Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Joan Didion on the Women's Movement

Glenn Reynolds linked this fabulous piece from 1972 by Joan Didion, describing the childlike naiveté  and embedded Marxism of the early Women's movement. It's uncanny to read it now and realize how prescient she was, and how, in certain ways, so little has changed.

An excerpt does the essay no justice; Read The Whole Thing™.
Eternal love, romance, fun. The Big Apple. These are relatively rare expectations in the arrangements of consenting adults, although not in those of children, and it wrenches the heart to read about these women in their brave new lives. An ex-wife and mother of three speaks of her plan "to play out my college girl's dream. I am going to New York to become this famous writer. Or this working writer. Failing that, I will get a job in publishing." She mentions a friend, another young woman who "had never had any other life than as a daughter or wife or mother" but who is "just discovering herself to be a gifted potter." The childlike resourcefulness-to get a job in publishing, to be a gifted potter-bewilders the imagination. The astral discontent with actual lives, actual men, the denial of the real ambiguities and the real generative or malignant possibilities of adult sexual life, somehow touches beyond words.
Nota Bene: Didion holds no "conservative" conviction, except that which one who lives long enough and refuses to stop thinking cannot help but obtain. This conviction is much in evidence in this essay, more than forty years ago.

Didion's own confrontations with the real generative and malignant possibilities of adult life have been notably courageous and tragic.


  1. I read her book of essays on San Francisco in the 1960s - Slouching Toward Bethlehem - as both a how-to manual and a cautionary tale.

    The former perspective helped me live fully. The latter helped keep me alive.

  2. I just stopped by for a quick visit so I will read these later, lewy (I'm particularly interested in what Christopher Hitchens has to say).

    I think people either love or hate her writing, I happen to love it :-)

    Lord knows she went through hell losing her husband so unexpectedly and then her daughter a year later.