Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feminism Is Over The Hill

So we are being told in a USAToday article about the 45th anniversary of some type of a feminist thingummybob (well The National Organization for Women). The reasons?
For a movement so vocal when it began, feminism is largely under the radar of most younger Americans today, except maybe from gender studies classes or history books.
And history has not always been kind. The word "feminist" often conjures up unflattering images of "women's libbers" protesting and burning their bras — myth, rather than reality, say those who were in the trenches.

The feminist has been portrayed as a woman who was "unhappy, angry, humorless and didn't shave any part of her body," says Terry O'Neill, national president of the National Organization for Women, which this weekend marks its founding 45 years ago with an event at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

The stereotype, she adds, "became very powerful." And it's hard to get past for many young women today.
Duh. Of course it's hard to get past that stereotype! But think about this a little bit: In what other human rights movement must the members be happy, not-angry and well-shaved to be taken seriously?

The real victory of the anti-feminist framing truly is this: The very idea of women's rights was converted into a sexist view of how women should be: Pretty, smiling and smooth-skinned. And this, my friends, is now "history!"

The rest of the article goes along the same lines. It interviews American college students, the group which probably faces least economy-based sexism (of any American group of women) in their everyday lives but which also faces tremendous pressure to be hawt.

Most college students don't have to struggle with child-care problems, most of them have not come across differential treatment at work and colleges no longer openly discriminate against female students. This group is, however, subject to fairly high risks of sexual violence. Still, in many ways college is a fairly egalitarian place. As Michael Kimmel notes in the article, things change afterwards.

So why didn't the article interview women already in the labor force or women who already have families?

So what would feminism be today, should such an odd thing still exist?
Wendy Brandon, an associate professor of education and women's studies at Rollins, says the women's movement has evolved to focus more on what's termed the "intersectionality" of gender, race, class and sexual orientation.
Senior Emily Higgins, 23, of Orlando, Fla., considers feminism "a framework which advocates equality for all marginalized persons across gender, race and class. It's not just an issue of gender."
"If someone asked me if I believed in feminism, I would say 'yes,' but I wouldn't necessarily call myself a 'feminist,'" she says.
If Emily Higgins (just as an example) is not a feminist, what is she? An anti-feminist? Neutral about the question of gender equality? What??? And is it really the case that feminism is the proper name for a movement that advocates on behalf, of, say poor gay men? Advocating on their behalf is important and wonderful but I find it difficult to see why that work would be called feminism.

I get exasperated by fuzzy terminology, I do. For instance, "feminism" can mean many different things but it is not necessarily the same as "the women's movement." Is this article about feminist activism or is it about principles and theory? And why on earth is it limited to not only a small sliver of American women (young women in colleges) but limited to the United States?

If you scroll down my front page today you find blog posts on Libya, on Norway, on Egypt and on the Egg-Americans initiative in Mississippi. Given the USAToday article, none of that counts as feminism, because complete equality has already been achieved in the US and other countries do not count. Or something like that.

Feminism is about the only liberation movement I know of which must be sold to its beneficiaries, over and over again. That, my friends, is truly weird and sometimes very disheartening. But if it helps at all in that selling, I'm quite hairless, very divine and must continually brush men off.

Of course I have those scales and a forked tongue...