My book club (side note: everyone should have a book club full of cool women who drink wine and occasionally, just for kicks, try to talk about the actual book,) read the new Maureen Dowd book, “Are Men Necessary?” this month. I’ll spare you the suspense: you can finish the book and still not be at all clear on whether Ms. Dowd thinks that men are or are not, in fact, necessary. Total mis-title.

But among the sort-of-interesting-but-terribly-underdeveloped thoughts she raises in the book is the idea that “feminism lasted for a nanosecond,” and what we’re stuck with now is a hyper-sexualized culture juxtaposed against fanatic Christianity and a return to nearly puritanical values. Now, I’m no stranger to exaggeration for emphasis, but “nanosecond” seems unnecessarily dismissive of the feminist movement, and the observation that we now have a sort of weird cultural schizophrenia about sex is no great revelation. But hearing about South Dakota’s troubling antics, coupled with the book club discussion, has got me thinking.

Some folks who think about this more than I do have suggested that Roe v. Wade doomed feminism: it rendered women complacent, while it galvanized those opposed to legal abortion, perhaps even inviting the kind of creeping, insidious threat to reproductive rights and gender issues in general that I find so troubling. But it’s so hard for me to imagine an America without the Bible belt and the big red states in the middle and this whole neoconservatism that I can’t really picture that it would look like.

But if Roe v. Wade doomed feminim, would overturning it resuscitate feminism? And would it be worth it? My instinct on the “worth it” scale is no- and the thought of a return to back alley abortions is too gut-wrenching to endorse- but it’s an interesting thing to think about. Maybe feminism needs a swift kick in the pants. And I can tell you, Maureen Dowd’s scolding is not going to be enough to do it.

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