Nora Ephron: Good Politics, but Bad Criticism

The news cycle spins quickly, and more than two weeks after Nora Ephron’s death, she’s old news in the media. Nevertheless, I’m still thinking about her and found this excerpt from an essay of hers that, like so many things she wrote, is as true today as it as it was when she wrote it, almost 40 years ago. Commenting on Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness, Ephron wrote:

I agree with the book politically. What Chesler is saying is that the psychological professional has always applied a double standard when dealing with women; that psychological definitions of madness have been dictated by what men believe women’s role ought to be; and this is wrong. Right on, Phyllis. But here is the book: it is badly written and self-indulgent, and the research seems to me to be full of holes. If I say this, though, I will hurt the book politically…. On the other hand, if I fail to say that there are problems with the book, I’m applying a double standard of my own, treating works that are important to the movement differently than others: babying them, tending to gloss over their faults, gentling the author as if she and her book were somehow incapable of withstanding a single carping clause. Her heart is in the right place; why knock her when there are so many truly evil books around? This is what’s known in the women’s movement as sisterhood, and it is good politics, I suppose, but it doesn’t make for good criticism. Or honesty. Or the truth.

from Crazy Salad

Hat tip: Cindy Stivers, CJR

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Filed under Journalism, People, Women

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