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On Young Feminism: A Rebuttal to the Second Wave

For anyone who follows left-wing media in the UK (and doubtless abroad) any time after 2000, a common criticism of modern Feminism becomes increasingly evident; I call it the Katie Price Principle, but it could be called the Pole Dancing principle or the Living Doll principle or a thousand other names. In essence, it’s the argument that the sexualisation of our culture has been gleefully bought into by Feminists, that Feminists are gradually reassuming traditional and newly-developed stereotypically feminine roles; women are becoming more narcissistic, more wrapped up in self-promotion at the expense of female-promotion, and as a result the Feminist discourse suffers.I call it the Katie Price principle after the woman whose two year-old daughter Princess was snapped wearing false eyelashes, spawning a media-spanning argument about female role models and early sexualisation. Katie Price was no stranger to tabloid attention before that; she is a woman who has been described as “the Belle du Jour of glamour modelling,” the archetypal sexualised but empowered woman, peddling her appearance and her fame (apropos of nothing, it seems) and revelling in the power she has – fundamentally, to make money. This, television moralists and traditional feminists (uniquely aligned) argued, marked the downfall of Feminism or its folly. Feminism, they argued, was becoming or had become a movement so desperate to rename victimhood as empowerment that it unknowingly condemned hidden victims, a movement which seemed to have stepped back one intellectual level from a generation of women who knew their rights and were sure as hell going to fight for them.

Every facet of female and Feminist expression is now analysed for this lack of intellectualism. A food blog written by a university student discovering cooking for the first time is “a return to traditional feminine values.”  A tentative attempt to examine why a woman might choose sex work or pole dancing without condemnation is the willing re-sexualisation of women. Young women who wear make-up and paint their nails and say they feel empowered by that are unwitting slaves unaware of how the patriarchy has oppressed them, using the word “empowered” shallowly, misunderstanding what their mothers fought for.

More than that, the critics argue, this kind of easy empowerment is subtly aiding those who seek to make victimisation of women seem appealing or sexy. Publicising the Belle Du Jours of this world means that the trafficked women, the trafficked children even, are sidelined and unspoken for, and the sex industry (particularly its more softcore elements) is able to successfully rebrand itself. And what about mothers, especially poor ones? Modern feminism is all about being a liberated childless (or non child-centric) fashionable blogger with quirky yet mainstream style – it’s all about being a Jezebel editor, in other words. One post, responding to Fuck No Jezebel’s tumblr of all places, summed this up perfectly for me:

“mommyjacking”? Can I call it “rich NYC party girl-jacking” when flippant little 22 year olds try to turn THE ENTIRETY of feminism into a heterosexploitation high heels I choose my choice party?

 

So there you have it. My generation’s feminism is shallow, exploitative, a fake veneer over hyperfeminisation. Except, well, no, it’s not.

Let’s go back to our first example, the food blog, or as my mother put it, “cupcake feminism”: independent, snarky women baking on their weekends and posting it on the Internet. They are indicative of a wider group of women; criticised for reassuming outdated roles of hyperfemininity, stooping over the ’50s oven and cutesying it up Deschanel style, with any sense of irony removed because these women do not overtly criticise stereotypes of women. But that’s not what’s going on here; they’re hungry, and they’re eating. They, we, can recognise intellectually the existence of those stereotypes, understand their harmful components (the lack of choice, the system of oppression they were at one time intrinsically indicative of), and we can enact them without bringing 1950s preconceptions of femininity with us. These food blogs or this make-up tip articles do not mark a lack of understanding of stereotype – they mark a complete disregard for the relevance of stereotype to competency. Second-wavers who would decry this trend, do you really underestimate our intellectual capacity so far that you believe we don’t understand the implications of the apron and the griddle? Because to me it seems that in order to condemn a woman as a stoolpigeon for the patriarchy you would have to either believe that she was unaware of the stereotypes she might be wading in to, or – worse – you would have to honestly believe that feminine traits are inherently negative, or that a woman cannot exhibit behaviours part of her conditioning and still be aware of them.

So too, are we ridiculed as intellectually spurious for the emphasis our Feminism places on choice. Who are we to treat the pole dancer or even the sex worker as anything other than a victim to be rescued or martyred? How can we possibly view traditional femininity or sexualisation as things to be chosen, and possibly to be proud of? Well, firstly, not all of us do. But secondly, it is not ever a question of claiming sexualisation to be inherently positive or negative; neither is it a question of claiming anything to be inherently positive or negative. Modern feminism isn’t affirming sexualisation as positive – it’s rejecting self-certainty as negative. How arrogant we would have to be to presume to know every woman’s experience of sexualisation, how deaf we would have to be to stop listening to the women who have chosen lives we don’t necessarily understand. Just because it is harder to argue for a Feminism without absolute truths does not make those non-absolute truths any less true. We would be sacrificing our intellectual integrity as a generation wholesale if we presumed to proclaim universal truths about a Feminism that has proven itself multiferous, multicoloured and intensely personal. I will repeat it again, because it bears repeating; a lack of absolutism is not a lack of integrity. And nor does it mean that Feminism is failing; quite the opposite.

I look up at my TV screen at the moment and I see two female news reporters discussing international politics. My female friends are among a generation who are more committed to further education and education at all than their male compatriots, who put on make-up and still insist that women have the choice not to, who are painfully aware of feminine stereotypes and aching not to unwittingly enact them. These are young women who have known their whole lives that they have access to independence and their own careers, women whose feminism is about bringing more people into the fold, rather than staring outward with hostile eyes, backs to each other, refusing to let other women drink their fill and refusing to try and understand them.

What we are doing to young women by telling them how to be perfect canned Feminists is exactly the same as what political orthodoxies have been doing for thousands of years. Please, you who would seek first and final feminist principles, do not claim intellectual superiority while you sit in the 1970s advocating perfect feminists, feminists who are untainted by the patriarchy, feminists who condemn all women who are not empowered. You are condemning as much as those you claim to hate, those you claim to fight against. And in the process, you are undervaluing a feminist consciousness that is not often reported but exists, virulent and indestructible.

For young feminists now, Feminism is about understanding, a constant effort to improve things for everyone, rather than a charged effort with no impurity tolerated. My friends understand in detail issues of Female Genital Mutilation, sex-selective abortion, human trafficking, prostitution. Their willingness not to condemn the pole dancer should not be taken as a carte blanche to the construct of pole dancing; their tactical support of legal prostitution should not be taken as support for the construct of prostitution per se. Simultaneously, young feminists are capable of understanding why patriarchy informs these constructs, and understand the negative effects of those constructs, without condemning the women who take part in them. No feminist is perfect, every feminist is worth listening to, and the struggle should not be ideologically closed.

I’m putting myself out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it; our feminism is less concerned with the feminist and more concerned with the woman, and to me that has to be better. We are no longer the children of second-wave feminism, but the possessors of our own feminism; some of us are the children of the children of second-wave feminists. Some of us are men, a lot of us are racial minorities, we are LGBT, we refuse to be essentialist – about women, about feminists, about women of colour, even about our own understanding of feminism. We want to listen to what you have to say rather than what we have to say. That does not make us intellectually feeble, it makes us irrepressable. Try to find a leader of our feminism, a unified ideology, and you will fail. That makes us stronger, not weaker. If there are those among us with the power to address the subtler sexism still evident in our society (and I believe there are), they will be sourced from cupcake blogs, from book groups, from schools, from the young. In ten or fifteen years, we will be trying to shepherd a new generation of feminism.

We don’t know everything yet. Don’t take this as a disavowal of the achievements of second-wave feminism, but take it as an opportunity. Feminists still need their mothers, and those mothers still have incredible power – but while they condescend to their sons and daughters and condemn their willingness to tolerate “impure” feminism, they sabotage a movement aimed at a global improvement of women’s rights. To sum up: we bake, because we like to eat. And we are worthy successors.

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Alex

Alex is an A-level student from the United Kingdom who likes feminism, Dr Pepper and the rule of three. He's sometimes known for being tautologous, and he tends to repeat himself.

63 thoughts on “On Young Feminism: A Rebuttal to the Second Wave”

  1. No feminist is perfect, every feminist is worth listening to, and the struggle should not be ideologically closed. I’m putting myself out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it; our feminism is less concerned with the feminist and more concerned with the woman, and to me that has to be better.

    Terrific!  Absolutely terrific.  From a feminist Stay at Home Mom (eek – The IRS calls me a been called a ‘homemaker’), thank you!

  2. I’m putting myself out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it; our feminism is less concerned with the feminist and more concerned with the woman, and to me that has to be better.

    First I apologize if I’m covering ground already covered, I’ve not yet had a chance to look over the rest of the comments.

    Anyway, I love this article, and this quote.  I would extend the breadth of modern Feminism, though, to say that we are more concerned with humanity than anything.  We have realized that we absolutely don’t know everything about every context and every person’s struggles.  We have learned, as Fox-Genovese posits in Feminism Without Illusions, that many women aren’t even in a position to worry about the finer points of feminism because they don’t even have a reliable food source.  Modern Feminism is becoming less about flipping the old script and more about getting in touch with each other socially and figuring things out collectively, as a community.  In my community, the focus of my feminist energies is on expanding teen (both boys and girls) education of sex and responsibility.  For my friend Samar, a mid-20’s woman in Baghdad, the situation is entirely different, and the feminists of her community are right now focusing simply on surviving and seeking greater representation and voice.  For them, feminism is education and writing.  There really are no hard truths and easy messages.  Sometimes it seems we are denying freedom in the name of liberation…

  3. Thank you for this article. I am 31 years old, but I have always been more comfortable with the second wave over the third wave because feminism to me is about seeking equality and riding society of the harmful sexist structures. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the respect the choice above all element because, well, women make choices for themselves, their daughters, and their communities that don’t advance equality, and I don’t think I should have to respect that. I know we all criticize Jezebel and several of their editors have said that it’s not an explicitly feminist site anyway, but some of the “choose your choice” people on there seemed to take that so far that no discussion or critique was possible at all. Nobody could say anything about Michelle Duggar because it was her body and her choice. With that kind of attitude I feel like there is no point to feminism becuase everything is someone’s choice.

    Now I feel I have a better handle on things, and I wouldn’t assume that third wave beliefs are that simple. I just hope there can be a place here for people who identify more with the second wave because I enjoy reading and commenting on this site so much. I vow I won’t be condescending like some of the women who have been discussed in this post.

    1. The point, I think, is that criticism should be levelled at the system that may have restricted Michelle’s choices or limited her perception of her own abilities, not necessarily Michelle Duggar herself. I can find a lot to say in critique of religious polygamy as it’s practiced, but that doesn’t make religious polygamists bad people under all circumstances (even, shock horror, the men).

      Nor, incidentally, do I save any bile in criticising women who work against equality (the Bachmanns of this world). Nor would I stop myself from criticising a conservative mother who limited her daughters’ choices. But that’s not what this is talking about; this is about the choices women do make. We can seek to inform, we can even question how those choices came to be (and which filters influenced them), but I will not say to a woman “your choice was wrong”. I will say “is your choice not informed by x and y”.

      I do understand your frustration, though (and occasionally share it). When it comes to sex work, I have to put up my hands and say I don’t know how to approach it all the time, except that I know starting from a place of certainty is more likely to be wrong than starting from a place of questioning.

      Also I really hope this didn’t read as being hostile to all women who are second-wave feminists. I think third-wavers too seek to get rid of sexist structures, and we have more in common than not.

      1. I think it’s valid to say that Michelle has made some really horrible choices.  Being a woman doesn’t put her above reproach, especially since she’s a part of a system that is raising 10+ daughters to do exactly what she’s done with her life.  Not everyone is equally intelligent, socially conscious, or invested in feminism.  I don’t see the point in assuming that all women deserve no blame just for being women.  If we can point to certain men and call them assholes for acting against women’s rights, we can do the same to certain women.  Saying “She’s a woman and therefore cannot be attacked because it’s the system’s fault and not hers” negates the notion of female autonomy.  I don’t was feminism to imply that women have no fucking autonomy.  If you’re a cognizant woman and you do something stupid, I get to think that you’re stupid.  I won’t stop you from doing it, but I’ll think it’s stupid all the same.

  4. Absolutely perfect.  “Our feminism” is about not allowing one feminist to speak for the group. “Our” feminism is for TRUSTING women that the lifestyle they choose is right for them, and to not place any judgement.  “Our” feminism is about not excluding women (or anyone) just because they don’t identify as a feminist.  Beautifully written.

  5. The reason the Right is winning right now is because they’re united in their principles, as stupid as they are.  The Left will say, “Don’t condescend to teenage girls and say that they can’t purchase Plan B until they’re 18; teenagers aren’t stupid or ignorant!” and then respond to Teen Mom by saying, “It’s not these girls’ faults that they don’t know better; they’re ignorant because sex education sucks in this country!”  Maybe both statements are sort of true, but you can see why liberal politics can’t decide what the fuck it’s trying to do right now.  Third-wave “choose your choice” feminism similarly lacks an actual agenda, and apparently you’re not even allowed to say that someone made a dumbass choice while still supporting the notion of choice.  It’s a mess.  But it’s hard to go back to second-wave feminism, since its rejection of essentialism spits in the face of LGBT activism.

    1. You’re allowed to say people are arses; I don’t think I’d still be functional if I wasn’t allowed to point out arsery. But the opinion that’s levelled at a lot of us third-wavers is that we’re not intellectually invested in the arsiness of the choice; we just tralala and skip along when confronted with a woman in a bad situation that she may have opted into. That’s not the case. We’re just taking our lead from that woman – barring a case which is clearly illegal or where she has no power of expression, how is it productive to condemn her if she continues to stay in a situation she dislikes? All we can do is offer the hand without judgement.

      What you will find us doing is condemning the structure that puts her in her situation, and the complexes that plague her. In the same way that I find it kind of pointless to blame poor people for making choices that may have stopped them from getting richer, I really don’t think there’s anything constructive in blaming women for making choices they were conditioned to make.

      To sum up very succinctly, don’t hate the players, hate the fucked up game.

      Oh, and your point about liberalism is well made but unavoidable. Social liberalism requires intellectual maturity in political discourse; if the political discourse of a nation is not respectful, then you are never going to be able to have proper discussion. There are places where that is the case, not all first-world either, I think the US is just going through a very fucked up political time in general at the moment and liberalism is suffering one of the nasty side effects of that.

      But, again, that doesn’t mean liberalism is at fault.

      1. You’re mistaking your own grasp of logic for a widespread manner of thinking among new feminists, which I have to say cannot be assumed.  There just isn’t a MOVEMENT right now.  And really, why won’t anyone tell Planned Parenthood to change its fucking name?  Let’s stop clinging to principle and crying, “Doesn’t the Right know that PP provides services that have nothing to do with abortion?” into the wind.  Because lots of liberals don’t even know that.  It’s called Planned Parenthood, not General Healthcare Provider.  Changing the name would reduce a lot of this stupid fighting.

         

        1. I think the statement that there isn’t a “movement” is an inaccurate one. The movement might not look the same as it once did, but it is still there. It just functions in a different way, such as pushing through the internet, working its way into mainstream dialogue, etc.

          I think, at least in the US, one of the reasons why it is less evident that feminism is still a movement is, the “Democratic” base and the “feminist” base are not the same.

        2. Well, I will readily admit I’m coming from a British bias, and here there IS a strong cultural movement standing for just that. It seems to me that there are plenty of feminists in the US who are all agitating together, but then I’m looking from outside.

          May I have overstepped my assumptions to include American feminists? Maybe, so I apologise for that. But to be honest, the evidence here is that there’s a strong feminist consciousness in media and politics (who challenge people’s shit and complain and get things done.) I see the same kind of conversations happening between American feminists, and so I extrapolated that the movement has an intellectual basis in the US.

          1. As I mentioned in the above comment, I think in the US, there’s a strong disconnect between the “Democrat” base and the “feminist” base. Since the Democratic base only plays with the feminist base when it suits it, feminism has to go a different route in the US. This makes it less obvious that there’s a functional feminist movement.

          2. There’s no focus here.  If anything, I’ve noticed that young women tend to find empowerment in choosing to not be actively feminist.  If you’re a feminist these days, there’s not much to actually DO.

  6. Thank you Alex! I don’t have a lot to comment, but your article really helped clarify a lot of my thoughts and feelings on the subject. And as someone who absolutely loves to bake, the example you chose of women who enjoy baking struck a chord with me. But overall, I have thought about many of the points you made and really love the way you put everything together.

  7. This was wonderful.  Thank you for this. 

    Nothing irritates me more when people call me ‘domestic’ because I cook.  Guess what?  I like it.  I enjoy it.  It’s an activity that Mr. Nonsense and I do together.  No one is making me do it.  I am doing it because I want to and I’m blessed that I don’t have to when I don’t want to.  I, however, cannot say the same for a childhood friend of mine.  She used to love to cook.  We spent countless of afternoons trying new recipes together.  Now she hates it because she HAS to cook.  Her hubby excepts dinner every night when he gets home from school… and he has to approve the meal plan for the week…. and every meal must include meat and she isn’t a big meat eater…. ughhhhhh.  That relationship frustrates me to my very core. 

    But enough of that.  Kudos on your first article.

     

      1. Exactly.  Then again, my friend willingly entered this situation.  She knew he was going to do the budget and give her an allowance, she knew she had to convert relgions for him, she knew she was expected to cook everyday, she knew he would expect her to be a certain weight.  We had the convo before she got married – I voiced my concern and she told me she wanted structure….structure?  (Vomit.)  Her mother also told her off for ruining the years of hard work put in by feminists, but obviously it didn’t stop her.

          1. I honestly don’t know.  She is very good at acting.  She’d appear happy and tell me everything was fine even if it wasn’t.  But the last time I was home, Mr. Nonsense and I had dinner with just her.  Throughout the whole meal she talked about how she couldn’t do this or that because he didn’t approve and oh how nice it was to eat dessert without being judged and so on and so on.  To me, this signaled alarm bells because she has never talked so freely about it before.  The notion was there, but I’d have to dig it out of her.

            1. I was going to suggest that maybe they have a closeted service D/s relationship- I know a couple of women who are in covert service D/s situations who “pass” as vanilla house wives in non- kink circles- But then I read this. Even if it were a Service D/s situation, the whole relief over not being judged raises red flags about her partner. Seriously, communication is key people.  .. .

      1. Just following on from what @quesarahsarah said below, for your next piece (I’m sure there’ll be one:) ) try pasting the piece into a text editor like Notepad++ and then copying and pasting that text into the WP editor. That should get rid of the rogue Word tags.

    1. Sorry about that! < div > and < span > tags mess with our layout in annoying and unexpected ways!  Should be all set now. In the future, you can always PM one of us if something looks wonky and we’ll scramble to fix it.

    2. If the post is written in Word and pasted without using the nifty “paste from Word” button in the wordpress editor, weird formatting tags need to be removed manually. This is quite tedious, and we (Team CE) do try our best to remove all of them, but occasionally some get by (we’re only human, after all). This is what usually causes wonky formatting.

  8. Antonym, this was awesome and I appreciate it so much. I wish I could have had this article to point to when I was taking Feminist Theory.  A student in class decided I was naive/stupid and not a feminist because I believed a woman could legitimately choose sex work or enjoy BDSM play (or penetrative sex at all for that matter because she believed that any intercourse at all was inherently anti-woman). She said those ideas were an assault on everything for which feminism stood. AND IT PISSED ME OFF BECAUSE THE PROFESSOR (and other classmates) AGREED WITH HER. So for the rest of the semester they completely discounted everything I said. Ugh.

     

  9. I’m putting myself out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it; our feminism is less concerned with the feminist and more concerned with the woman, and to me that has to be better. … Try to find a leader of our feminism, a unified ideology, and you will fail. That makes us stronger, not weaker.

    This had me nodding emphatically!

    As critical as I am now of Jezebel, some of the criticisms of its initial project made me cringe. It was okay that it sometimes discussed feminism and then discussed shoes. Part of fighting for feminism is fighting for feminine things to not be dismissed as “trivial” or “unworthy of attention.” Sure, I might not have personally cared about the fashion articles, but a lot of people, women and men both, did.

    We can definitely criticize the dynamic of a feminist site taking on more stereotypically feminine topics in order to become more “mainstream,” and then the dynamic of all of that crap being shoved under “women’s issues.” That is absolutely a legitimate conversation to have. But if we insist that, in order to be a feminist, we have to be women who reject everything society says women like, not only does that mean we exclude so many women, but also anyone who wishes to be a feminist and is NOT, in fact, a woman.

    Being “fragementary” can seem like a weakness, because it can be less “focused.” Sometimes it can get less shit done. But it also is less likely to insist that there is only One way of being part of the group. That there isn’t necessarily a “normal.” And that is so, so critical to feminism.

    1. Yes, yes, and yes. What I hate most is the idea that you have to easily digestible to be worth anything as a political movement. We may not wind up forcing through social change in an obvious way – few politicians will use our talking points, we probably won’t get “credit” for our ideas; but we DO inform an intellectual class of people who DO take those ideas forward and apply them. That’s not weakness, it’s just not exceedingly obvious influence (and may not ever be properly measurable).

      It’s a little bit like only judging the Occupy movement to be successful if it directly causes regulation of the banking system and changes everything forever. The effects of the Occupy movement don’t have to be in legislation – they’re the only thing for years to get Americans talking en masse about what rights average people should have in the workplace and over their money. That’s worth it. That’s already an achievement.

      1. That’s an excellent point. We keep looking for our movements to have just one big force behind it with one big direction, and we use that to judge their success, but a lot of times effects can’t be measured that way.

        Especially not in the current situation where there is so much money behind the big structures; can a true grassroots movement really shake that as strongly/obviously as people are looking for?

  10. Beautifully put, Alex! Though I’m now tempted to go leave angry comments on Daily Fail articles.

    “Simultaneously, young feminists are capable of understanding why patriarchy informs these constructs, and understand the negative effects of those constructs, without condemning the women who take part in them.”

    This is the critical point, the one that when people don’t get it, I damned well do get pissed. If you’re under the impression that you “choose your choice” in the sense that it is entirely the product of your own preferences, which have been in no way shaped by the environment in which you have for your whole life marinated, I am going to sneer at you (Well, if you tell me that’s what you think. I’m not in the habit of looking at every woman’s actions and then immediately speculating as to her private justifications for them; she does not have to justify shit to me. Or anybody else.). And if it just so happens that I privately think the speaker likely would not be engaging in behavior X were it not for said conditioning, I can’t see any reason in the world to give her grief over it – talk about missing the whole damn point.

    Full disclosure: I’ve probably also read Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” a few too many times.

    1. Yes. It’s less “choose your choice” than it is “recognise why you choose your choice, but still feel free to choose it”.

      Unfortunately, the truth isn’t snappy.

  11. There was nothing more hurtful than hearing a friend tell me, after I had made some cthulhu cookies for a party one year, that she “would’ve made something, but didn’t want to seem as if she was slaving away in the kitchen.”  Seriously?

    Guess what – I’m a college graduate, a career woman, and living on my own, but sometimes, this bitch has gotta eat…and if I share that talent with others, it doesn’t mean I’m the next in line to be barefoot and pregnant.  Further, who cares if I am?  Can mothers not be feminists? Can wives not be feminists?  etc, etc…  The world isn’t one-size-fits-all.  It’s a complicated, hot mess of contradictions, moral relativism, and personal preferences, and the sooner people realize that, the better.

    1. I kind of want to see if I still have my alphabet cookie cutters so I can make cookies that spell out “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!” now.

      But seriously, I have been there too. In my college years I made cookies for my friends every Christmas, because baking was a cheep way to give everyone a gift that they would love. I got criticized for being overly domestic about it once and it kinda took the fun out of it that year.

  12. I welcome the movement to ‘women are not a one-size-fits-all.’ I got into several online debates earlier (not on here, fwiw) with people who simply cannot accept that a woman’s choices should be hers to make, and we are doing her/ourselves no favors by telling women the ‘right’ way to be women. When I pointed out that it’s not bad for women to wear Spanx if they want to (to smooth out clothes, to fit into pants when they’re a little bloated, whatever), I was assumed to be ‘young’ and naive of the history of foundational undergarments. Um, no, I’m not, and my education/age has nothing to do with believing that women have a right to not feel chastised for wearing Spanx or makeup just as much as they have a right to not feel chastised about not wearing such things. Even if I am An Old.

    And I also get annoyed at how the way women are ‘supposed’ to act is based around some arbitrary, white, straight, American woman and that ‘traditional’ values mean ones from only the past <100 years. Things that are considered ‘feminine’ aren’t things that are true in all cultures at all points in time for all women. So the ability to understand the perspectives not only of different cultures, races, eras, sexual orientation, etc., but also of women themselves is perhaps the only way we will ever be treated as equals rather than inferiors.

    1. naive of the history of foundational undergarments

      I do hate that tone that some seasoned activists wind up with where it’s like “clearly, you don’t understand the situation.” Well, no, maybe I have all the same facts and came to a different conclusion. It’s infuriatingly patronising.

  13. Brilliant! How eloquently you put into words what I live everyday! So many of my sisters think I gave up the fight when I embraced staying home to run our homestead but I can’t tell you how liberating it is to use tradition without being used by it!

    1. how liberating it is to use tradition without being used by it!

       

      That is an amazing way of putting it. I feel the same way about a lot of traditional British religious culture. Being LGBT, I often find myself conflicted with how much I can participate in choirs, traditional culture and the like, without acknowledging the religious and sometimes very exclusionary traditions of that culture.

      I know it seems silly and hypersensitive, but I do worry how much I’m besmirching a culture if I know I embody something that is anathema to it. I’ve visited Rome, and I got to the Vatican, right up to St. Peter’s Basilica – and panicked. I wound up not going in because I didn’t know whether I (born theoretically Catholic, raised pretty much Methodist, and gay) could walk in there with conviction, both because I might be betraying my LGBT principles (I’m aware how ridiculous this sounds just as a part of “walking in a building”) and because I might not be good enough for that Catholic culture.

      In the end, I have to conclude in the same way Philip Pullman does; we are a sum total of our culture, and it’s not strange to have a deep love for it even if it would have rejected us. When I look at Ely Cathedral or the beautiful colleges here in Cambridge, I have to think about the beauty of it, not the exploitation and repression it may represent.

      All of which is a long-form way of saying; well said.

      1. You should be so thankful the internet stands between us right now.  Otherwise I would completely invade your personal space and hug the ever loving daylights out of you.

        I relate so intensely to what you describe.

        I grew up in an intensely Baptist environment.  My parents are loving and wonderful people but to this day I wonder if they knew some of the things we were indoctrinated with in classes.  We went to church, at a minimum, 3 times per week and were told some very scary, non-biblical things.

        It was only as an adult, who made life choices and mistakes that caused me to be welcomed with words and shunned with actions in the church I grew up in, did I begin to seek God somewhere else.  After a very crooked and broken road I am happy to say I found comfort in an odd little church filled with “outcasts” from a more traditional system.  And what a comfort it is.

        I have been in fellowship with my church now for over ten years but I too still feel the pull of that traditionalism and ceremony so deeply ingrained and intertwined in religion.  It is hard to strip that away and still feel connected.  It is even harder to be exposed to it and not be swept up on a tide of emotion and, for me, guilt.

        My brother and I alternate Mother’s Day services so every other year I go back to the church I grew up in and sit beside my mother and grandmother for their service.  Even knowing what I know, even being at peace and comfortable in my relationship with God it is hard not to be drawn back into that system of guilt and fear, repentance and relief but I have learned that much of that is man’s construct of control and not God’s desire to have a real relationship with us.

        I feel you so much.  I sympathize with the pull and the sense of unworthiness or of sullying something sacred.  What is sacred is what is inside of you, not what is inside of a building.  Don’t let insecurities keep you from going somewhere and enjoying the beauty of those MAN MADE creations and art.  God may be there, but he is with you also and most certainly more so than in some building.  Don’t let people and their judgements inhibit you.

        (Folding up my soapbox now…)  I loved your article.

  14. Oh, you’re fabulous. This is a brilliant article. And you must’ve been listening to my telephone conversation with   one of my best friends, the other day. Yes, we were having THAT conversation, bemoaning the fact that you young’uns  just don’t understand all we did, trying to break that stupid glass ceiling, pave new ground, and forge the way… you know the conversation. We just feel like we’re going back in time.

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I desperately needed to hear your voice, see your perspective. I needed to KNOW this. I don’t know why I doubted. The intelligence and power of women remains. Thank you for voicing it.

    (And thank you for the reminder that feminism is less about the feminist and more about the woman. I believe that has always been true, but sometimes we forget!)

    1. I’ve been hearing that conversation a lot lately. I think people underestimate the willingness of teenagers and the young to engage with politics on a meaningful level, because the places and ways in which we cut our teeth on politics are completely different (less official debating, more buried in internet forums).

      I am kind of worried about the direction of discourse when articulacy isn’t emphasised. I spent years as a younger teenager making incoherent arguments on message boards before any kind of cohesive value system came out of it, and it took time for my political expression and education to improve. If you don’t really care about politics already, I worry about how you learn to express yourself politically at all. And when none of the young are politically educated, how do we advocate for ourselves?

      More and more, I think political oratory should make a comeback as a subject worthy of study. Public speaking and articulacy in general are not genetic traits, not completely anyway – you can learn to think and phrase specifically and articulately. I wish it was a skill valued more.

      1. It is indeed an achievement. Am appalled that I don’t have scones, however. When tea cups are being raised, it seems only right that they be accompanied by something delicate and scrumptious. Alas, this afternoon’s baking has produced a lemon sponge cake. Scones tomorrow?

        Ahem. Have been re-reading your article, and it really is super. A much needed look at life today!

         

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