Didion on the Woman's Movement

Thuy Nguyen, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2005

Toward the end of the essay "The Women's Movement," Didion focuses more on the personal aspects of the Women's Movement than the political ones. She gives examples of ways in which women are persecuted in daily life in an attempt to defend the necessity of equality. However, instead of continuing with this structure to elicit support, she turns to the doubts of others:

The half-truths, repeated, authenticated themselves. The bitter fancies assumed their own logic. To ask the obvious -- why she did not get herself another gynecologist, another job, why she did not get out of bed and turn off the television set, or why, the most eccentric detail, she stayed in hotels where only doughnuts could be obtained from room service -- was to join this argument at its own spooky level, a level which had only the most tenuous and unfortunate relationship to the actual condition of being a woman. That many women are victims of condescension and exploitation and sex-role stereotyping was scarcely news, but neither was it news that other women are not: nobody forces women to buy the package. [pp. 117-18]


1. Why do you think Didion used the words "half-truths" to refer to the examples of persecution of the women, and what do you think the words imply with regards to the Women's Movement as a whole?

2. Do you think Didion places herself on the same "spooky level" as the women she is writing about, or is she simply an observer looking in at the struggles of others?

What do you think she means by the last sentence, or more specifically, what does "the package" refer to? What is Didion suggesting that people do in response to the Women's Movement?

Cited Works

Didion, Joan. The White Album. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990.

Victorian Web Overview Victorian courses Joan Didion

Last modified 1 February 2005