A sexual revolution, like a political resolution, goes through unexpected change between rebellion and triumph. Consider the two big political explosions among women in the previous century. We’re still counting up the collateral damage, along with a victory or two.
First came the suffragettes, who fought bravely until they finally won the right to vote. They first voted like their husbands, but over the years men and women established differences in the voting booth, and then came the feminist revolution. Now one party is popularly called among pundits and political scientists “the Mommy Party” and the other “the Daddy Party.” Lots of exceptions, of course, and we see now that ne’er the twain shall meet.
Whether the segregation of political preferences and instincts, separating men from women, particularly after the sun goes down, runs to individual cases is another story.
In the ‘60s, the decade that ignited so many of the revolutions good and bad that beset us today, women first sought equality in the workplace, an evolving goal, and their success was so radical that women now outnumber men in law schools, dental schools and medical schools among other places. Successful women in the higher ranks of the economy tugged the equality issue out of the bedroom to the boardroom.
But the feminists eventually discovered that there was an iceberg the size of a man’s wandering hand lurking just out of sight, and soon powerful Hollywood producers, television gabbers, Wall Street tycoons, giants of the media all went down like the Titanic, leaving a lot of flotsam and jetsam in their wake. We’re just now aware that there’s a job ahead, a rasp erasing rough male edges.
In lively feminist discussions in the heat of revolution, the idea thrives that women are inherently morally superior to men. This super morality was originally based on a woman’s unique ability to bear children, and to be more nurturing, more compassionate, more understanding and appreciative of the tender years when a family begins to take shape. Only a little lady with smarts and determination could tame the testosterone-crazed beast and tease it into a creature who wants to be a better man, a better father, a better husband.
But when women got to the office and the boardroom they discovered they needed different skills to achieve different kinds of success, requiring aggressiveness, not tenderness or compassion, and brisk action, not kindly concern, to be a match for any man.
This led to politics, and inevitably to Congress. The new House of Representatives bristles with record numbers of women and blacks (People of Estrogen and People of Color, you might say). Some of them, like the general population, don’t know very much about the arts of governing.
Her Democratic legion is still smarting from the fury over remarks by one of her frosh, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who set out on the eve of her inauguration to demonstrate how a woman can be as coarse as a man, shouting a promise to her crowd that “we’re going to “impeach the mother-f–—.” In addition to being a likely empty promise, since the House can propose but the Senate can dispose, and an impeachment without a conviction is like a harasser without a maiden.
Mark Twain, regarded as the greatest social critic of all and connoisseur of proper swearing, or cussin’ as it was called on the Mississippi River where Mark Twain first observed it, never imagined that a woman would attempt to learn how to do it. He certainly understood that the f-word in any configuration was not in the inventory of a gentleman, or even a roustabout casting off all lines at Memphis. He understood the difference between vulgarity and blasphemy, and insisted that done properly, cussin’ be accomplished with delicacy and dignity. There’s nothing dignified nor delicate about a woman using garish sexist language in the presence of children, and particularly in the presence of her own. “Let us swear while we may,” he once observed, “for in Heaven it will not be allowed.”
The shouts and hosannas of feminist pundits that rained down on Ms. Tlaib in the wake of her vulgarity celebrated not so much what she said as for her boldness and bravery for saying it. But vulgarity is hardly bold or brave in the modern culture. “Good authors, too,” wrote Cole Porter, whose lyrics defined wit and sophistication on Broadway of the previous century, “who once knew better words now use only four-letter words. Writing prose, anything goes.”
Taste and propriety will of course survive. The gift and promise of the language is that it always has. Besides, as Mark Twain observed, “it’s no harm to be an ass, if one is content to bray and not kick.”
• Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.