A most astonishing debate is going on at Ann Althouse's blog about what is proper for feminists to do in order to still be allowed to wear that proud label. It all started with a photograph of liberal and progressive bloggers meeting Bill Clinton at an informal lunch. Jessica from feministing.com is in the front row of the picture, and Ann Althouse questioned her pose, the way she was dressed and the whole idea that a feminist would want to meet Bill Clinton:
Let's take a closer look at those breasts.
I wanted to elevate a discussion from the comments section of a post from Wednesday, you know the one with the photo of the Daou-wrangled bloggers posing in front of Bill Clinton? The first commenter, Goesh, picks up on my prompt -- "Let's just array these bloggers... randomly" -- and wisecracks: "Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?"
Eventually, Jessica from a blog called Feministing, shows up and says: "The, um, 'intern' is me. It's so nice to see women being judged by more than their looks. Oh, wait..."
Snarky but somewhat conciliatory, I say: "Well, Jessica, you do appear to be 'posing.' Maybe it's just an accident."
Jessica Feministing returns and says:
It's a picture; people pose. And I'm not sure I understand your logic anyway. If I "pose" for a picture (as opposed to sulking and hunching over?) then I deserve to be judged for my looks? I don't see anyone talking shit about the other bloggers smiling pretty for the camera.
Provoked, I decide to actually give her a small dose of the kind of judgment for brains she seems to demanding:
Jessica: I'm not judging you by your looks. (Don't flatter yourself.) I'm judging you by your apparent behavior. It's not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don't assume you're the one representing feminist values here. Whatever you call your blog....
Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps). She's got an ad in the sidebar for one of her own products, which is a tank top with the same breasty silhouette, stretched over the breasts of a model. And one of the top posts is a big closeup on breasts.
If you have the time and interest, the comments threads here and here give you much to fret about. It's sorta confusing, because anti-feminist and anti-woman comments are all put into a hat with various types of feminist or quasi-feminist comments and then the hat is shaken and the whole thing is dumped out and spread into comments. Or that's how I felt, reading through it all. I got indigestion, too.
For a different take on the same debate, read this post on feministing.com and the attached comments. - I am very tempted to join in the fray and to start sending arrows here and there, but I will restrain myself, don a neutral pin-striped business suit and write about something very erudite and academic.
Which is tits and their role in feminism. And don't worry, I first bound my own breasts very tightly. If I stood slightly angled towards you I might come across as almost breastless. Or breast-free or something. Except that now I can't breathe at all. Argh. Proper erudite feminism is damn inconvenient.
Anyway, about breasts. My feminist view on them is a very simple one: they are the property of the person who has them on her chest, having breasts does not preclude having brains and having breasts is perfectly acceptable in the public sphere. And women are not responsible for controlling the reactions of some men to the presence of breasts, women don't have to don burqas for the sake of these men or to bind their breasts, either.
Add to this simple and sane idea the idea of situation-appropriate clothing, and I see nothing wrong in Jessica's outfit in the picture. Most of the other bloggers in the picture are dressed in business-casual, and so is Jessica.
Then there is Althouse's comment about the logo on feministing.com:
Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps).
Er... It's sarcasm, Ann. Check what the silhouettes are doing. It's a way of talking back to the truck drivers with the mudflaps.
Enough with the breasts. What about the idea that a proper feminist would not want to have lunch with Bill Clinton? As Althouse says:
I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist.
I get her point, I really do. But the world of politics is not the same as the world of supermarkets where you don't buy a product you don't like and that way you won't have it in your life. Say that you decide not to vote because you don't like either of the candidates who are running. You're still going to end up with one of them ruling over you.
Sadly, the pragmatic approach often boils down to choosing the least unpleasant of the available options and the Democratic party is still the better choice for feminists, especially now that the Republicans have handed over all posts having to do with women's rights to their Taliban section.