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The last part of her memoir, which opens with her arrival at Cambridge for graduate school, starts with her first conversation with a pair of self-proclaimed feminists. She simply could find no way into those books or ideas. The argument rings today with terrible familiarity.
So Westover tries a different approach, skipping over U. Her affinity for the nineteenth-century English philosopher winds a subtle path through her memoir.
Like Wollstonecraft before him see: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman from , Mill argues that the status of women does not derive from their natures, but rather they must be trained—educated—to their inferiority and dependence. His Subjection of Women called for the reform of marriage and divorce alongside suffrage and formal education for women, and prompted a short correspondence with U.
Mill saw the calls in the U. So much must feel familiar in Mill for Westover.
In the process of becoming her own woman, Westover finds comfort in the individual freedoms of Classical Liberalism and the Enlightenment. But these freedoms, which are presented and consumed as distant from history and context, are sheared of their foundations in empire, slavery, biological determinism, and the violent economies of extraction.
She sees little beyond her own experience, knowledge, and the freedom of her choices—sheared as they are of their foundations in the abiding privileges of her whiteness and Americanness and in the very same feminist texts and activism she describes rejecting. In the end, even though she is so persistently linked to Vance, Westover shares much more with Gretchen Carlson, the former Miss America who made her career at Fox News as a self-proclaimed culture warrior denouncing feminists at every opportunity.
In early June, the Miss America Pageant announced that it would no longer feature its iconic swimsuit competition. But Westover is clearly still on a journey—both personal and educational.
There is nothing in her memoir that suggests Westover ever returned to the texts of twentieth-century feminism or ventured into the twenty-first century. But perhaps one day she will. You might have noticed the absence of paywalls at Boston Review.
Mitchell, A Study A Soul. In , the host and producer Laura Krantz read a Washington Post article about the late Grover Krantz, a tenured anthropology professor who spent his spare time searching for Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest. Ep is a unity, but that it is realised progressively over the course of time. The title, then, could become ambiguous.
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