Arc of feminism reflected in one life (Karen DeCrow)

Atlantic magazine carries an interesting obituary of Karen DeCrow, who was president of the National Organization for Women in the 1970s but found that she couldn’t get on board with younger people who call themselves feminists. Now that I’m in the second half-century of my life I have seen a lot of people identifying with a political movement and watching with dismay as that movement pulls away from them. The 1970s parents in my childhood neighborhood (Bethesda, Maryland) grew their hair long, placed Save the Whales bumpers stickers on their Volvos, occasionally smoked marijuana, hung rows of love beads in their homes, and even said “groovy” from time to time. They would have considered themselves “liberals” but their beliefs on social issues would today likely be more aligned with politicians whom we identify as “conservative Republicans.”


  1. Izzie L.

    June 16, 2014 @ 10:56 pm


    Sure. The national Overton Window keeps sliding to the left but individuals tend to stop changing their views somewhere around middle age, so someone who is fixated as a “liberal” of say the 1970s appears positively Neaderthal by 2014 standards. For example, gay marriage was in the “unthinkable” category in the ’70s even to the most liberal. Hell, it was still radical in 2000. But modern political correctness means that you have to keep running to the left or else you will be fall completely outside the window and deemed a reactionary dinosaur.

  2. paul kramarchyk

    June 16, 2014 @ 11:47 pm


    my 2¢ – I think “conservative Republican” is too broad a term to characterize Mr. and Mrs. Groovy these days. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is Mr. and Mrs. Groovy lean more libertarian liberal (LL). Meaning they lean right on government spending, taxes, nanny laws and programs, endless environmental reviews that add nothing but friction and delay. And lean left on social issues (especially ones that cost next to nothing), pro-choice, gay rights, check your gun at the gate while at Disney Land, keep religion out of government.

    I graduated high school in upstate New York, 1966. The grownups in those days (my parents) came through the depression and WWII. The “greatest generation,” as Brokaw calls them, were not perfect people. But demand a lot of respect simply because they’ve earned it. And yes, they brought with them a lot of Edwardian baggage from their parents. A lot of things needed change, racial and ethnic bigotry, women’s rights, etc.

    I mostly agree with DeCrow in that what began as a just cause with real grievances, has for some, turned to whining and exploitation of the law. (Obviously this topic needs a book, or a few dozen books, to be addressed in any depth.)

  3. Jerry

    June 16, 2014 @ 11:57 pm


    “They would have considered themselves “liberals” but their beliefs on social issues would today likely be more aligned with politicians whom we identify as “conservative Republicans.””

    This is almost the boat I am in. I vote pretty liberally, and yet, many forums these days would certainly consider me an evil conservative.

    I think another interesting arc is Jonathan Turley’s. I am pretty sure that 10, 20 years ago he would have been considered very liberal and a civil libertarian, these days he seems to be considered conservative.

    If you don’t otherwise follow her, Cathy Young is a terrific journalist on any topic she writes about. Always well researched and is about the most clearly objective journalist I have found.

  4. Zapiens

    June 17, 2014 @ 1:37 pm



    If you mean this Cathy Young (, her memoir, Growing Up In Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood, (written at the age of 26 or 27!) is quite interesting.

  5. Jerry

    June 17, 2014 @ 2:53 pm


    @Zapiens, yes, that’s her.

    @Izzie, perhaps a problem with “Overton” theory is that it assumes some sort of linear scale.

    1970s liberals believed in freedom of expression even for people they disagree with. Defending Nazis marching through Skokie is the canonical example.

    2014 liberals believe in calling people they disagree with Nazis and shutting their speech down.

    I don’t see how the cutesy “Overton” theory explains that slide.

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