So Eve Ensler, most famous for writing The Vagina Monologues, wrote a thing, and I’m deliberately fudging the link and strongly advising you not to read it, especially as it deals with rape, surgery, and reducing a woman of colour to her vagina for the purposes of Ensler’s personal epiphany.
http://talkmag.in/ cms/columns/ book-talk/item/ 1564-the-congo-stigmata
Instead, I thoroughly endorse reading the Storify created by Mikki Kendall/karnythia which is a fantastic summary of something that’s a major problem in today’s white feminism: using women of colour for Special Teaching Moments.
It all started while I was at work, and had to limit myself to eye-rolling: Daniel Farrell, one of the Directors of the Waikato Students Union, decided to let us all know that he disagrees with “modern feminism”.
It might pay to clarify at this early stage that Daniel’s definition of “modern feminism” is, um, unique.
But you can’t beat this for logical thinking:
1. A music video is released which a lot of people find rape-y and gross. (full disclosure: I have chosen not to watch said video.)
2. Law students from Auckland University create a gender-flipped version of said video to highlight its misogyny and rapeyness.
3. Flipped version is taken down from YouTube, original is left up.
4. People complain about this.
ERGO: feminists are hypocrites because they complain about objectifying women but are totally okay with objectifying men.
You cannot fucking argue with the man’s logic. You cannot. Because it doesn’t exist.
I don’t believe in siccing people’s employers or future employers on to them because of things they’ve posted online. But you’ve got to ask if Waikato University is going to be happy with this dude’s critical thinking abilities being
blamed ascribed to their teaching.
… and that’s all I originally wanted to say, when I’d first seen Daniel’s blog post, because, well. The rest of it was just laughable, wasn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about someone presuming to pass judgement on feminism who literally sums up the founding ideas of feminism as “initially a movement to stop the “hey, wench, cook me some eggs” of the day. That’s noble enough.” NOBLE ENOUGH. I’m fucking dying here. I cannot breathe.
But then, by the time I sat down to write this response, Daniel had – thanks to a heaping of smackdown from Twitter – posted a clarification. See, he’d written the post in a rush, he’d expressed himself poorly, he just wanted to make it clear that:
There are a lot of people who call themselves feminists who are doing the right thing. They are good people who are simply trying to ensure gender equality. I hope that this is the majority of “feminists”, and I am not referring to them in any way and to any members of that group that thought I was referring to them, I apologise, as that was not my intention. I am referring to one specific type of “feminist” – the militant feminist who goes around saying all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis rather than a vagina. The feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape. They are harming the good work that people under the feminist movement do. So when reading this, don’t read it with the pretense that I’m trying to say women are evil or anything silly like that.
Oh, yay! Despite earlier statements, Daniel doesn’t hate good feminists, he just hates bad feminists, the kind who “say all males are misogynists simply because they have a penis”. Sadly, he was unable to link to evidence of the existence of any such feminists, and that makes me sad, because I enjoy seeing mythical creatures. But he’s totally down with feminists “who are doing the right thing”, and shit, ladies, if Daniel Farrell thinks we’re doing the right thing we must be on to something.
The specific little bit about “the feminist who goes around saying people who don’t agree with them 100% support things like rape”? I suspect that’s connected to this tweet, where no, Daniel, nobody said “disagreeing with me means you support rape”. But someone did ask why it was more important for you to completely misrepresent anti-rape-culture activism than to actually confront rape culture.
To give Daniel full credit, though, anyone who questions his mighty opinion is silly. Or irrational. Or childish. Anyway, where are his cookies? He totally didn’t-actually-delete the section where he has a go at sex-shaming feminists who have sex with people (who just coincidentally are not him) in parks. What a sensitive fucking hero.
Final pedantic notes: Daniel has no idea how sex and gender work; and making a throwaway Once Were Warriors reference (LOL BUT IT’S HISTORICAL BECAUSE HE SAID WENCHES, LOL) basically proves any point anyone ever wants to make about his lack of basic empathy.
ETA: Of course, since drafting THIS post and scheduling it, things got better.
Stay tuned! Find episode 2 here!
My spoon-recovery notwithstanding, apparently it’s the month to remind people why certain feminist celebs are utter shitheels. Last week it was Hugo fucking Schwyzer, and this week it’s Caitlin fucking Moran.
The hugest of thanks goes to the people who’ve taken the time and risked the mental harm involved in compiling the following.
I know a lot of people admire Caitlin Moran, and hell, she probably says a lot of shit that needs to be said and has a much bigger platform to say it from than mere ranty bloggers like myself. But it’s no fucking good being the strong, public voice of white cis hetero women like us if we shit on everyone else. In doing so we just leave the same shitty power structures in place – and they can be turned back against us any time.
Now, I’m going back to chilling the fuck out.
The below links come with a shitload of trigger warnings. This is less a post to be read and more a handy resource to be linked the next time someone cites Moran as an icon to be revered.
Caitlin Moran’s homophobia, transphobia, and use of AIDS as a punchline via @jaythenerdkid
The editor of Bitch magazine on why she cut an interview with Caitlin Moran.
This post was prompted by a series of tweets from @graceishuman about the general silence of white feminists – especially white feminist institutions – on the mistreatment and slagging-off of Quvenzhané Wallis at the Oscars. Not only the silence, but, in one instance from Jezebel which I’m mainly going to address here, downright coming out and saying that it wasn’t that big a deal because [insert white lady problems].
This post shouldn’t need prompting, but it did, because it really is a lot easier for people like me to read a few blogs by women of colour, retweet some of their commentary, think “they got this”, and continue to auto-unfollow anyone who uncritically tweets Jezebel into my feed.
The shit of publications like Jezebel has to be called out, and it has to be called out by white feminists, and yeah, we’ve got to do it before we’re prompted by more marginalized women.
That being said, white feminists also don’t get to ride in on chargers carrying beautiful flowing banners which just coincidentally block the faces of all the women of colour who are speaking out on this shit.
So, first: the linkage. Go read these, then come back.
A Love Letter to Quvenzhané Wallis from Moya at Crunk Feminist Collective
Let Me Explain Why The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis Tweet Was so Hurtful by T F Charlton (@graceishuman) at Bitch Magazine
Apparently, People Have Beef With Quvenzhané Wallis by Arturo at Racialicious
Where Were White Feminists Speaking Out For Quvenzhané Wallis? by Kirsten West Savali at Clutch magazine
ETA: Once I’d drafted this, I saw Jessica Luther’s On Quvenzhané Wallis at Shakesville, which covers a lot of the same threads as this post.
Now, to Jezebel. Jezebel, which on top of all its previous crimes against social justice decided that right now, right after a young black girl was called a cunt by The Onion, was the perfect time to post a big ol’ article about how cunt isn’t a bad word, it’s a word we should reclaim, woo yeah girl power right on.
They ain’t getting a link from me, but slap this into your address bar if you must: http:// jezebel.com /5987317/ cunt-is-not-a-bad-word. There are those on my Twitter feed who will understand what I mean when I say “trigger warning for white feminist quoting Audre Lord”.
The only things you really need to know about the article:
First off: Katie J M Baker gets eight paragraphs in before saying “It’s impossible to talk about the c-word this week without talking about the Onion‘s Quvenzhané Wallis tweet.” You know, with a harsher editor and a smaller wordcount, you probably could’ve managed, Katie.
And: Katie J M Baker thinks the real problem is
Focusing on the word “cunt” is a distraction; for example, the Onion debacle kinda overshadowed how sexist the Oscars were overall.
Apparently Katie J M Baker’s feminism will be non-intersectional and it will be bullshit. She only manages to mention Quvenzhané’s race when referring to another writer’s reaction to the tweet. The whole tone of the piece is basically a pissant STFU to those bloggers who have objected to the tweet – not that Baker’s going to link to anyone she disagrees with.
Baker thinks we should “take advantage of [the word “cunt”‘s] true awesomeness”. I would really love to know how she’d work that into an explanation to a nine-year-old black girl of why a Twitter account decided to call her a cunt to its 4.5 million+ followers.
The overarching question, of course, is why this kind of shit gets published in Jezebel. It’s not a difficult question. It’s basic, simple, instinctive, ingrained racism, mixed with the kind of self-centredness which is the equivalent of tattooing “I AM PRIVILEGED” on your forehead (while living in a society where face-tattoos on white people denote high status).
It simply does not occur to the writers and editors of Jezebel to think about Quvenzhané’s feelings, or situation, or circumstances. They cannot consider that she is black, that she is NINE FUCKING YEARS OLD, that this is (hopefully) the first in an inevitable, ongoing series of humiliations and aggressions which she will have flung at her for her entire life.
Katie J M Baker and the team at Jezebel just hear “The Onion called someone a cunt” and the immediate reaction is “Me. What if someone called ME a cunt? What would *I* do? What response would best exemplify MY amazing feminist cred? ”
The real irony is that I couldn’t find Baker’s article by searching for “Quvenzhané”. I had to search for “cunt”. Because when you search for “Quvenzhané” on Jezebel you actually get a big long list of posts which purport to celebrate her achievements and awesomeness.
Take that list. Compare it to Baker’s post, her complete lack of disregard for Quvenzhané Wallis. Now consider: what’s Jezebel going to do when Quvenzhané – and Willow Smith, for that matter – stop being adorable little black dolls which the comfortable white feminists can coo over? What happens when they start saying things that make the comfortable white feminists less comfortable?
New Zealanders in the audience may like to think back on when Keisha Castle-Hughes, Maaori Doll-child of the Nation, got knocked up at 16. I’m recalling the popular response being less that positive.
This is 2013. You can’t Helen Keller people any more. There is going to be some ugly shit when Quvenzhané gets old enough that her “use my name, douchebag” routine becomes less “adorable little minx” and more “bitchy”. And I hope I and other white feminists will fucking stomp on that shit when it happens.
My first post on the Jezebel Rule stated thus:
I made a decision a wee while ago to just unfollow anyone on Twitter who retweeted anything from Jezebel (in a non-criticising way)
Then, the supporting evidence was Jezebel’s appropriation of the term “hipster racism”, coined at Racialicious in 2006. Jezebel, being the awesome right-on feminist online magazine that it is, saw no problem in publishing the work of a white woman (Lindy West) casually borrowing the work of a woman of colour, Carmen Van Kerckhove, without so much as a “props to Carmen for the great neologism!”
Prior to that of course there was that whole “let’s publish an article by some guy the editors know about how cool French chicks are about being constantly sexually harassed, unlike you uptight American bitches” thing.
The latest? Oh, just a little bit of attacking a site for posting women’s pictures without their consent … while reproducing the same pictures without the women’s consent.
Exploitation is different if you’re doing it for great
pageviews justice, obviously.
The arguments when people attack Jezebel or xojane are usually of the “but not all the stuff they publish is horrific, exploitative/oppressive linkbait!” variety. And I do get that a lot of good writers – especially a lot of the good fat acceptance writers since Shapely Prose shut down – are writing on those sites.
But I, personally, just do not have the time or patience or tolerance for that shit to support even the good pieces. It’s all tainted by continual, massive fuckups which can only be remedied with firing people, buying a new domain name and starting over.
That’s my personal spin, anyway.
The big problem: NCW is the last organisation which should be sending messages about why we need feminism. If NCW is going to solicit people’s feedback on why feminism is necessary, it should only be as part of a gigantic soul-searching “where the fuck have we gone wrong” review.
I don’t want to go about crowning myself Queen of NZ Feminism or anything, so here’s a list of Official Feminist Topics as discussed by two group feminist NZ blogs or featured in the Down Under Feminists Carnival, over the last month or so (I was going to do six months, but damn, we shrieking harridans cover a lot of stuff):
- The Southland abortion fight
- Fundraising for Women’s Refuge
- Family First’s attacks on Rainbow Youth and comprehensive sex education
- Rape culture and rugby culture
- Gender discrimination in the police force
- The inaugural Fat Studies conference
- The eternal porn vs erotica debate
- Women’s political representation
- Marriage equality
[Sources: random scans of The Hand Mirror, The Lady Garden, the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival]
A pretty diverse bunch of issues there, being discussed and publicised by … maybe a dozen writers with families and jobs and other things to do?
You’d think some of them would have hit NCW’s radar, right? As “the country’s leading women’s organisation”?
Their website lists five things as “some of the key issues facing New Zealand women today”:
- Women and Work
- Women and Leadership [in work]
- Pay Equity [also kinda about work]
- Family Violence
- Parliamentary Representation [which is kind of like work]
So that’s 60% work-related, 80% if we count Parliament as a workplace, and Family Violence. Hmm. Let’s look around the rest of their site.
Under “Campaigns” we have two: Women And [you guessed it] Work and Facebook Campaign, which is about putting pressure on Facebook to take down pages which openly promote sexual violence. Last update: December 2011.
But in terms of big, largely women-related issues of 2012? No mention of abortion, either generally or in reference to the Southern DHB issue. No mention even in passing of SlutWalk, not even the 2011 events which made headline news throughout the country. They supported and even had a speaker at Reclaim the Night … in 2009. Nothing at Queer the Night, but I base that assumption on the fact that a search for “queer” doesn’t return a single result.
Gay marriage? Marriage equality? Gay adoption? Bueller?
How about the non-work-related big-red-buttonclassic feminist issues? “Rape” is mentioned only in terms of the aforementioned Facebook campaign. “Contraception”, nada. “Queer” and “abortion” as mentioned above.
How about “pregnancy”? Among quite a few links, we find a press release from 2008 about the rates of abuse pregnant people face. Wait, not just pregnant people:
it is abhorrent to think that mothers-to-be, and their defenceless unborn children are being exposed to this kind of physical violence.
Fuck yeah, I love me a “leading women’s organisation” that just flops out some antichoice vocab and lets it hang there.
Let’s get some intersectionality going here. “Disability” returns a resolution about “under-65 year olds who next rest home grade care”. Charming. “Maori” returns a few side mentions, particularly around the ACC issue, but nothing specific. “Racism” returns no results. “Transwomen”, “transsexual” and “transgender” return no results. For “queer” see above. “Class” can apparently only come after the words “middle” and “antenatal”.
What’s really interesting is that NCW’s Twitter and Facebook accounts do a far better job addressing a large number of issues, pushing information from other sites and organisations, and generally being interesting. One can only assume they’ve got some keen young Gen Y stuck in a back office doing that Weird Modern Communicating stuff while the adults write press releases and create godawful videos.
Wait, press releases, you say? Those are always a good way of seeing what an organisation cares about. Let’s have a look at those. A whopping seven published for the year 2012, covering:
- Mandatory reporting of child abuse (where the focus, according to the headline, is that NCW has totally supported this for aaaaaaages)
- Extending paid parental leave
- Inadequate consultation on welfare reforms
- Valuing caregivers
- The NZX taking gender representation seriously
- The closure of Salisbury School
- NCW supports Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms because solo parents on benefits need to “become contributing members of society”
… HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE.
Yep, you read that right: NCW’s President, Elizabeth Bang, issued a press release saying:
“NCWNZ supports policies that help parents on a benefit to get into the workforce where possible, so they can become contributing members of society and they and their families can enjoy a better quality of life,”
Now, before anyone accuses me of smearing good President Bang, you’re completely right. That line is not in the version of the press release on the NCW website. It’s immortalised on Scoop. Kinda like someone noticed how the President of the National Council of Women just basically said “women’s unpaid labour isn’t worth shit” and thought maybe they should try to step that back.
I don’t want to downplay the good work I’m sure NCW is doing somewhere, presumably working hard to get an older white cis woman appointed to the board of Telecom because that’s fighting the good fight. No, that’s a bit harsh. There is (if you dig) some good work that’s been done on child tax credits and ACC’s horrible treatment of sexual abuse survivors. And pay equity is still a big fight to fight.
But the notion that an organisation which so clearly does not represent the breadth and depth of women’s issues in New Zealand*, which, as far as I’m concerned, actively works against certain classes of women, is in any position to say “yeah grrls, let’s show people why we need feminism!!!” is fucking laughable.
But then, the disclaimer on their Tumblr should have warned me:
We want to inspire dialogue and we want to you to share the many ways in which feminism is important to you – but we want to encourage respectful discussion.
We are keen to receive submissions that are radical or provocative but we reserve the right to decline submissions if we deem them to be hateful or otherwise inappropriate.
Or there’s President Bang’s own comments in the press release for the campaign:
The idea is to show that feminists are not ‘man-hating’ and ‘bra-burning’ and they’re not just women – feminists are people who believe that men and women should be equal.
There goes my “I need feminism because the National Council of Women are doing fuck-all to advance causes that aren’t mainstream and popular” submission idea. And my “I need feminism because even so-called feminists keep buying into bullshit bra-burning myths” submission idea.
We do need feminism. Unfortunately, the National Council of Women isn’t even in the same room as it.
*And there’s a whole other argument to have about the gender-binary-imposition inherent in having a “women’s” organisation
Edited to add: This just keeps happening to me. I had this post all ready to go (bumped a day due to fantastic, blatant double standards in the justice system) and this pops up on the reader: a press release from NCW (that’s 8 so far!) about our report to CEDAW.
Maybe now the UN has mentioned that whole icky abortion thing, NCW can be bothered to do something about it.
One thing I wanted to clarify from my two previous posts, but which is kind of a whole other ramble in of itself, and which I felt sure would come up in comments sooner or later.
When I say we need to stop hating on individual women for their choices, which are made in a shitty context of patriarchy and are part of our survival …
There are the choices a person makes within a wider issue – beauty standards, abortion, marriage – which are largely passive. Yes, you can argue that the bulk of hetero couples in NZ choosing marriage over civil union makes a difference because it reinforces marriage, or when it’s still routine for a woman to change her name after marriage, all the individual women’s choices added together mean it continues to be perceived as the normal thing to do.
Then there’s saying, as an authoritative voice, in mainstream media, that women shouldn’t feel okay saying no to sex when they don’t want it. There’s turning your personal rags-to-Cabinet story into a weapon against other solo mothers. There’s using previously-established feminist cred to say Julian Assange is a nice guy, really.
These things aren’t part of the same choice framework we’re all saddled with. A pedantic person could say “well, isn’t choosing to gain financial security through high-profile misogyny part of surviving in patriarchy” and yes, absolutely, but … come on. There’s a conscious choice being made to propagate kyriarchal bullshit in a way specifically designed to reach thousands/millions of people. It’s not mascara and miniskirts.
So take that strawman out to dinner and go fuck yourself with him.
Part 1 of this post was published yesterday. Check it out, ’cause it’ll probably make this post make more sense.
3. A life lived in stress is a life half-lived
Let’s assume, for this section, that one completely rejects the notion of “reclaiming” or “subverting” patriarchal norms, that all sexiness is collaboration and all nail polish is Giving Aid And Comfort To The Enemy.
It is pretty fucking difficult spending all one’s time enraged at the strictures and oppressiveness of kyriarchy. It is pretty fucking stressful, at least for me and I have no doubt for others as well, to be constantly analysing my every thought and preference and decision against the context of social narratives.
Do I like these shoes just because patriarchy says I have to look pretty for men? Do I enjoy Game of Thrones just because I’m presented with no other options in terms of racist, sexist medieval fantasy tropes? (I’m going to come back to this shortly …) And let’s not even start on my sexual preferences.
I like a lot of things that are problematic. I dress in a way which is very patriarchy-approved, albeit in a fat body so I can’t really win there (I’m either wrong for daring to look conventionally-sexy while fat, or I’m wrong if I stop trying to l0ok conventionally sexy despite being fat). I enjoy medieval fantasy, the Saw films, corsetry, etc etc. I know these things are problematic, and I know that a lot of the reason I like these things is due to being raised in a white, Western, patriarchal society.
(There’s a hell of a lot of other contributing factors, but let’s not let the complexity of human existence get in the way of judging people now.)
But, and here’s where y’all can start selectively clipping quotes to back up your stereotypes of a “choice feminist”, I still like those things.
I still like those things despite being aware they’re problematic, despite knowing that a lot of my choice is not fully of my own free will. Because none of us are making choices of our own free will.
Put it this way: if you’re a radical feminist who hates society’s treatment of women as a sex class and never wears high heels? In a world where patriarchy completely desexualised women and demanded they be entirely unnoticeable, $5 says you’d be breaking out the mascara and fishnets.
Mascara is not, in of itself, patriarchal. Our ingrained responses to it are.
Here’s my main point: I choose to not fight against every single patriarchy-approved preference in my head. I choose to prioritise other things to spend my mental energy on.
I understand how my conforming choices can benefit me, can make my life easier, can allow me to pass under the radar in some aspects of my life.
I acknowledge that it’s utterly shitty that our society demands such choices of us and rewards us for going along.
But my mental energy is my own to spend. My stress is my own to decrease or increase. And if I choose a type of activism which isn’t about standing as a personal refutation of patriarchy, if I choose to balance up the number of areas where I will challenge my programming and decide that I can’t live a full and happy life worrying about every last little thing I do … that’s how I will survive. That’s how I will make the best fight I can of this, and achieve a hell of a lot more than if I worry myself into a death-spiral of self-criticism.
And you can fuck right off judging me for that. You can fuck right off dictating that I put stress and pressure on myself to conform to Real Feminist Approved non-conformity. It’s simultaneously tragic and fucking hilarious.
4. Guess what, conforming doesn’t make life easier
Because, and this might be a slightly off-the-wall idea, we live in a patriarchy. So as women, we’re already the lesser, the other, the object. (Extend to kyriarchy and other oppressed identities as necessary.)
So even if we pucker up and make up and dress up, we’ll still be at the bottom. Even if we’re given a modicum of influence/status (see every painfully poorly written article of the past year entitled something like Why I’m A Smart Enough Girl To Reject Silly Feminism And Love Men), there’s still no getting around the fact that we only hold influence/status by the grace of The Man. And that can be taken away with the merest flick of a Leaked Nude Photos magic wand.
Conforming does grease the rails. And for those of us who can conform (remember, the majority of women are never going to be equally considered sexy or attractive or permitted a little autonomy as the most privileged, white/cis/hetero class) things get a lot less stressful. Bully for us. It’s still patriarchy, it still dumps on all of us (though, yes, less so on some than others.)
Sure, choices aren’t feminist just because a woman chooses them. The act of choosing isn’t inherently feminist and isn’t distinct and exclusive of kyriarchal programming.
But. Hate the game, not the player. Kyriarchy/patriarchy puts us in these positions and gives us these non-choices and labels all our actions in line with its own priorities. And it’s pretty much just massively uncool to take a superior attitude and judge individual women who for all you know are navigating life as best they can in the face of massive pressures to conform.
Even when – no, especially when these “choices” aren’t just about lipstick and heels, when we’re talking about sex-selective abortion or surname-changing or participating in sex work, how fucking cruel do you have to be to tell a person, “you have to suck it up and take whatever violence or deprivation is going to be thrown at you, it’s your job to represent our entire struggle against [insert problem here] because choosing anything else is UnFeminist”?
Fight sexism. Fight discrimination. Fight the norms and standards and assumptions. Don’t fight the people who you’re presuming to defend, and try not to act too fucking smug about how much better you are than the rest of us.
Related reading: amandaw at FWD/Forward.
This post got a little long, so tune in tomorrow for part 2, in which I reserve the right to manage my own spoons, we note that a life conforming ain’t perfect either, and I get to the point. Kinda.
I always end up describing the concept of “choice feminism” to other people in two ways: if someone’s using it as a serious term they probably mean some variation on “people who pretend every choice they make is feminist because they make it.” If it’s me arguing against that idea, it’s “let’s stop shitting on other women from orbit just so we can prove that not shaving our legs makes us Superior Patriarchy-Fighting Machines.”
Because no choice is perfect in a society which narrates and interprets our actions against an evil spirit level of power dynamics and biological essentialism. We can never win; all our choices are, on some level, wrong because we are women making them in a patriarchal society.
Wearing high heels? You’re just superficial and obsessed with shoes, like a woman (and sucking up to the patriarchy to boot) (and are probably stupid because omg who would ever like shoes which hurt your feet unless they were brainwashed???) Wearing “sensible” shoes? Prepare to be marked down as a dyke, as a square, as “not well-presented”, and all the attendant harassment and employment discrimination that comes along with it.
And that’s one of the most trivial examples (albeit one which I, as a very-privileged heel-wearer, take a little to heart).
What the anti-“choice feminist” people want to say, though, is that my wearing of high heels might be fine and dandy, oh, they might be magnanimous enough to tolerate my collaborator’s footwear, but don’t I dare claim that wearing high heels is a feminist action.
Because you know, I do that all the time.
And of course I’d better be okay with being called “stupid”, and I’d better be okay with people questioning my feminist credentials because I’m obviously too selfish/superficial to understand that High Heels Are Tools Of The Man.
To me, this is not only demeaning, and a tad misogynist, it’s also a refusal to even consider that the spectrum of our actions and choices is a bit more extensive than (a) Conforms to patriarchal standards ergo Is Bad vs (b) Doesn’t conform to mainstream patriarchal standards ergo Is Good.
So, a couple of points about why I’m frankly just fine with the label “choice feminist”.
1. Patriarchal standards aren’t uniform.
Sure, high heels are a great go-to for Things Approved Of By Patriarchy. If the only role women were ever forced into was that of “sex kitten”.
But there’s also “mother” or “teacher” or “nurse” – the unsexy woman held up for her Nurturing Qualities, her understanding of Her Place, her utter lack of autonomy and an identity focused entirely on being a helpmeet to others.
Betcha she wears “sensible shoes”.
This is one of the ways patriarchy gets us coming and going (well, not usually coming, boom boom!). There isn’t a perfect choice, even if your one goal in life is to conform (a goal which, I’m going to address later, does not actually make you an evil person.)
2. That whole “reclaiming” thing
People can, and do, do things which are surface-level conforming, yet present a challenge to kyriarchy/patriarchy.
It is a challenge to conventional beauty standards when a fat person dares to dress, and act, like a sexually-aware being. It is a challenge to people’s assumptions when a woman changes her name after marriage – and lets them know it’s only because she has no emotional connection to her “maiden” name. It is a challenge if a sex worker chooses to call herself a whore.
A lot of people take issue with the notion of reclaiming. I simply submit that shaking up the assumptions of others and causing them to rethink their immediate impressions of things is a form of activism in itself.
Part 2’s up tomorrow. Tune in then, or comment now, as you like.
It’s okay, ladies, we can stop now.
We can put down our keyboards and go back to our kitchens, tie a picture-perfect bow in our polka-dot pinnies, and get to baking some cookies to reward a man who truly deserves them.
You see, we were wrong about Chris Trotter.
He’s a deep, sensitive man with a luxuriant moustache that we are too silly to admire properly. His boner, I have heard tell, is of tremendous proportions as befits a noble, wide-stanced member of the sainted dinosauria.
He wrote us a song, you see. Before many of we poor ignorant “confident young women” were even born, he wrote us a song about how much his feelings are actually the most important thing to focus on when we fight (in an appropriately timid fashion) for the right to control our fertility.
On a grey afternoon,
In an old waiting-room
He said: “In this circumstance
She’s a fifty-fifty chance.”
On a grey afternoon.
And I don’t know how she feels.
And I can’t know how she feels.
But I want her to know
That I feel for her, oh
I want her to know that I feel.
What Chris Trotter wants us all to know, comradettes, is that he and his verdant moustache care about us.
Isn’t that enough, really?
But it’s not enough for Chris. Saintly, magnanimous, divine-manhood-bearing idol that he is, he has also taken precious time out of his grooming schedule to write up a history of abortion reform in New Zealand. Truly, consider what we might have done, sistren, without this great service. Surely it is not becoming a lady to access the unfettered “Google” and subject herself to all manner of strange, thought-provoking search results in a selfish, egomaniacal quest to Educate Herself.
We never need educate ourselves so long as Chris, moustache at his side, is there to tell us about the history of a movement we fancy to call “ours”.
Do you think his great work ends there?
No, gentle acolytes. Chris also lets us know exactly how things stand right now – praise him! For without such cogent analysis to hand some of our number may have had to sacrifice dignity, self-respect, and honour by straying out of our father’s or husband’s doors to explore the World Outside for ourselves, to sully our soft, pale hands with the filth and degradation of Modern Politics.
Yet still he is not satisfied in his quest to make sweet, romantic intellectual love to our brains. He gives us the way forward, as only an artistic yet acutely-honed political mind can.
Yes, my sisters. We must focus group. We must conduct market research, for so it has always been done when people alienated from the means of production and denied their fair share of the nation’s wealth desire to learn more about what they themselves are thinking. Following in the footsteps of Kate Sheppard, we shall employ public relations consultants to tell us what to do.
But not yet, neonates. No, now is not the time, for it would go against the timetable laid out for us by the tragically unbearded Messiah before us. We must wait. I know there are those of you out there, you foul-mouthed and uncouth so-called “women” who may cry “What convenience, comrade, that you insist our revolution wait until after this coming, perhaps pivotal, election!”
I do wish you would not say “revolution”, my pitiable ones. It is not seemly.
I merely beseech you. Look to the moustache. It could not lead us astray, for truly, above all else, it wants us to know that it has a lot of feelings.