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No Dancing, Please

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Radical feminists are fussy, as usual, and now they're fidgety, too. They don't know how to enjoy success. They're restless, like combat veterans who, having returned home to peace, keep fighting old battles.

Erica Jong got over her fear of flying decades ago, but she can't resist sniping at mothers-at-home who find tales of her zipless sexual escapades dated and jaded. In a long rant in The Wall Street Journal, Jong decries "mother madness" and "attachment parenting," which affirms women who enjoy being with their children all the time. She sets up straw ladies to burn at her stakes, such as the "professional narcissists" like Angelina Jolie and Madonna, who collect babies like collecting African art.

It's easy to make fun of "celebrity mothers" who wear their children like designer jeans, pretending to be down to earth and comfortable but who have all those costume people behind the scenes ironing the wrinkles and offering quick changes when needed.

Jong can't help but politicize other mothers who take their everyday attachment to their children seriously, avoiding the pursuit of the latest passing fad. She calls them "a perfect tool of the political right," as if mother love is an ideology.

"If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession," she says, "you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit."

Ah, for the good ol' days, passing the time in Manhattan with sit-ins at the Oak Room bar at the Plaza. Conversely, if you are busy carving out a career and trying to earn a living in the recession, you don't have a lot of time to change a world paved with royalty checks.

But as Erica Jong's daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, tells it, her hippie mom and dad didn't have all that much quality time for her when she was born in 1978. Mom and Dad quickly hired a nanny, bought a juicer to make strange vegan liquids, smoked grass -- and not for medicinal purposes -- and learned yoga. Still, her daughter says Mom did a lot of "right things as a parent," including sending her to several private schools and to a menagerie of therapists, and never said an unkind word whenever she wrecked her car, which was often.

It's always dangerous to criticize the "parenting styles" of others when your daughter's old enough to respond in print. One of Erica Jong's readers got it right: "Isn't it time you found something else to do?" That's hard to do when the aging authoress has discovered Sarah Palin to kick around. She says the former Alaska governor, like other Mama Grizzlies, never acknowledges difficulties in bearing and raising children." Did Jong sleep through Sarah's decision to give birth to a Down syndrome child?

Dowager feminists and their followers have a hard time with Sarah Palin, and there's more than a little cat scratching along with the meows. Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic magazine, recalls that "middle-aged, male members of the Republican elite, like Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, found Sarah Palin "exceptionally pretty" when they promoted her as John McCain's running mate. She insists they wouldn't have done that if she had been homely and 30 pounds heavier. (Who's being sexist now?)

Fads in feminism and mothering come and go; stereotypes change with the times. The first wave of feminism in the 1970s pushed women in suits with big shoulder pads and exhorted them to be as tough as men.

That wave was followed by "difference feminism," which asked women to listen to their inner voices and "make love not war." Liberal ladies today are surprised when conservative women, Palin's grizzlies, campaign for lower taxes, smaller government and personal responsibility. The liberal ladies were even more surprised when some of the grizzlies won midterm elections.

But every movement needs a light-hearted moment, and Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol offers such a moment. The television audience voter, rather than the professional judges who awarded her low scores, put Bristol in the finals of "Dancing With the Stars." Newspaper and television critics naturally noticed only her "terrible" dancing. To be sure, she's no match for her chief competitor, Jennifer Gray of "Dirty Dancing" fame. But who is?

Conrad Green, executive producer of the show, told The Washington Post that he would love to have a Democratic icon dance on the show, "but Bill Clinton turned us down." Or maybe he could recruit some of these fidgety feminists. With nothing else to do, they could show us how they trip the light fantastic.

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