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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oil as a Woman's Issue

Jack Kemp

One of the most little noted and insightful speakers at the recent Right Online conference in Minneapolis was the journalist and documentary filmmaker Anne McElhinney, Irish immigrant and co-creator of “Not Evil Just Wrong - a film about the harmful effects of extreme environmentalism on poor people of the undeveloped countries – as well as (arguably) the poor in America. This self-described "Recovering European" who is "doing a job Americans just won't do" combined women’s issues, feminist delusions and the history of technology to speak in the main ballroom, creating a great rant that can be seen on this page as the 23rd video on the webpage.

In noting (at the 4:53 mark in her speech video) that the feminists at the Netroots convention, located across the street from Right Online, McElhinney speculated they were talking (advocating) for solar and wind power. She then added, in rebuttal:

"This should be a feminist issue. All across Africa and across India there are women who devote a lifetime to washing clothes. The whole career, they wash clothes. A complete waste of time when you could have a washing machine.

The Pill didn't liberate women. The washing machine liberated women. (Loud applause followed.) And for all those feminists over there at the Netroots nation who are depriving the women of Africa and India of their washing machines so that a couple of girls in the Harvard faculty lounge can feel cool are awful. It is a human rights abuse to deprive a woman of a washing machine."

This situation was not limited to the women of Africa and India in the past. In the Wall Street area of Manhattan there is a place called Maiden Lane which runs downhill and has a paved over stream. In the time of the Dutch colonial settlers of the Sixteen Hundreds, it was the custom to send the youngest daughter of the household to this stream to wash the family clothes. If a family didn’t have a youngest daughter, it was the role of servants or the wife to do this task. And some of you may be familiar with the Public Television series “Frontier House” where a family attempted to live like a 19th Century Montana family of homesteaders without modern appliances – a great challenge to modern Americans not raised to these tasks.

Ann McElhinney is, of course, absolute correct in her remarks at the Right Online conference. She may have been drawing some inspiration from a book published a year before her documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong,” a book called “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google” by Nicholas Carr. Carr made note of early modern appliances taking the physical drudgery out of many domestic chores, even as he quotes Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s “More Work for Mother” which states “the labor saved by labor-saving devices was that not of the housewife but of her helpers.” What Cowan is also saying indirectly (though not necessarily as her intention) is that women who could not afford servants could now lower the physical toll of housework on herself, even as the total hours involved may have not decreased that much. Despite Cowan’s arguments and Thomas Edison’s overoptimistic 1912 prediction in an article he authored entitled “The Future of Women” where he claimed women would become “a domestic engineer,” one finds it hard to believe that many women in America have a physically harder life today than women in the days the laundry was taken to Maiden Lane to be beaten with a rock.

In fact, one could make the argument that rising gasoline prices, which impact everyone’s mobility, including women. The prices – and taxes and non-development of oil resources – tends to make women have to stay home more often than meet with friends and explore events in the world. This might not impact the life of the privileged young women McElhinney described in the Harvard faculty lounge, but it effects millions of others both in the US and abroad – as well as men, I might add.

One may recall the remarks of the privileged Teresa Heinz Kerry who stated that Laura Bush didn’t have a “real job” because she was “just” staying home and raising her daughters. That remark may have cost Mr. Kerry the electoral votes of Ohio and few other states for its effrontery and stupidity. But we owe Mrs. Kerry a thank you for dropping the mask of feminism and showing us their real attitude and thoughts concerning domestic life, namely that work at home doesn’t count to them, i.e., isn’t worthy of respect by feminists. Thus, whether a woman is operating an American or European washing machine or beating clothes with a rock in the Andes, Africa or India is of no import to them because they do not consider this Worthy Work. They believe such work is beneath them and that is enough, in their egocentric minds, to consider it beneath everyone else’s consideration - unless, of course, the domestic task involves George H.W. Bush marveling at a supermarket scanner. In that case, domestic tasks then take on a great importance and unfamiliarity with them is enough to disqualify one for higher office.

But as Ann McElhinney has once again discovered, the elitist feminists, masquerading as the “friend of all women” (not named Paula Jones or Katherine Willey ) are as out of touch with real life and real women as any Anthony Weiner Facebook “friend.” Not using oil to electrify a community is a path to taking most of us back to a village much like the one Hillary Clinton talked about in her book “In Takes a Village” – a village in which only the chieftain or warlord could afford a washing machine or a motor vehicle. And that is the “energy savings” of tyrants.

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