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Letter writer’s point doesn’t invalidate columnist’s view

RE: Mark Sniatkowski’s letter [“Other salvos in ‘war on women,” May 9], which in itself was a response to Joyce Marcel’s April 25 column, “Kunin calls for a truce in the war on women”:

Aside from it seeming like quite a stretch that Sniatkowski’s letter really was a reply to what Marcel’s column was actually about, his response to her requires such a leap in logic that it might as well be a non sequitur.

First of all, out of a fairly lengthy piece about former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s soon-to-be-published book about the current state of women and our roles in the workplace, families, and the general culture, Marcel briefly mentioned presidential candidate Mitt Romney once, in a sort of “set-up” line, along with two other public figures.

Marcel mentioned the three as a sort of shorthand to answer the question, “Why do we need to talk about women’s equality in 2012?”

Because these men are influential public thinkers whose view of women is retrograde, that’s why.

It only took reading the next sentence of Marcel’s column to know this wasn’t a piece about Mitt Romney. But for some reason, Sniatkowski chose to home in on Romney, perhaps missing — and simultaneously proving — the point. If it’s not about a powerful man, why bother with it?

If Sniatkowski is living in some anti-feminist enclave and has no idea that in the rest of the world women are still seen as second-class citizens, objects whose purpose is to look pretty, shut up, and pop out babies, all he had to do was read the rest of her piece. Then he might understand why Kunin felt the need to write her book and Marcel felt the need to name-drop three very vocal, very powerful men who have a pretty cruddy view of women.

And then there’s the crux of his letter, the logic of which I’m still trying to decipher. Let me see if I — with my obviously inferior female brain — can follow Sniatkowski’s reasoning:

1. Marcel has told the wrong people to stop the war against women, or maybe she is responsible for telling everyone to stop the war against women.

2. A few talk-show hosts, some political figures, and a comedian said mean things or asked embarrassing questions about women. From a quick scan of the names involved, it looks like the mean men are “liberals” or would be considered liberals by those who categorize people as such, and the women are “conservative” or somehow possibly associated with conservative perspectives, perhaps through birth or marriage.

3. Because mean men who are liberals said nasty things to women who are conservatives, then what? Is Joyce Marcel prohibited from being offended by the misogyny of Mitt Romney? Should she not worry that a man who wants to head the executive branch of the federal government has 19th-century views of women because, well, those liberals said mean things about our ladies?

Have I missed something? Has math changed so much that two wrongs now make a right? Are we lowering ourselves to the behavior of schoolchildren, who, when caught making fun of a peer, respond with, “But he said mean things to me first!” Again, what point is Sniatkowski trying to make?

No, it’s not right that anyone should joke about “knocking up” a 14-year-old girl, or make any comments about anybody’s gender identity or sexual behavior, whether real or imagined. (That it’s part of our culture is dreadful and unacceptable.)

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about were Mitt Romney to assume the presidency. It gives Joyce Marcel, and many of the rest of us, women or otherwise, plenty to worry about.

(And before you get your hackles up, don’t misconstrue this as an endorsement for any other political candidate.)

Wendy M. Levy

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Originally published in The Commons issue #154 (Wednesday, May 30, 2012).

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