Archive for Feminism
I’m gonna carry on squeezing all the feminist juice out of the (nearly) feminist documentary “Women” so as to make the most out of this once in a lifetime chance of watching feminism on the Beeb.
In the first part of the series, called “Libbers”, we get an account of the 1970 sit in at the Ladies Home Journal, organized by Susan Brown Miller. At about 24 minutes in, we are shown real footage of the event, with some of the women taking part in the sit in explaining their objections to the magazine’s editorial content. I was so amazed the first time I heard their arguments that I actually had to pause the video. And since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I went back and wrote a transcript. Here it is.
Susan Brown Miller: “They were feeding women propaganda that was against women’s interests.”
Woman 1: “And in the next month you write an article on Jacqueline Kennedy’s New York apartment. Now we feel that these articles are wish fulfilment articles for your readers who don’t live the way Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Tenney live, who don’t have those jewels, they will never get them, and we think it’s a cruel delusion to put these women up as models for them to try to emulate”.
Woman 2: “They create a gap of frustration”.
Woman 1: “It’s a very inhuman thing to do, to try to make them live vicariously in people like Jacqueline Kennedy”.
Woman 3: “Also to make them think that that’s something to work towards, finding a man who will give them those jewels…”
What amazed me was, one the depth of the insight these women had and two, the fact that most of us feminists today couldn’t come up with something as thorough if we spent years trying. And the reason why is obvious: while these “propaganda” techniques designed for inciting consumption were probably being used for the first time in the 70s, they have long since become de rigour in most of what is aimed at women in today’s media. We don’t notice it because it’s ever present, and it’s all we know. Which is why no one would even dream of using that word “propaganda”. Does anyone even know what it means anymore?
Also, note the emphasis that they put on the fact that the lives of the readers of Ladies Home Journal were nothing like Jacqueline Kennedy’s, so really, what was the point on portraying her extravagant lifestyle in the magazine? What purpose could it possibly serve, except make the women reading that feel inferior and anxious? Nowadays, of course, no one thinks twice about opening the current issue of *insert some fashion magazine’s name* and finding this or that celebrity going on about how wonderful her life is. Today that’s the status quo. Even though the lives of celebrities continue to be nothing like most women’s… Go figure.
The women taking part in the sit in were right then, and they are still right today. Pretty much everything in the media is there to create a “gap of frustration”. Whenever a woman appears on the cover of a magazine is for the sole purpose of putting her up as a model for us to try to emulate. And entertainment might as well be codeword for “wish fulfilment” and “living vicariously in the lives of”. What is “Sex and the City” if not that?
“Living vicariously in the life of” resonates deeply with me. And yes, it is a very inhuman thing to do.
ETA: OMG!!! POST N 100!!! *does happy dance*
Have you seen the BBC 4 three part documentary “Women”?
If you haven’t, you should. After all, it’s not everyday that we get to see feminism on the telly. And we should really make the most of it while it lasts.
The Guardian has published a critique of the programme’s third part, “Activists”, titled “Enough middle-class feminism” and written by a middle-class feminist. Her words seem to have struck a chord. Her intentions were probably good, as evidenced by this line:
“They have lots to say about the media objectification of women but, bizarrely, little to say about consumerism or capitalism.”
Unfortunately it goes downhill after that.
We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we will be here again. Every time feminists attack the sex industry somebody is compelled to butt in and tell us that “we are not dealing with what really matters”. My opinion on the subject hasn’t changed: the sex industry, especially in it’s everyday manifestation of pr0n, advertising, entertainment, media, et al, and it’s spilling over as the “beauty” industry, that’s fashion, dieting, looks, et al, is the only remaining ideological tool with which women are being oppressed in the realm of the superstructure. (And all this theory is way out of my league!). What on Earth am I trying to say? Simple. The message still is “women, stay in your place”, because women must, at all costs, stay in their place. But now they can’t come out and say it like that. The religious arguments don’t hold much water in rich, liberal democratic societies. The biological determinist idea that women are just not good at the “big stuff” has been reduced to shreds through decades of feminist theorizing, researching and probably Margaret Thatcher. The arrangement of woman as “mother and homemaker” can’t apply anymore, because now every adult human is needed in the labour market to keep productivity high and wages low. To recap. “Women are not as good as men because Christ wasn’t a woman”, crossed. “Women are just not as good as men, they are not rational, intelligent, whatever”, crossed. “A woman’s place is in the home”, crossed. What are we left with? “Women are just good for sh*gging”. Or pretty things to look at.
Back to the article, I have to say it does bring up something that crossed my mind when I was watching the documentary: sure, sure, the sex industry should be killed with fire, but… what about the other stuff? There’s not even a hint of a critique of capitalism. I can’t remember anyone acknowledging that not every human being, or every feminist for that matter, lives in London.
That said, I am getting increasingly tired of everyone and their dog using the “where are the working class women” card to attack feminism, of the second wave or the third one. Feminism doesn’t have monopoly rights over forgetting the working class. And it most certainly isn’t the only movement to forget working class women. To put it bluntly, feminism forgot about the working class just as the Left forgot about women. There’s enough guilt to spread around.
And if we’re going to be painfully honest, the Left has forgotten about the working class as well. Deprived of its core ideology, that is, the economy, it has been left rumbling about like an undead corpse, kept alive exclusively by debates over politically correct language and multiculturalism. Hardly conducive of revolutionary change. And if you ask uneducated, ignorant, old me, this is too similar to what feminism has been reduced to, that is, focus on the culture and the ideas, the “superstructure”, and leave the “base” intact.
What we have in our hands is the conflict of how to go about changing the root of the problem when all we can see is its effect on the surface. Feminists attack the discursive ideas of women as sex objects because that’s where we see misogyny and oppression taking place. In reality it stems from some place else, but what that is or where exactly it’s located, we have no clue.
The traditional Left, however, has known what it needs to do to revolutionize society for more than a century. What’s their (our) excuse?
I’m beginning to think that women’s oppression and worker’s oppression share a common root, and that both should be tackled at the same time. These ideas are too fresh in my mind, however, to write about them as of yet.
Before you go, take a look at this article on a seemingly entirely unrelated topic, “Yes, striking is a human right”. There’s this one word that got me thinking…
“The real question we should be asking is not why do people strike, but why they do not do so more often? To respond by saying that workers are all happy bunnies compared with their forebears would not be the right answer.”
Could the sex industry and capitalism have more in common than we previously thought?
Can you celebrate a special occasion by merely going about on your daily routine?
Since I am poor and live far too far away from even the closest feminist, not to mention feminist organization, I was left with no choice but to do “nothing” for International Women’s Day. Or at least that’s what I thought, until the day was over and I paused to consider what I’d done. In the morning I went to the bank and opened a savings account. There was a time when a woman couldn’t have her own account in this country, and it’s still the case in many parts of the world. I then went to work, the daily drudgery I put up with in order to support myself. Again, there was a time when such a thing would have been unthinkable for a single young woman. But the best part of the day came at night. I went out with some friends and we ended up, somehow, in the supermarket. I asked my (girl)friend if I could drive her car around the parking lot. To my surprise, she handed me over the keys. And guess what! I drove a car! That’s right! I started it and I moved it around! It might not seem much to most people, who have probably been driving for as long as they can remember, but it certainly was a big deal for me. The last time I was behind a wheel was 2005. And I am known for not being able to start a car successfully, much less on the first go. So YAY for me! Once more, this is a luxury that we take for granted, but in many parts of the world women are not allowed to drive.
Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day to all!
(Especially to those of you isolated from fellow feminists)
I was listening to BBC Radio 4 today. Again. Because where else would you get some information about current affairs and your odd spot of comedy but in the most mainstream of media outlets in this country? It was The News Quiz. Presented by a woman, but this time only male guests participated in it. They were discussing Google’s decision to pull out of the Chinese market because of censorship… or something. One man wanted to illustrate some point about Google and he described how one can find (lots of) “D0nkey Pr0n” within some small time interval. The public, of course, laughed.
“D0nkey Pr0n”. In the bloody BBC.
What is a feminist to do upon finding out that, again, there is no place in this planet that hasn’t been polluted by pr0n? Well, go and look up what Gail Dines has been up to, of course!
Last time I blogged about her, she had mentioned the lecture she gave in the Anti Pr0nography Conference that she was about to publish a book titled “Stepford Sluts”. Unfortunately, she hasn’t. She is, however, about to publish another book titled “Pr0nland; How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality”.
So I’m left with no option but to transcript what little she revealed in that lecture about the book.
“Second wave feminism was about resistance at best and at worst negotiation with patriarchy. Third wave is about capitulation. I think much of the Third Wave feminism is the thinking woman’s cosmopolitan.
Let’s talk about what’s going on in the culture. Let’s talk about the move towards what I would call “slut culture”. Why do I say “slut culture”. To explain that I’m going to explain the title of my new book. It’s gonna be called “Stepford Sluts”. You can all guess why. Last year they re released “Stepford Wives”. The film was bombed, for a number of reasons, my main understanding is that it was a ridiculous movie to make in 2006. Why? Because the ideal woman is indeed on her hands and knees but she ain’t cleaning any kitchen floors on her hands and knees. The ideal woman constructed in patriarchy is no longer a Stepford Wife, it’s a Stepford Slut. Equally robotic, equally capitulated, equally mindless and brainless, and equally distressed internally.”
I think she’s onto something. It’s been going on in my head for some time. This “Slut Culture” is the equivalent of the 50s “Housewife Culture”. Its real objective, of course, is the oppression of women. However women see it as “empowering” and will defend it to the grave.
After “Stepford Wives” came the Second Wave. I can only hope that after “Slut Culture” we have a Wave that gets rid of it.
First, the obligatory Holidays greeting. I hope you’ve had a nice time and that the next year is better than the last. I hope all our dreams come true this year. (Yes, I am that naïve).
Now on to what really matters.
The Radical Feminist blogosphere has been pretty quiet lately, in what I hope only turns out to be a state of hibernation. Infighting has taken its toll and everyone has separated herself from everyone else, with the result that we are now not a community and that we can change nothing. Poisonous ideas are running rampant within Feminism. The teeth of the movement are hidden, and no one feels inclined to ask the tough questions and focus on what really matters. Every social movement needs a root, and Feminism is no exception. Without it we are left with meaningless arguments about meaning itself. You know, endless discussions about “empowerment” and “choice”.
Feminism is distorted beyond recognition to the point that the only standard used for something to be deemed “feminist” is “a woman somewhere benefits from it”. This approach to social change is guaranteed to not change anything, since there is no recognition of such a thing as society in the first place.
Sisters, it’s time to wake up. Our ideas are too precious to be lost…
Maybe we are already awakening…?
Amy has decided to keep her Radical Feminist Library going. And if you haven’t checked it out already, I strongly suggest you do.
Polly is blogging again. For now.
As you probably know by now, Mary Daly passed away last January the 3rd.
It doesn’t much matter how right or wrong she was. She went far in trying to uncover that part of Truth and Beauty that can only come from Womankind’s eyes, no small feat in a patriarchal society. And one that is most certainly doomed to failure, to a greater or lesser extent. She went where no feminist had gone before.
The Radical Feminist blogosphere seems to have come back, ever so slightly, to honour Mary Daly’s memory.
Allecto has come out of her hiatus and written on her blog
Heart has produced a series of posts on Daly’s work.
Oh, and I am writing this. 😀
Here’s to a new beginning for Radical Feminism… At least within the volatile blogosphere.
Please, feel free to post links to other radical feminist websites I may have missed.
“laws allowing transsexuals to be recognised in their acquired gender are likely to go before the Dáil next year following demands from the Green Party”
Meanwhile, abortion continues to be illegal in Ireland.
Cat McIlroy of TENI, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, expressed this new trend in politics perfectly when she said:
“she hopes the Government can see this as a human rights issue: “Having your identity validated and respected by the Government and the rest of your peers is important for everyone,” “
Of course. Now the right to bodily autonomy, that is irrelevant. Most certainly not a human rights issue.
What exactly do I mean when I call this the new trend in politics? I’m not sure yet, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that nowadays the only thing that matters in the fight for social justice is people’s “identity”. How do you identify yourself? Is society respectful enough of your chosen identity? Are you allowed to be who you want to be? Boring old (fart) things like wage slavery, poverty, and the right to not have the hands of the State in your womb, are entirely irrelevant, because all problems can magically go away if you focus on your identity and express your true self.
I blame identity politics. And liberals. Goodness, I hate liberals.