Ann Coulter: Feminist wart hog

Caryl Rivers holds her up as an illustration of feminism's success.

Published June 20, 2006 5:54PM (EDT)

The five words guaranteed to piss off everybody who might read them? "Ann Coulter: Feminist Success Story."

That's the headline on a recent Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe by the great Caryl Rivers. Before launching her barnburner argument about the pundit's feminist cred, Rivers does the ritual Coulter ablutions: regurgitating her most recent hate speech and finding creative ways to rip her a new orifice. I couldn't help noticing that in this, Rivers falls into the same trap that everyone who wants to rip Coulter a new orifice falls into, by focusing on the pundit's coiffure and outfits. Last week the New York Times' David Carr took time from his wry evisceration to appreciatively describe Coulter as "a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail dress." And Rivers can't help choking on how Coulter "spreads hate like hair spray" and is "miniskirted, a bottle-blonde ... a fascist fashionista." I get it; the primal, go-to impulse when taking a woman down is to go after her aesthetic self-presentation. It's quick, it's satisfying, it gets the job done. Just last week, blogger Jane Hamsher at didn't like the conference behavior of former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox and voiced her disapproval by describing the way Cox "teetered through the crowd on a pair of spindly legs shown to ill-effect in a set of shorts I'd seen on the markdown rack at Barneys." Got that? The markdown rack at Barneys. I should note, by the way, that I have often prefaced Coulter's name in my stories with the epithet "thin pundit," which is exactly the kind of thing I'm criticizing here. Just to be clear.

But aside from all the obvious things that are wrong with trash-talking a woman's hair and weight and clothes when you really want to be trash-talking her soul, it seems such a waste with someone like Coulter, who is assailable on so many fronts (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, criminal) that wasting ink on miniskirts and dye jobs is just sad! And so my day was made when, in the middle of Rivers' hussy-with-a-heart-of-stone tirade, she also got off a line about how Coulter is as "mean as a warthog."

In any case, Rivers' larger point is that Coulter is "the perfect creature for the ethereal planet of Infotainment" and as such, while "she'd hate to hear it," she counts as a "feminist success story."

Certainly, Rivers writes, "when we feminists were marching in the 1970s trying to knock down doors barred to women, we never imagined that one person who would follow us through was Ann Coulter. But, hey, everybody can't be Gloria Steinem." She continues, "Why should middle-aged white guys get all the shekels from tossing red meat to gun nuts, school-prayer zealots, militias out in the woods, and haters of all things swarthy? ... The radical right outspends the lunatic left by a country mile. At least a woman is getting a piece of the action."

You know, I think she has a point, albeit a yucky one. Women, like men, can be tyrants and bullies and liars and cheats, and feminism has actually worked if it has allowed women to make money and get famous in these roles, à la Coulter. Thoughts?

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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