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May 06, 2006

Caitlyn Flanagan

By Ezra

Something -- besides the obvious stupidity woven into the fabric of her argument -- has been bugging me about Flanagan's plea for forbearance from her Democratic brothers and sisters, and I finally figured out what it is:

there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn't in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags.

Barbara Eherenreich isn't a Democrat. Nor is Salon a Democratic organ, nor the Upper West Side the official Democratic headquarters. Flanagan isn't being attacked by the "Democratic Party," she's just pissy because the "Democratic Party" hasn't mounted a frontal assault against those who disagree with her lifestyle choices. Indeed, this is just an extension of Flanagan's normal romantic arguments to politics: she is a weak, vulnerable women in need of protection. Whether the answer is a strong man or an attentive party, the common problem is always her protested helplessness, which she insists all women share. The Democratic Party did nothing to Flanagan save not take sufficient notice of her assailants. And for that they get lambasted in the pages of Time. Flanagan also writes:

I have made a lifestyle choice that they can't stand, and I'm not cowering in the closet because of it. I'm out, and I'm proud. I am a happy member of an exceedingly "traditional" family. I'm in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday.

Her husband is a topflight television executive. She is a writer for The New Yorker. They have a nanny. They are exceedingly rich, and she has to make no tough economic choices between time with the kids and money for the rent. There ain't nothing "traditional" about that.

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Comments

I couldn't agree more--put that woman in a Denny's at a minimum wage job and she'd last about 15 seconds.

And it's not her lifestyle that women (and men) can't stand, it's her insistence that she's right and women who want to have another lifesyle are wrong and morally beneath her.

My mother basically stayed at home for much of my childhood. I didn't notice her screaming about the evils of her friends who went out to work. It's about tolerance, and no one on that side of the political aisle any more understands what that means.

Posted by: Matthew Holt | May 6, 2006 8:43:17 PM

Yesterday's Atrios' post here wasn't intended as commentary on Flanagan, but it works for me as my im;age of her. He also appropriately gives her an special award here.

Things move quicker in the 22nd century, so since she's had her five minutes of fat-cat glory, her time is up. I hope she gets a happy home in the GOP where they are oh so supportive of her nonsense.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 6, 2006 9:03:03 PM

I agree with your overall sentiment (is this woman's 15 minutes up yet?) but I think when she says "there is no room for her in the Democratic party" She isn't referring to the actual elected members of the party & employees of the DNC, she is referring to Democrats in the man on the street "I'm a Democrat, I'm a Republican" vein. Whether there is indeed, no room for her is another story.

Posted by: Dustin | May 6, 2006 9:03:19 PM

I heard an interview with her on WNYC, the local NPR, or the upper west side's stereotypical media organ.
This was before the blogs had really heated up on her. The host Leonard Lopate treated her with careful courtesy, as usual, and she swung out wildly in every direction. By the end of the interview, she was insulting callers in and proclaiming "counter-intuitively" about something completely irrelevant to her book--Iraq policy, if I recall correctly.

I remember thinking--whoah, this person's all over the place, belligerently, and I really wish she weren't making such explicitly partisan points because she seems so politically naive. Or, you know, calculatingly so.

However, I did get the sense that she'd behaved so erratically that the WNYC host wouldn't exactly rush to invite her back.

Posted by: Jackmormon | May 6, 2006 9:19:01 PM

So wait, I'm confused, did Barbara Ehrenreich make some personal statement about this woman, or is it her refusal to ignore reality that she considers 'leftist'.

Posted by: twig | May 6, 2006 9:19:49 PM

She isn't referring to the actual elected members of the party & employees of the DNC, she is referring to Democrats in the man on the street "I'm a Democrat, I'm a Republican" vein.

No, she's referring to a strawman that exists in her imagination, because people aren't kissing her wealthy, pampered ass fast enough when she idealizes her choices and denigrates others'. The Democrat "man-on-the-street" is statistically likely to be working class and not have the luxury of staying home in their nice upscale home with their nannied children, so they can write essays about how lovely it is to be a traditional wife and mother.

Posted by: paperwight | May 6, 2006 9:31:18 PM

She sounds so defensive. Do you think she has doubts about the life she's chosen? I'm a feminist, and I've never looked down on a women who chooses to stay home. I always thought that was what feminism was about - letting women make their own choices and valuing the work we do as much as any man's. What really stings about her is her snobbiness about it, the whole I'm right and you're wrong, when you're not even arguing with her.

In my experience the people that always proclaim things the loudest, in her case "I'm so happy!" rarely are that. She comes across as obnoxious and evangelizing. Has she ever thought the reason people don't respond to her is that she is obnoxious and annoying.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope | May 6, 2006 10:36:07 PM

Twig, Ehrenreich pretty much spanked Flanagan in a Slate discussion a couple of years ago... her very first response (the discussion was about the exploitation of other women as nannies, which is a good point, but naturally CF turned it into an antifeminist soapbox) included this central observation:

You do a sneaky or perhaps unconscious bit of elision in your article, Caitlin: You confuse feminism, which is a political movement, with the movement of (upper-middle-class) women into the workforce.

Really, that's all anyone needs to know about where Flanagan is coming from.

Posted by: latts | May 7, 2006 12:09:08 AM

Thank God people are talking about this excuse for a column. When I read it I was ready to gouge my own eyes out. Atrois' description of Flanagan is quite apt.

Posted by: mikep | May 7, 2006 6:41:45 AM

jackmormon: I heard that WNYC interview too (I believe it was on the Brian Lehrer show, I'm sure that a guest host was sitting in for Lehrer-- I remember feeling sorry for Lehrer's fill-in that he got stuck a guest acting the way Flanagan was.)

The guest host asked a mundane talk show question (maybe even one her PR pack includes) and she slammed him for something similar to "asking a typically leftist" (or Democrat, or feminist -- this is necessarily a paraphrase).

She took off from there and, through no fault of the interviewer or callers, got increasingly overheated. Finally she said that when she went to some Republican meeting they greeted her with open arms, despite her views on, say, choice, and her reception from Democrats she described as more or less a hair-pulling screechfest (to her). (Again, I'm talking about my recollection of the interview, not necessarily her words.)

She seemed a little bit unhinged frankly, because she got her ire raised with no real provocation. It seemed like the kind of pissy reaction a Bill O'Reilly has if he's challenged -- yet she hadn't really been challenged in any serious way by the host or callers.

It was strange.

Posted by: nadabling | May 7, 2006 8:54:58 AM

It's sad that Time allows this nonsense into its pages. "Fifty years ago, a stay-at-home mom who loved her husband would not automatically be assumed to be a Republican."

As far as I'm concerned, you don't get to do that without a name. If you write that, you have to name at least one person who assumes that a stay-at-home mom who loves her husband is automatically a Republican.

Posted by: Jamie McCarthy | May 7, 2006 9:02:30 AM

(T)here is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn't in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags.

Get off the cross, Caitlin. We need the wood.

Posted by: Andrew | May 7, 2006 9:05:32 AM

I don't get it. Who's scolding her for her "lifestyle choice"? Who "can't stand" her "lifestyle choice"? Is there something exceedingly rebellious and radical about being a mother? Or being a rich mother? Or being a mother who says she's traditional but earns a good living putting down other women? (Okay, my vitriol crept in)

What I, a feminist, liberal, Democrat, bleeding-heart woman who loves her husband, and also has young children, can't stand about her is she's inventing shit to whine about so she doesn't have to do anything hard like REALLY advocate for the poor.

Sheesh.

Posted by: tinfoil hattie | May 7, 2006 9:11:00 AM

Next week in Time:
"there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn't in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Ezra Klein and his commenters tinfoil hattie and Matthew Holt have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags."

Posted by: SP | May 7, 2006 9:25:32 AM

She espouses the old "you're for me or you're against me" position of, wonder of wonders, the current Republican Party. As long as the Democratic Party (as exemplified, in her mond, by certain individuals and publications) does not actively promote her lifestyle as the one and only choice, everyone is rejecting her.

It is sad that she chooses to lambast the party of choice as the party that vilifies her choice. She has a very distorted (should I say selfish and insecure?) view of the position of most Democrats. Putting aside the fact that she is, in fact, a working mother who is able to stay with the children full time (a unique circumstance she seems unable to recognize), I say, good for her to be able to enjoy all that time with her children while they are young...oh..was it noted above she has a nanny..never mind then..perhaps she loves her children but not the work that goes into them..maybe she enjoys watching the nanny do all the mothering. Sort of a quasi-chickenhawk mom..

Posted by: Mudge | May 7, 2006 9:38:02 AM

Heh. One thing that she got right was:
The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the '60s--civil rights, women's liberation, gay inclusion--we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues--paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.

We all see this daily, even on this board. Who was it here that called Tony Snow 'Whitey McWhitey'?

If you go to church, believe in God, and are a family man, you get no attention from the Democratic party. You are, instead, the enemy. If you're not a minority or homosexual, you get little from being associated with the DNC.

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 7, 2006 9:46:16 AM

If Flanagan thinks everyone should share her lifestyle, why isn't she pushing for higher wages for workers so more wives can afford to stay home? She is just out of touch with the way most Americans are forced to live.

Posted by: bakho | May 7, 2006 10:08:19 AM

Mr Jones jumps right aboard with Ms Flanagan's simplistic victimhood:

If you go to church, believe in God, and are a family man, you get no attention from the Democratic party. You are, instead, the enemy.

Please, produce some actual evidence. Who are the Democrats who treat these worthy citizens as the enemy? Where in the Kerry, Gore, or Clinton presidential campaigns are these people denounced? What legislation overtly hostile to church-going, God-fearing, family men has been advocated and passed by Democrat-controlled legislatures recently? Feel free to quote from the websites of the Democratic national and state parties. Where does all this hatred exist except in your own mind?

What does someone name-calling a wealthy right-wing political commentaor/reporter who volunteers to be the spokesman for a horribly corrupt administation have to do with your original claim? The only issue I can see with the Tony Snow appointment is whether he is ethically challenged or simply gullible. That would be true even if he were a black female bisexual polygamist.

Posted by: Berken | May 7, 2006 10:09:10 AM

Booo hooo hoo...By all means, why don't you change places with a black gay person then and enjoy ALL the advantages that come guaranteed by the horrible Democrats?

Chris Rock once said to his audience, none of the white people here would ever change places with me...and I'm rich!

I don't know if the white men in the audience laughed as much as the sheeple media whores when Sthephen Colbert told them what time it was.

Posted by: Brian | May 7, 2006 10:10:45 AM

Caitlin...

why don't you join the Republican Party. You would probably drive out the only reasonable people left in that moribund party...and you and Phyllis Schafly can trade household hints, while bitching about the servant problem.


I don't care who this woman votes for...she is so obnoxious, nobody would use her for an endorsement.

Gawd, whatta whiner.

Posted by: Nancy Richardson | May 7, 2006 10:15:33 AM

I think Caitlin Flanagan's life is traditional. Edith Wharton used to write about people like her all the time.

Portrait of a Lady is full of them.

Posted by: julia | May 7, 2006 10:16:43 AM

Her writing in The New Yorker is exceedingly dull and self-absorbed, by the way. The piece she wrote on her family vacation to the Grand Wailea in Hawaii with her twin 6-year olds (Jan 3, 2005, not on-line) was atrocious.

Posted by: Blair | May 7, 2006 10:22:44 AM

"I remember thinking--whoah, this person's all over the place, belligerently, and I really wish she weren't making such explicitly partisan points because she seems so politically naive. Or, you know, calculatingly so."

This struck me too, and just from reading the bitch's comments online. In this respect, she's weirdly similar to Camille Paglia. Despite the obvious stylistic differences, Paglia's schtick was exactly like this when she first appeared on the scene. The incessant whining, vindictive settling of scores (I'm not surprised Flanagan had a run-in with Barbara Ehrenreich earlier in her "career"; why else bring her up for a gratuitous slam in her latest bullshit column?), the pathetic need to gloat. It's all pure Rush Limbaugh, but appallingly, even Limbaugh is more honest than this. He doesn't try to hide the fact that he's a reactionary.

Posted by: John D. | May 7, 2006 11:09:37 AM

"I think Caitlin Flanagan's life is traditional. Edith Wharton used to write about people like her all the time."

Indeed.

Posted by: Scott | May 7, 2006 11:23:57 AM

um... just to be contrarian - who, exactly, disagrees with her "lifestyle choices"? I'd love a career writing for the New Yorker, married to a successful executive with enough money for a nanny and a housekeeper. Who says that "lifeastyle choice" is something Democrats are opposed to? We are the freakiest live-and-let-live people I know. I don't mind that Caitlyn envisions herself as some sort of everywoman others can relate to - luxury problems certainly do it for me. I just don't like her straw "us vs. them" creations, which are the sign of a Republican mind, if you ask me. But her lifestyle? Certainly works for me. Where can I get one? :)

Posted by: weboy | May 7, 2006 11:24:22 AM

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