The Nation's Pulse

If Mothers Ruled the World

Sally Field sets women back a century.

By 9.21.07

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As I watched Sally Field's primetime Emmy rant to the effect that there'd be no wars if only women ran the world, I found myself wondering, "When was the last time you spent any time with a group of women? Have you watched Desperate Housewives or The View?"

Until I married, my best friends were both women and men. Now, my best friend is my husband and I'm fortunate to have many good friends, both men and women. I grew up with three brothers, no sisters. I had close girl friends, but I felt sorry for my friends who had sisters because they were always fighting with them, especially over clothing. A quintessential nerd with a very bad haircut, I experienced no blissful feelings of sisterhood with my sixth grade classmates. In high school, I rather enjoyed being on the debate team because it wasn't just girls. After a few months of living in an all-girls dorm in college, I was convinced that I probably didn't have a religious vocation since I couldn't relish the idea of living with a bunch of women for the rest of my life. Though I came to realize that more would have to factor into the discernment of a religious vocation, my opinion of communal living with women did not change after four years of dorm life.

While I don't fault single sex dorms -- in fact I applaud them -- I can't quite understand the misplaced Victorian sentiment that women are peaceful, peace loving, always benign, and always loving. Maybe that was the case before Adam and Eve ate the apple; but since then women, like men, are imperfect human beings.

Michelle Malkin wrote an excellent piece explaining why Sally Field does not speak for her. (My favorite line: "We have nothing in common but stretch marks.") Malkin deftly makes the case why mothers shouldn't be pushover pacifists. As I thought more about Sally Field's remarks I realized that she's typecasting women just like Betty Friedan stereotyped women in the suburbs of 1950s and '60s.

Field got caught somewhere in the midst of her various television and movie roles. Her Gidget and Flying Nun characters epitomized the warm, fuzzy, trite characterization of women that the feminists decried. Make no mistake, Field has played a lot of strong characters, but she's throwing it all away to suggest that all women really are like women in Gidget-land. And if we were in charge, there would be no wars and nothing bad would happen. Unfortunately, Gidget wasn't a particularly deep character; so Field communicated strength by screaming at the audience and using a little vulgarity. How very unGidget-like. How very unwomanly. How weak. If anything, her lack of control personifies the "little woman" who really shouldn't trouble her head about important things, especially things like war.

In the first part of her acceptance speech for her role in the television program Brothers and Sisters, Field acknowledges the complementary roles of men and women when she identifies producers, directors, etc., as "mothers" and "fathers." Mothers and fathers are creative by definition. They love each other, create a family, and welcome new life into the world. You can't get more complementary than that. Yet, in the span of less than 60 seconds, Field relaunches the battle of the sexes and loses.

Yes, women can and should have a civilizing effect on the world. But so should men. And while we may do things differently (or not), we should be working together -- not unlike good mothers and fathers, not unlike the team that is responsible for her television program, not unlike the men and women who work together in every aspect of society including the military.

Note to Ms. Field (and Ms. Sheehan) -- there would be no wars if there weren't people who did bad things to other people. In some cases, war is a good thing because it means good people -- good women and men -- are standing up for themselves and for those who can't stand up for themselves.

Trivializing something as serious as war by suggesting that it's all the fault of some icky boys is counter-effective to any substantial gains that women have made in the past century. It leaves us back in the elementary school playground with the boys and girls separating themselves and afraid of catching each other's cooties. That's okay as long as it's a short phase in your life. Accomplished adults should be beyond that.

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