Book Smart: Don’t get her started

Former LEO columnist Janet Boyd talks about her new book and issues that still drive her crazy

Last winter when Stephen George approached me about writing for LEO, the first thing I did was track down former LEO columnist and feminist compatriot Janet L. Boyd. Why had she quit? I wanted to know. Were the folks at LEO male chauvinist pigs, had they harassed her, what was the deal? Surely she hadn’t just decided to give up her opportunity to rant and rave of her own accord? But, in fact, she had. Boyd assured me that the folks at LEO were terrific (and they are). She just decided it was time to move on.

    Like many LEO readers, I was pissed off when, in 2003, Boyd put down her pen. Brilliant, funny and unapologetically feminist commentary is, after all, a rare commodity. Fortunately, Boyd, with partial funding from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, has put together a limited edition collection (look lively, there are only 300 copies) of all four years of her “Don’t Get Me Started” columns.

    In re-reading these columns, it is disconcerting to see how little things change. In one column from March 2000, Boyd wrote, “Somebody pass the barf bag, because if I hear one more word from Frankfort about the Ten Commandments, I’m gonna blow chunks.” In view of Ernie Fletcher’s decision to place said Commandments in front of the Capitol on the eve of his recent trouncing, I decided it might be safer to catch up with Boyd by e-mail, rather than in person:

LM: Do you miss writing for LEO? What have you been doing with all that extra time now that you aren’t writing your column?
I stopped writing DGMS because I believe columnists — just like cartoonists, sitcom writers and politicians — should quit while people are still interested in what they do. It was a lot more rewarding to have people say, “Oh my god, why did you quit?” than it would have been to feel that I had become predictable and boring. I was pretty burned out by the time I stopped, but there have been a few times when I woke up in the morning, read the paper and said, “Dang it, I wish I still had my column.” But instead of expressing an opinion every other week, I have been working on a series of three mystery novels.

LM: What’s your take on the recent gubernatorial election? How about Mitch McConnell? The bridges … any other issues you’d like to address if you were still writing your column?
You know, the thing that amazes me when I read through the DGMS columns is that we’re still hashing out so many of the same issues we were from 1999 to 2003. Abortion. The Ten Commandments. The mythical bridges. The same old recycled white boys running for every office. It’s like that movie “Groundhog Day.” Every time we have an election, it’s like reliving the same old election over and over and over … Steve Beshear, Jack Conway, Mitch McConnell … all blasts from the past. There’s a rumor that Crit Luallen might run against Mitch in the future. That’s a race I think I could get behind.

LM: From the beginning, you made clear that feminism informed your thoughts about the issues you wrote about. It truly was groundbreaking to have a feminist with a regular pulpit in the community. Even today, though, using the “F” word can be controversial — why do you think that word makes people so uneasy?
It’s telling, I think, that the other “F” word is less controversial than “feminist” these days. Why does open feminism make people squirm? I don’t know. On the one hand, the tenets of feminism have been so absorbed into society that young women view it as a right (and rightfully so) that they can go to the college of their choice, manage a lucrative career and give birth only if they want to. On the other hand, the concept of feminism has been so distorted that middle-school girls think they are exercising feminist power if they dress like skanks and give blow jobs to boys in the front row of a movie theater. I don’t get it.

LM: What about Lurene (who graced us with her wisdom via early morning calls to Boyd) — what has she been up to, does she have any thoughts she’d like to share with LEO readers about the current goings-on in Kentucky?
Lurene sits in the corner of my office at home, wearing my viking helmet and sassily critiquing my novels. She wants LEO readers to know that she has been fairly inactive lately, but her sword arm is twitching and she may be cutting loose pretty soon.

    Boyd will read and sign “Don’t Get Me Started: The LEO Years” at Quills Coffee and Books, 1220 E. Kentucky St., on Friday, Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. Books will be available for sale (cash or check only).

Contact the writer at [email protected]