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Only Women Bleed

My obsession with Caitlin Flanagan waned after she left the New Yorker. It seemed like a demotion, like they’d finally realized she was not only reactionary but also incoherent. Crazed pundits are much less exciting once they’ve been discredited, so … Read More

By / April 5, 2007
My obsession with Caitlin Flanagan waned after she left the New Yorker. It seemed like a demotion, like they’d finally realized she was not only reactionary but also incoherent. Crazed pundits are much less exciting once they’ve been discredited, so I stopped grinding my teeth over her rhetoric and started obsessing about other and better things,

The Atlantic, however, kept her on board, and her latest essayabout how abortion used to be awful, back before it was easy and fun like it is todayis once again inflicting serious damage on my molars. Flanagan always seems to approach her own sex with a wrinkled nose, but this time she dons a SARS mask. Women are bloody creatures, she explains, reasonably enough (well, we are), but then she goes on:

Once I walked into the students’ restroom at an all-girls school late in the afternoon on a warm day, and the smell that assailed me was reminiscent of the smell of Buckley’s, the butcher shop in Dublin where my mother bought Kerry beef running with blood.

Hoo boy. Not only are women smelly and gross, though; they’re also conniving. In one of the books Flanagan reviews in this essay, the founder of Florida’s first abortion clinic tells the story of a co-worker who bought a gorgeous blue rug for the waiting room, lying that her mother-in-law-would pay for it. When it arrived, she admitted that she’d actually charged it to the office. Everyone was furious, but the bright color made the room homey and welcoming. It’s a sweet story, but here’s Flanagan’s reading:

It was a very womanly thing to do—to set your heart on a shag carpet, to trick someone into buying it for you, to rely on the fact that once it was installed, everyone would love it and forgive you.

You know those women: Always tricking people into buying them things. Like dinner, and flowers, and rings, and nannies. And perfume, to keep from smelling so much like a Dublin butcher shop.

p.s. The best part of the whole piece? The second sentence of the bio: “[Flanagan] is at work on Girl Land, a book about the emotional life of pubescent girls. Will it be made into a movie starring Lindsay Lohan? Is Caitlin Flanagan the Tina Fey of crazed retrograde gender pundits?

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