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the feminine mystique

Oh, God, Germaine Greer is on Start the Week and yet again they're talking about how young women are not feminists. If every one of my female friends calls herself a feminist, if even Charlotte Church calls herself a feminist, are we all complete freaks? I'm fed up with this obvious propaganda, perpetuated by both conservatives and older feminists (not including Germaine, today at least). Magazines like Bust and Bitch, independent but glossy feminist magazines with wide distribution all over the world, didn't exist 15 years ago. How does that equate with modern younger women being anti-feminist?

Christopher Hitchens is also on. I seem to remember a time when his public persona wasn't that of a complete and utter prick, but maybe I was imagining it.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
garlikboy
May. 30th, 2005 08:42 am (UTC)
you'd be surprised. Teaching cultural theory to undergraduates it is rare to find one that would claim to be feminist. Generally they either believe we are in 'post' feminism (BAH!) or can not see the point and are blatantly anti feminist. Sometimes it can be very scary.....
jinxremoving
May. 30th, 2005 09:51 am (UTC)
mm, sadly i guess i agree. i did my degree in sociology with gender studies, and every gender-related course i took (in a bunch of different departments) would start with simple "what is gender? what is feminism?" discussions, and every time, young women would sit around doing the "i'm not a feminist but" thing, before graduating to more complex issues like "wow, i've never really thought about it before, but i suppose things are pretty hard for gay people".
cangetmad
May. 30th, 2005 09:38 am (UTC)
When I shared a flat with my friend slug, I had the "I'll be a post-feminist in post-patriarchy" postcard on my bedroom door, and she had just "I'll be a post-feminist". And I cannot understand how an intelligent woman like her, who basically is a feminist as I would define it, refuses to engage with the word. And of my uni officemates, PhD students all, in a department where women dominate as undergrads and mysteriously vanish as you progress up the academic ladder, only one of the five women is a feminist.

But pretty much all my "chosen friends" are feminists. I think that might mean that I live in a bubble, though.
pinguin
May. 30th, 2005 10:47 am (UTC)
I wish I'd seen Germaine: she always gets a rise out of me, and I enjoy shouting at the telly.

I wonder whether this might be explained by the number of people who act in a way that people who are feminists would call feminist, but who don't call themselves feminist for whatever reason?

I think this is really fascinating. I mean, it's all about power, about ownership of words and who gets to define them. For me, I don't call myself feminist because it's too wooly a term: I don't know what people would think of me when they heard "feminist", and so I don't find it useful to describe myself that way. Having said that I'm here on lj among a bunch of people who know better. If I'm among people who're going to think "not feminist = agree with GW Bush" I'll sure say feminist as shorthand.

I find it all much easier with sexuality: I'm happy to say "queer" or "bisexual" because they deal more with behaviour and history than attitude. Having said that, I know that if I use these labels some people will assume a ton of things about me that aren't true, but I think most queers/bisexuals will know what they can assume and what not. The trouble with "feminist" is that there are people who call themselves feminist that will make assumptions about me based on what *they* believe, and be wrong. And I will feel like a liar, or that they're trying to make feminism into something bigger than it is. If there was a feminist manifesto then maybe I would sign up ;)

that's all fine for the theory, but of course there is a *specific* thing that I don't like to be identified with: the idea that women's values, women's ways of being and so on are better than men's and that men and women are fundamentally different and there's some uncrossable divide between them. It seems so contrary to what I believe in, which is that everyone can do everything, and that it is possible for men and women to understand each other just as much as it is possible for us to understand our own sex. The whole "women are better" thing is just so easy to distort: yeah, women are wonderful and good and understanding and empathetic so we should let them do what they're best at: get back into the house ladies, and look after the weans.

Every time I heard or read something from Andrea Dworkin I got less likely to call myself a feminist. She didn't own the word, but she's more famous than me so her version of feminism is the one that carries I think. Maybe if Charlotte's version of feminism starts getting more coverage I'll get on the bandwagon :)

stellanova
May. 30th, 2005 11:06 am (UTC)
The thing is, I don't know a single person who believes that women are perfect and lovely. That's always seemed like the feminist equivalent of animal rights extremists who murder vivisectionists - they might get a lot of press, but they're not representative of the movement as a whole.

Every time I heard or read something from Andrea Dworkin I got less likely to call myself a feminist. She didn't own the word, but she's more famous than me so her version of feminism is the one that carries I think.

But how is that going to change if people disown the word? When people with feminist principles distance themselves from the word because of extremists, it just gives the word to the extremists without a fight for it.
stellanova
May. 30th, 2005 11:12 am (UTC)
I knew Sars had summed up my feelings on this matter better than I could in Yes, You Are:
If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period. It's more complicated than that -- of course it is. And yet…it's exactly that simple. It has nothing to do with your sexual preference or your sense of humor or your fashion sense or your charitable donations, or what pronouns you use in official correspondence, or whether you think Andrea Dworkin is full of crap, or how often you read Bust or Ms. -- or, actually, whether you've got a vagina. In the end, it's not about that. It is about political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and it is about claiming that definition on its own terms, instead of qualifying it because you don't want anyone to think that you don't shave your pits. It is about saying that you are a feminist and just letting the statement sit there, instead of feeling a compulsion to modify it immediately with "but not, you know, that kind of feminist" because you don't want to come off all Angry Girl. It is about understanding that liking Oprah and Chanel doesn't make you a "bad" feminist -- that only "liking" the wage gap makes you a "bad" feminist, because "bad" does not enter into the definition of feminism. It is about knowing that, if folks can't grab a dictionary and see for themselves that the entry for "feminism" doesn't say anything about hating men or chick flicks or any of that crap, it's their problem.
pinguin
May. 30th, 2005 11:25 am (UTC)
I read that a while ago, and while I'm happy to stand up and say "I'm in favour of political, economic and social equality of the sexes" because I know what that means, I don't recognise Sars' right to tell me what to call myself. I live in Switzerland, and I meet people in my work, Swiss and German women, for whom feminism means the right to give up the chance of a fmamily in order to chase their male colleagues all the way up to the top of the career ladder. Hell, I have a colleague who thought that on Women's Day that the blokes in the lab should bring us chocolate. The word means a lot of things to a lot of people.

You know, if George Bush or the editor of the Sun or the Pope was here, I'd stand up with you and Sars and say feminist because it would be close enough. I'm not scared of people thinking of me as an angry girl. What I am scared of is people claiming to speak for me because I called myself a feminist.
stellanova
May. 30th, 2005 11:44 am (UTC)
The word means a lot of things to a lot of people.

Yeah, but I know what it means to me, and as far as I'm concerned that's all that counts. Just as you don't like Sars telling you what to call yourself, I don't like other people defining that word for me. I really don't care if to some people it means being a corporate shark or whatever. To some people, socialism means Stalinism - that doesn't mean I'm going to stop believing in democratic socialist principles or stop calling myself a socialist. To me, feminism is essentially that dictionary definition, and that's fine with me.

I don't have a problem with basic self-applied labels in general, though. I think they're the best way of forming political bonds.
ladyxoc
May. 30th, 2005 11:49 am (UTC)
To some people, socialism means Stalinism - that doesn't mean I'm going to stop believing in democratic socialist principles or stop calling myself a socialist. To me, feminism is essentially that dictionary definition, and that's fine with me.


Yes.
ladyxoc
May. 30th, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC)
What I am scared of is people claiming to speak for me because I called myself a feminist.

This worries me as well. For me, at least, the answer is to speak up for my own damn self as often as possible, so there is no mistake about what I believe. But it's infuriating that I've had to do such agonizing and soul-searching over the simple fact that I do not want to be treated like a perpetual child or a household pet.
pinguin
May. 30th, 2005 11:31 am (UTC)
That's always seemed like the feminist equivalent of animal rights extremists who murder vivisectionists - they might get a lot of press, but they're not representative of the movement as a whole.

Is there a movement?

I haven't disowned the word feminism: if I'm speaking to people who don't know better I'll say that for want of a better definition. But apart from that the extremists can have it because I don't want to be an anything. I just want there to be equality of opportunity for everyone and then for the whole issue to go away.
roseability_
May. 30th, 2005 11:19 am (UTC)
I'd say I'd agree that young women don't call themselves feminists anymore.

In one of my A level classes, my teacher asked who considered themselves feminists. Me. That was it.

In another class I mentioned I was a feminist, and the girl next to me asked "So what's wrong with men then?"

Now I'm at university, and I haven't heard a single person describe themselves as feminist. In fact, I had a long argument with someone the other day who thought feminism as a movement was extreme, and that egaltarianism was the way forward. She also didn't believe that feminism was a sincere movement, because the two people she knew who had classed themselves as feminists were hypocrites. One was a male teacher who had a somewhat condescending attitude towards female students, and the other was a girl she knew who constantly changed the way she acted to suit whichever guy she liked that month.

She didn't seem convinced by my arguments. Overall, it's all rather depressing.
ladyxoc
May. 30th, 2005 11:47 am (UTC)
"So what's wrong with men then?"

Ah, yes. Like the idiots who tell me I can't possibly be a feminist because I may at that moment be wearing lipstick and HOLY SHIT, GIRLY SHOES. I like to ask them sweetly if they'd feel better if I were sporting a camo-painted dildo and some hand grenades, but then they just go off in a huff.
garlikboy
May. 31st, 2005 08:50 am (UTC)

This is a FREE event but places are limited so please RSVP to
feminist-review@londonmet.ac.uk

CELEBRATING 25 YEARS - FEMINIST REVIEW

http://www.feminist-review.com/

Past and present members of the Feminist Review Collective (Elizabeth
Wilson, Gail Lewis, Amal Treacher & Nirmal Puwar) will speak on the
history and future of feminisms and Feminist Reivew. This will be
followed by a reception.

Date: Friday June 17th
Time: 7.00pm
Place: Brunei Gallery, opposite main entrance of S.O.A.S (University of
London, Malet Street, London, U.K)
enoneoftheabove
May. 31st, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
If every one of my female friends calls herself a feminist, if even Charlotte Church calls herself a feminist, are we all complete freaks?

Nope. It means we're winning.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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