Katha Pollitt’s Learning to Drive

Garance Franke-Ruta, J. Goodrich, Chris Hayes, Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti and Katha Pollitt, discuss Katha Pollitt’s Learning to Drive in this weeks TPM Cafe Book Club. Pollitt:

Most of the controversy around Learning to Drive has been around the title story and especially its followup, “Webstalker,’ which are about a painful breakup and its aftermath. As in the other essays, I aimed to put close together sadness and comedy, high diction and low, the romantic and the reflective. It’s not for me to say if I achieved those effects– but that was the idea. What has really floored me, I must say, is that the book is controversial. I thought I was writing about experiences that are shared by many, if not indeed most people, including men. Who doesn’t have areas of incompetence and fear — mechanical stuff for me, maybe foreign languages, or I dunno, cooking, for you? Who hasn’t been hurt in love? And not just young people, either, thank you very much.

This, as I see it, is the pass to which we have come. Women can write about shooting heroin and being sex workers and spending years zoned out on prozac and having nervous breakdowns and hating other women and lord knows what else and that’s okay by feminism, as indeed it should be. But writing that you didn’t learn to drive for years and years out of technophobia and overreliance on men? Loving a man unwisely and feeling terrible for more than a long weekend when he left? Writing about how another person really got to you and how you even, OMG, googled him and the other women in his life rather a lot for a while, which is basically all that happens in “Webstalker”? Oh, that is so unfeminist–and from a longtime feminist political columnist too! That really undermines all our progress. Now we’ll never get the ERA.