Mar
23
2009

Black Women Are Props in Caitlin Flanagan's Rant

Caitlin Flanagan, primarily known (and embraced by mainstream media) for her anti-feminist writings, was back in the New York Times this weekend–this time attacking former '70s radical Sara Jane Olson. As a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Olson (born Kathleen Soliah) was indicted for plotting to bomb LAPD patrol cars; she evaded capture until 1999, during which time she built a life under her new name in Minnesota. She's now been allowed to serve her parole at home in Minnesota rather than in California, where she served her time.

Flanagan's peeved, because, she would have us believe, she sees a double standard.

"Thanks to Sara Jane Olson and her return to the spacious house and gracious life sheâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s made for herself in St. Paul," she writes in the Times, "we know what it's called when a rich, white woman gets convicted of trying to kill cops and robbing a bank: 'idealism.'" Flanagan concludes her piece:

The irreducible starting point of the SLA's agenda was the belief that the justice system treated blacks differently from whites. By offering herself up to serve her parole in the state, she will do her part to ensure that there are not two standards of justice, one for the white women who have Tudor-style houses and shadowed lawns to return to in a distant state–let us call such women the "fascist insect"–and the other for African-American women–let us call them "the people"–who enter the system with very little and leave it with even less.

Of course, if Flanagan was actually concerned about people being discriminated against by the parole system and institutional racism, the logical thing to advocate for would be changes in the criminal justice system so that they too were able to serve parole in their homes. Instead, African-American women here are just a useful tool for Flanagan to attack a white female leftist.

It's her specialty, after all: Her first big break was a piece on nannies, arguing basically that rich white feminists are hypocrites because they're only able to both pursue careers and have children by exploiting poor women as underpaid nannies. There, too, her point was really about bashing the white feminists, not about concern for the nannies–as Barbara Ehrenreich noted in a lengthy exchange with Flanagan about the article, "If your 10,000-word piece was about how employers should pay their nanniesâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ Social Security taxes, then my reading skills are in serious decline."

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.