Back at the shack, Swamp Rabbit made gagging noises as he paged through The New York Times Book Review. He read aloud a quote-out from a review of The XX Factor, British economist Alison Wolf’s book about the growing divide between working-class women and the relatively small percentage of women who, in recent years, have landed high-level professional jobs:
Wolf says that universal sisterhood is dead, with elite women sharing the ambitions and concerns not of most other women, but of elite men.
“Universal sisterhood,” the rabbit repeated. “I musta got caught in one of them time warps. Is this 1970, or what?”
I snatched the paper and read the review. The rodent’s point was that the reviewer makes the author sound as if she cares more about the progress of elite women than about the vast majority of workers, male and female, who are facing what looks like a permanent reduction in their living standards. As Joseph Stieglitz recently wrote:
In many EU countries, GDP remains lower, or insignificantly above, pre-recession levels. Almost 27 million Europeans are unemployed. Similarly, 22 million Americans who would like a full-time job cannot find one. Labor-force participation in the US has fallen to levels not seen since women began entering the labor market in large numbers. Most Americans’ income and wealth are below their levels long before the crisis. Indeed, a typical full-time male worker’s income is lower than it has been in more than four decades.
The rabbit downed a shot of Wild Turkey and ruminated out loud. He professed to be shocked that some feminist academics are only now grasping that women who land elite jobs tend to be as indifferent as elite men to the plight of the poor, including their poor “sisters.” He wondered why some of these academics still won’t acknowledge that the great divide in the developed world is determined by class (meaning money), not gender or race; that sisterhood is and always was a fatuous myth.
“I hear you, Swamp Rabbit,” I said. “But a lot of women would think your remarks are sexist.”
“They’re wrong, I read Erica Jong,” he said, paraphrasing Bob Dylan. “I wanted to git it on with Germaine Greer back in the day, but she didn’t think I was feral enough.”
It’s fairly obvious that most of the old, reliable feminist issues don’t resonate with most women these days. The problem of whether to work or stay home with the kids, for example, is only relevant to the small subset of women — and men — who can afford to make that choice. The rabbit showed me this, from a recent AP story:
Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday that the income gap in the United States has increased to the point where members of the middle class resemble the Americans who lived in poverty when he occupied the White House.
You’ve come a long way, baby, as the women’s cigarette ad used to say. All the way back to a system under which most people are either very well-off or poor and getting poorer.
Footnote: The full title of Wolf’s book is The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World. Here’s an excerpt.