WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Black Women Are Props in Caitlin Flanagan’s Rant

GuestBloggers Icon Posted by Guest Blogger

March 25th, 2009

By Guest Blogger Julie Hollar

Caitlin Flanagan, primarily known (and embraced by mainstream media) for her anti-feminist writings, was back in the New York Times this weekend–this time attacking former ’70s radical Sara Jane Olson. As a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Olson (born Kathleen Soliah) was indicted for plotting to bomb LAPD patrol cars; she evaded capture until 1999, during which time she built a life under her new name in Minnesota. She’s now been allowed to serve her parole at home in Minnesota rather than in California, where she served her time.

Flanagan’s peeved, because, she would have us believe, she sees a double standard.

“Thanks to Sara Jane Olson and her return to the spacious house and gracious life she’s made for herself in St. Paul,” she writes in the Times, “we know what it’s called when a rich, white woman gets convicted of trying to kill cops and robbing a bank: ‘idealism.’” Flanagan concludes her piece:

“The irreducible starting point of the SLA’s agenda was the belief that the justice system treated blacks differently from whites. By offering herself up to serve her parole in the state, she will do her part to ensure that there are not two standards of justice, one for the white women who have Tudor-style houses and shadowed lawns to return to in a distant state–let us call such women the “fascist insect”–and the other for African-American women–let us call them “the people”–who enter the system with very little and leave it with even less.”

Of course, if Flanagan was actually concerned about people being discriminated against by the parole system and institutional racism, the logical thing to advocate for would be changes in the criminal justice system so that they too were able to serve parole in their homes. Instead, African-American women here are just a useful tool for Flanagan to attack a white female leftist.

It’s her specialty, after all: Her first big break was a piece on nannies in The Atlantic, arguing basically that rich white feminists are hypocrites because they’re only able to both pursue careers and have children by exploiting poor women as underpaid nannies. There, too, her point was really about bashing the white feminists, not about concern for the nannies–as Barbara Ehrenreich noted in a lengthy exchange with Flanagan about the article, “If your 10,000-word piece was about how employers should pay their nannies’ Social Security taxes, then my reading skills are in serious decline.”

Guest Blogger Julie Hollar is the managing editor of Extra!, the magazine of the media watch group FAIR — Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. This post first appeared on FAIR’s blog.

Leave a Reply