Last time I checked, Erma Bombeck, when she was alive, was a hugely popular American humorist who wrote a newspaper column and published 15 books, most of which were best sellers. She came from the working class, and made quite a successful career for herself in publishing, at a time when women normally did not have careers.
But apparently, since she wrote about housewives and domestic issues, there’s nothing to admire about what she did. And if you want to mock a woman writer these days, why, you just link her to Erma Bombeck and call it at day. See: “Erma-Bombeckian” (Steven Pinker trashing Natalie Angier in the New York Times) or “Isis Bombeck” (commenter Prometheus just mocking Dr. Isis in general).
Here’s what I wrote earlier about Pinker’s small-minded carping:
But I really don’t like the way Pinker compares [Angier] to Erma Bombeck as a put-down. It’s insulting to Angier, and it’s insulting to Bombeck, a woman who wanted to be a writer from her earliest days, who had her first newspaper job at age 15, and who campaigned for the ERA. Erma Bombeck may not be your cup of tea, but for several decades she was the wry voice of the American middle-class housewife. To use her as a snipingly dismissive insult is, in a sense, spitting upon the unnoticed and unrewarded labor of all those women who tended the homes – and the ones who still do. To compare Angier to Bombeck is to say, “your writing is no better than a bunch of old wives’ tales”.
Maybe I’m just an overly sensitive, grouchy old humorless hairy-legged feminist. (Though I did shave just the day before yesterday.) But that’s what sucks about patriarchy: you’re never entirely sure if Steven Pinker just doesn’t like Natalie Angier’s writing style or if Steven Pinker is evaluating Natalie Angier more harshly because she’s a woman writing about man stuff.
Well, now I’m pretty sure about this: if you want to dismiss a woman writing about anything, you call her Bombeck. In doing so, you denigrate everything Erma Bombeck every did and achieved, and you deny that the world of wives and mothers has any weight or importance. And then you tar your present-day writer with that not-serious brush you just created.
I say, any d00d who resorts to trying to insult women writers by calling them Erma Bombeck – as if that were an insult – must be trying to overcompensate for his phenomenally small weiner.
UPDATE: Samia, in the comments below, has rightfully pointed out the serious problems with the last sentence of this post. I’m leaving the post as is so people can see what I originally wrote, but I encourage you to read the exchange between Samia and myself below for some enlightenment as to why I really should have thought twice before posting that remark.