmental concern” is the measure of relevance.
Fastidious people may claim that Dr. Calderone is contributing to semantic pollution in order to make her cause congruent with this month’s priorities. But it is tolerant to believe that pollution is in the eye of the beholder. Anything that bothers you is a pollutant of your environment.
Of course, when we sweep every one of the world’s disagreeable features into the “environment crisis” we turn the term “environment” into a classification that doesn’t classify. But while the term loses precision, it gains an ability to make one feel au courant, which is how I feel when I can classify bad books, shoddy arguments and Senator Fulbright as “pollutants” and ecological disasters. Women liberators must feel relevant twice over — as freedom fighters and environment cleaners.
Female assertiveness is going to have some dramatic effects on American life. If women shun jobs to which they were once relegated, who will be airline stewardesses? The day may come when the traveler slumps wearily into his seat, only to hear a rich baritone voice asking “Coffee, tea or milk?” Thus the women’s liberation movement may rescue the railroad passenger business. Women may break the sex barriers in many occupations. Someday a woman may play tight end for the Baltimore Colts. Then imagine the spectator interest that would arise over a 15-yard penalty for illegal use of the hands and arms?
Finally there is the stigma of servitude attached to the exclusive use of women in the Playboy centerfold. Equity demands a color centerfold of Joe Namath, stapled in the navel. This will give men a sample of the shame and horror women feel when they are cast in the role of pliable sex objects.
There is one basic reason why women are victims of capitalism, male chauvinism, institutional sexism, imperialism, objectification, Hugh Hefner, psychological deformation, moral mutilation and physical exploitation. The reason? Women have nice bodies, and fortunately, government cannot do much about that.
We are much in need of a conspicuous problem, which clearly cannot be solved by government. Some Americans do not believe such a problem exists. But the soft, warm, intractable fact about women’s problems may teach these Americans an invaluable lesson about the very finite capabilities of government.
Women’s liberation will not be a gift of government. Women must save themselves. Most important, they must not be betrayed into servility by “Aunt Toms,” those collaborationists who trade their birthrights for a mess of service. No woman will be free until all women are willing to step on cockroaches. This is a stern test, but as the philosopher said, if women can’t stand the heat they should stay in the kitchen.
George F. Will graduated from Trinity College in 1962, received a degree from Oxford University, Magdalen College in 1964 and earned his Ph. D. from Princeton in 1968. Mr. Will is twenty-nine and instructs physical education in Washington, D.C.
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