One of the reasons this spinster devotes fewer and fewer aunt-hours to reading blogs these days is the increasing likelihood that I will encounter something along the lines of “You call yourself a feminist? Shame on you for not writing about blahblahblah.” Whereupon the blogger in question writes sanctimoniously about blahblahblah. I fucking hate that shame-on-you tone. Who died and made you king of the blog topic deciders, Sanctimonious Blogger?
This week the cause celebre and object of feminist indifference is Mary Jo Kopechne, who, in 1969, famously suffocated to death after having been abandoned in a submerged car by the recent Senator Ted Kennedy, who was perhaps a bit tipsy at the time.
“[E]ven the feminist blogs are not mentioning her. Yes, as if she never existed indeed!” says DaisyDeadhead, giving herself a little pat on the head.
DaisyDeadhead is pissed about how popular Ted Kennedy is lately, now that he’s dead. He’s so nationally beloved and so perfectly deceased that it is, she says, “considered ‘rude’ to mention [Kopechne's] suspicious and untimely death.”
DaisyDeadhead is right about me, at least. I have completely omitted to write about Mary Jo Kopechne’s suspicious and untimely death. I haven’t even thought about Kopechne in years and years. Hell, I had already tuned out the incessant chatter covering Kennedy’s princely week of national mourning and state funeralizing and sentimental eulogizing (if I hear the phrase “uncanny ability to reach across the aisle” one more time I’m gonna set fire to my own head). Another pink-faced old bloviating honky patriarch biting the dust is but a blip on the obstreperometer here at Spinster HQ. But Daisy’s got a point. When public figures croak around here the tendency to canonize’em and whitewash their not inconsiderable personal failings, especially when those failings are so perfectly in line with the evils we particularly abhor, can really chap the old hide.
It dawns on me, though, that the focus on Kopechne’s death has the untoward effect of historically footnoting her in terms of a dude. I know, I know, whaddya do? The dude in whose terms she is historically footnoted is a fucking dead Kennedy, bona fide American royalty whose considerable influence casts a fairly jumbo and luminous shadow. And had he not killed her, it is likely that nobody, not even DaisyDeadhead, would be writing about her now. One doesn’t write “Kopechne” without writing “Kennedy.” Peas and carrots.
Joyce Carol Oates authors a remarkable speculation in a recent Guardian article. It’s currently being bandied about in Femtown:
“[I]f one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?”
Unless one is insane, one is to think that that dude should have been tried for homicide, that’s what. Oates isn’t boostering for the guy, or suggesting that Kopechne’s murder was justified by her murderer’s subsequent good deeds. She’s just pointing out the unpleasant fact that patriarchal hegemony trumps justice, even as it pretends that justice is its highest moral purpose.
She kisses the master’s ass, though, by whitewashing this phenomenon as a “paradox” rather than calling it what it is: the logical conclusion of oppression culture.
Oh, those wacky men, and their lively tradition of perpetrating unspeakable criminal shit in private while simultaneously basking in the glory of their larger-than-life public service.
It is impossible to speculate what Mary Jo Kopechne, a woman with a promising career in politics, might have accomplished had she not been sacrificed for the political career of an ethically challenged, privileged white asshole. One thing’s for sure, though. She’s but one of millions of women whose invitation to life’s rich pageant turned out to be bogus.
I’m not one of those dorks who thinks that women should run the world and that if we did there would be peace and harmony and vegan tacos for everyone (No one should run the world. But that’s another post). I can barely imagine what human society would look like if women were merely accorded human status, but I tell you what. It sure as shit couldn’t be worse than this.