Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Mother-Daughter Fights of Feminism

First there were the mummy wars. Now we have daughters fighting mothers and back again, at least according to what I read.

I have very little patience left for any of this, because the real fighting is going in quite different places. Or so I think. And the only ones who benefit from this in-fighting are the ones whose ass we should be kicking.

But there are two points I'd like to make about this generational war:

First, whoever you are, read the major books of "the other generation", to find out the relevant history, the beliefs and the facts that existed at a certain point in time. Then read about feminist strategies and tactics, which ones were followed by which "wave" and how successfully. Getting the information clears up a lot of the confusion, surprisingly. For example, the strategy of supporting women who were the first to enter some male-dominated occupation wasn't just so that uppity rich women could get a leg up on the white-boy hierarchy, at the expense of all the other women. It was also a way to change the stereotypes the society held about what women could and could not achieve, a way to widen those stereotypes, to turn them a little more positive, and therefore something that was ultimately of benefit to all women.

But of course the only women who really got a leg up were the rich ones who were prepared for that next rung of the ladder, and much remained to be done for the class "women" in general.

Second, think carefully what the operative definition of feminism might be for those who participate in these weird wars. For example, Courtney Martin writes at the end of her article on the mother-daughter wars:

My mom and I have agreed: No matter the outcome of the primaries, we'll be celebrating it, then setting our sights on the general election. We believe that the real feminist battles at hand are not mother versus daughter, but injustice versus justice, militarization versus diplomacy, corruption versus democracy. Now that is something worth fighting for.

How does she define feminism to get at those kinds of issues: injustice versus justice, militarization versus diplomacy, corruption versus democracy? Those are all admirable goals but in what sense are they the goals of feminist activity? That stretches the concept of feminism very wide indeed; so wide that it would not have much time for addressing issues specifically about women's rights.

Ok. I come across as all preachy and bitter there, probably because I do feel preachy and bitter. But I'm not your mother and I'm not your daughter (unless you are actually my mom HI MOM!), and I want nothing to do with these arguments.

I'm probably that crazy auntie in your attic.