Joan Didion includes a chapter in her book The White Album, titled "The Women's Movement." Terms like "movement", in the human context, make me nervous. My father gave me my first copy of Eric Hoffer's True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements; so I don't like most movements. John le Carré's master spy-hunter George Smiley speaks his mind in the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, that "a committee is an animal with four back-legs." I think that the description applies just as easily to big organizations. The people who join them are looking for a place to park a depleted ego.

Most mass-movements employ a good-cop/bad-cop ruse, starting with Christianity, which promises eternal life in Heaven with the Lord God for those who join, and eternal damnation for those who don't. The older you get, the more you expect organizational persuasion on those terms. Didion says that the smarter organizations define themselves  as a "revolutionary class."

The truth about people is that they tend to follow the person who talks most boldly and incessantly. The more impassioned or shrill, the better. "How could he be wrong? He's so convincing," says the eyewitness on hearing Adolf Hitler, the first time. And the women's movement has had some shrill spokeswomen. As the movement gets loopier, the followers ponder their situation, saying "Maybe we should get out of this;" but most do not, or not soon enough.

So Didion's negative take on the women's movement does not surprise me particularly. In the Old Days, Betty Friedan represented the "bad cop" in many situations, behaving badly in interviews and accusing her own husband of battery. When her ex-husband protested the accusations, she had to back down. S. Gloria Steinem, the founder of Ms. Magazine, played the role of the brainy, legal feminist, despite having said that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

Men disliked this disparaging representation of their sex; so Steinem had to back down and admit  that she only used someone else's quote. She glibly foisted the blame for the quote onto a woman in Australia, one Irina Dunn. The feminist disavowal of the most basic human relationship must have confused a lot of people.

When I was in high school and college, people did not talk of the "Women's Movement" per se, but as "Women's Lib"—"Lib" meaning liberating women from social, cultural, and sexual constraints. Women tennis-players set up their own players' union, apart from the men's, and sponsored by the Virginia Slims Cigarette company, they formed the "Virginia Slims Circuit". At its start, the Circuit had just nine players, but grew to forty within a year.
The theme song for Virginia Slims was "You've come a long way, baby, to get where you are today."

Then, like Christianity, the most pedantic or dogmatic representatives of the movement took over, and the free-spirits had to follow their marching orders, or face accusations of disloyalty. Thanks to them, contemporary Feminism wears a hairy, anti-male persona that says narcissists, alpha males, billionaires, and landlords should go to the wall.

Didion sums Feminism up this way: "One had the sense of this stall, this delusion, the sense that the drilling of the theorists had struck a psychic hardpan, dense with superstitions and sophistries, wish-fulfillment, self-loathing, and bitter fancies."

Keep a dictionary handy when you read Didion.