An era of 'hard-core women'

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Now would be a very good time to be a cartoonist. Or perhaps not. As the late cartoonist Doug Marlette frequently lamented, "How do you cartoon a cartoon? We're living in 'Toon Town.' "

On the other hand, sometimes only a cartoon character will do. There's hardly any way to treat seriously the goings-on in Toon Town's capital, Washington, D.C.

Let's just say, Central Casting's stable is full.

If men historically have dominated the scene, women are crowding them out. And they are turning our familiar archetypes inside out.

Women's liberation worked in ways we might never have imagined. The feminist woman of the left, who burned her bra and insisted that all hear her roar, is today a taupe-ish figure who wonders where things went wrong. The daughter she begat may well be a Republican - a gun-toting, breast-feeding supermom of several who condemns government for being a "nanny" and tells men to man up.

Adding insult to injury, she's also probably considered a "hottie" by the men who stand by admiringly, watching their women show those libs a thing or two about being a "hard-core woman."

We needn't name the queen of this emerging bevy of can-dos, who wouldn't deign to call themselves feminists even though they certainly are. If "That One" achieves nothing else in her life, she has popularized a new feminine image that drives men and women mad for different reasons.

Among other traditionally feminine tricks, the new hard-core woman has grabbed men's symbols and toys and made them her own. She shoots straight and plays hardball. At the same time, she has manhandled women's issues, neatly packaged them in ironic pink tissue and placed them neatly on a floral paper-lined shelf.

She really can do it all, and there's nothing left to whine about. This is precisely why she's so annoying. Polly Perfect in a Pinafore has only changed outfits and carries a concealed weapon instead of a lace hankie, though she probably has one of those, too. Being both feminine and tough is the latest girly wile.

In recent days, Toon Town has provided a glimpse of how these new roles are playing out.

In one scene, we see Michelle Obama and Michele Bachmann clashing coifs over none other than - drum roll - breast-feeding. The first lady wants to encourage women to breast-feed their babies as a way of combating childhood obesity by, among other things, providing tax breaks for equipment needed to express milk while mom is away from baby. Bachmann, noting that she breast-fed all five of her children, mocked the idea as one more manifestation of the nanny state.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has come to this.

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