Where Hilton meets Hirshman

The party girl and the feminist crusader are both on MSN's list of cringe-worthy women. What gives?

Published March 2, 2007 5:41PM (EST)

Editor's note: Several readers wrote us expressing annoyance at MSN's recent lists of "amazing women" and "women who make [MSN] cringe." We especially liked Amy Schiller's smart take, and she was kind enough to let us publish it. Enjoy!

MSN gave me some terrible whiplash Thursday afternoon with its juxtaposed slide shows of "10 Amazing Women You've Never Heard Of" and their witch counterparts, "10 Women Who Make Us Cringe." The amazing: Brown University president Ruth Simmons. The cringeworthy: Lindsay Lohan. (How very Crystal vs. Alexis for the new millennium.) More to the point: This is probably the first and only time that Linda Hirshman, Phyllis Schlafly, and Paris Hilton have shared a categorization ("cringe," in case you were confused).

What's most interesting is how precisely these presentations demonstrate Lisa Jervis' insightful thesis on "femmenism," the popular but misguided notion that feminism should concern itself exclusively with how females behave and achieve in the world rather than systems of domination and oppression.

Almost all of the women in the "good girls" slide show (to whom I mean no disrespect, for I have only the highest regard for their accomplishments) have directed their efforts at helping other women. Emme, the plus-size model who speaks out against eating disorders, Waris Darie, the anti-female genital mutilation activist, and Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, are three obvious examples.

Now, I do find most of the "bad girls" disturbing. Ann Coulter is a longtime menace to women and to intellectual discourse in general. Britney is, well, Britney (though of course, no one brings up questions of why young female celebrities might receive conflicting messages about their self-worth being tied to their public sexuality). But Linda Hirshman? Talk about one of these things being not like the others b

Red alert, red alert: We have a system changer, folks. Can't fete those rabble-rousers, so just stick with those who respond to women who are already victims. At least we know that'll always garner dissociated sympathy, especially from the powerful people who victimized them in the first place.

By Amy Schiller

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