Christine O'Donnell, Literary Critic


The "Christine O'Donnell-is-a-nutcase" camp (everyone in this country except for Redstate and about 30,000 voters in Delaware, basically) got a fresh shipment of O'Donnell-being-a-nutcase porn yesterday when this clip began making the rounds on Twitter. In it, the Delaware Republican Senate nominee engages in an actually quite fascinating inquiry into gender roles in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and eschews the kind of gender determinism into which a lot of right-wing feminism unfortunately strays. If social conservatism entails the state's implicit (and, in the case of a possible ban on abortions, explicit) reinforcement of certain gender roles, then she is no social conservative, at least on this point. Through presenting various different yet equally valid models of womanhood, she believes Tolkien is trying to say that "all types of women are necessary to the health of society…that women should be respected but that some of society's chivalrous ideas were doing more harm than good, isolating women rather than protecting them."

This places her on the more permissive side of the feminist gulf. It is even somewhat consistent with the candidate's famously puritanical views on sexuality, at least when you consider that extreme prudishness has recently been defended as a legitimate expression of one's feminism. Recall this article about True Love Revolution, in which the founder of Harvard's upstart pro-abstinence group explains that her group is about celebrating one's individual choices, and not with telling people what to do:

She said she read in Mill that women are subordinated in relationships as a result of "socially constructed norms." If men are commonly more promiscuous than women, it is only because the culture allows it, she said. Fredell was here to turn society around. "It's extremely countercultural," she said, for a woman to assert control over her own body. It is, in fact, a feminist notion. Conventional feminism, she explained, teaches that control of your body means the freedom to have sex without consequences — sex like a man. "I am an unconventional feminist," Fredell said, in the sense that she asserts control by choosing not to have sex — by telling men, no, absolutely not.

Now the fact that O'Donnell's feminism is more tolerant than one would expect when it's applied to Middle Earth doesn't mean that that tolerance carries over to actual Earth. All evidence points to the contrary. And it definitely doesn't mean that she should be a U.S. Senator. I sure as hell wouldn't vote for her. But this clip sort of turns her into a Fredell-type counter-cultural figure, in my mind at least: an outspoken prude who is nevertheless capable of articulating a surprisingly non-oppressive notion of gender roles (through a sort of bizarre discussion of the Lord of the Rings, no less). It's kind of refreshingly weird, even if it suggests a pretty glaring tension between her now-infamous sexual fascism and her apparent belief in feminist self-ownership…