A Few Comments about Feminism
(we'll call this post "About Feminism, Vol. I, No. 1")
As I've pointed out before in this blog, I'm a woman. Therefore, I have every right to talk about Feminism as much as I like, regardless of whether every other woman on the face of the planet agrees with me or not. As such, I shall do so in this post.
- I'm female.
- I like Carol Queen and Xaviera Hollander, and a lot (but definitely not all) of what Camille Paglia has to say (see below for one particular criticism of Camille Paglia which I hope I will always remember to make on occasions when I note agreement with some of her ideas), to name a few of the women whom I personally regard as Worthy Feminist Icons. I do NOT agree with everything that any one of them has to say, but I find that I tend to agree with these representatives of an "older" manifestation of Feminism (or more accurately, "older" manifestations, since, as really ought to be obvious to anyone who pays attention, "Feminism" is not one and only one list of doctrines with which everyone who calls herself, or himself, a "feminist" must agree or be excommunicated) more than with some of the representatives of more recent manifestations. From this, I trust that it is obvious to at least some readers that the manifestations of Feminism which resonate with me will always be "sex-positive" Feminism, rather than pathological manifestations (which might be justifiably referred to as neuroses masquerading as Feminism).
- I do not consider myself "a feminist," but "a person, or a woman, with some feminist beliefs and attitudes, as well as other beliefs and attitudes" (see Identity vs. Role Confusion, as in the Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development). I will not label myself with this handle so that others can prejudge me and make unwarranted assumptions about who and what I am. I also refuse to allow Feminism to become my Worldview (because then the dogma of Feminism would color my perception of everything and everyone; i.e., it would result in a perspective of bias -- it is one of many philosophies/causes which inform my stance in life, but it simply isn't big enough to contain, or restrain, my mind).
- I find some of the views of some other people with some feminist beliefs and attitudes to be, well, silly (and some I find to be absolutely batshit crazy), while I find some views of some other people without some feminist beliefs and attitudes to be even worse. I'll be discussing both of these groups of views as this blog continues to expand (in connection with Feminism and assorted other things), but in this particular post, I'll be responding to an article from December that I've been thinking about for a while, because it annoyed me, due to what I perceive as something distinctly NOT feminist in the tone of the article.
The following commentary (after the jump) is one I would have liked to offer in response to this reaction to a comment from Katy Perry (but unfortunately, the site where it was posted thinks I should sign up for Facebook in order to leave a comment, and I refuse to do that, for oh-so-many reasons). More recently (a few days ago), another article was published referring to the same phenomenon (female celebrities not feeling comfortable about publicly labeling themselves as "feminists"), which reminded me of the previous article and my desire to say something about it. I have to note, in reference to this more recent article, that Ellen Page may be conflating "radical" with "extremist." Sometimes, "extremist" groups are called "radical" (and sometimes they may even be radical as well as extremist), but the two words are not coterminous, and while radical can be a good thing, extremism tends heavily in the other direction.
Whether we like it or not, the terms "Feminism" and "feminist" have become associated (by some) with the extremist fringe groups like "Equality Now!" -- and when I call them "extremists," I mean that they present themselves as androphobic, erotophobic, absexual matriarchalists (I may be exaggerating slightly, but only very slightly). This is not "radical," but simply a translation; if these movements were to gain sufficient influence to have an impact on social policy and so forth, the result would not be an increase in Justice, but simply injustice for some being transferred onto others. The persecuted do not gain Justice by persecuting those who were formerly their persecutors; Tu Quoque is a fallacy, and the Cycle of Abuse must end, or it will simply proliferate and lead to ever-increasing abuse.
This association of the word with such extremist positions is, in part, due to the fact that they tend to make the most noise, but is also due in part to the fact that sensationalism sells newspapers and the like; e.g., a headline like "Feminist Is Sane Like Most of Us" is less likely to catch someone's attention (and thereby sell more papers, get better ratings, etc) than a headline like "Feminist Calls for Forced Castration!!!" I made both of these headlines up, so, please, nobody freak out, but if you think my exaggeration is too much, you might want to actually look into some of the public statements issued by such groups as "Equality Now!" and see for yourself (and while you're at it, you might want to consider this article from The Guardian as well, in reference to the notion that sensationalistic "news" is what gets attention -- although I don't see anything remotely exremist about what Texas State Senator Wendy Davis did; it is, maybe, radical, but it's not extremist, and it is exactly the sort of thing our female political leaders should do.).
We need to emphasize the fact that "Feminism" is not one thing, but several. I refer not only to the so-called "Waves" of Feminism, but also to multiple perspectives from feminists within each "Wave." Helpful also would be emphasizing statements like this (NSFW warning due to language).
In this discussion, Amanda Palmer states, quite correctly (please read the whole thing for context):
"as far as i’m concerned, the most powerful feminist can do WHATEVER SHE WANTS."
Too many feminists have attempted to dictate to other feminists, and this just isn't cool (especially since "Feminism" is not a monolithic ideology, but is made up of several distinct ideologies). Such acts do not promote the cause, but instead actually subvert Feminism via a self-righteous, "more-feminist-than-thou" attitude (after publishing this post, I found this article from The Guardian, with which I am largely in agreement). A few views may be capable of achieving universal feminist agreement, but universalizing all of your feminist views onto "Feminism" (as if it were nothing more or less than your own take on it) is a recipe for making yourself look like a twit (and I'm being extremely nice).
If we are to hope to disabuse those who generalize from the shrillest and most obnoxious voices within Feminism of their fallacious understanding of the meaning of Feminism, we need to reclaim the name from the extremist fringe groups (and stop hating on other women). Part of that, however, means that we ourselves have to disabuse ourselves of a tendency to mistake our own interpretation of Feminism as identical with Feminism as a whole.
Finally, with reference to Katy Perry herself and what she has done, I suggest you peruse her lyrics, wherein you will find challenges to social norms ("I Kissed a Girl (And I Liked It)" immediately springs to mind, and although LGBT Equality is more popular now, it was less so at the time the song came out; i.e., she has contributed to this enlightenment), extremely positive messages for young girls ("Firework" and "If You Can Afford Me,"for example), and yes, acceptance of the reality that human beings are, for the most part, sexual beings (exceptions do exist, but that's irrelevant for the present discussion), that sex is natural (not some plot by "the patriarchy" nor a temptation from "the boogeyman") and enjoyable, as well as other messages that produce a positive impact (and I really don't give a rat's ass if you or anyone else thinks that embracing one's sexual nature and working it for one's own benefit is somehow "inappropriate," because THAT attitude, dear, is a product of The Patriarchy, which attempts to paint all women into one or the other of two corners: a False Dilemma between "Virgin or Whore"). Yes, she wears makeup (so do I, and if anyone has a problem with that, tough shit), dresses nicely (and occasionally provocatively -- so do I, and if anyone etc.), pays attention to her appearance (so do I, and if anyone etc. -- maybe some research into the symptoms of various conditions described in the DSM would be in order here, since when someone has been suffering emotional dysfunction, they may tend to care far less about their appearance or any other way in which they present themselves to others). None of that is bad (I'll have a lot more to say about this in future posts), and this attempt to paint her as some kind of mindless bimbo is, to be blunt, ridiculous and offensive. Was Katy Perry in error? Probably; unfortunately, she probably has the same misinterpretation of "Feminism" that some others have, about which I have commented above. Does that give license to anyone to attempt to misrepresent her? No. Like I said above, Tu Quoque is a fallacy (and of course, accidental misunderstanding is hardly the same thing as intentional misrepresentation). Mind you, I realize that the fact that I have "dared" to offer any criticism could be exploited to throw the charge of Tu Quoque back in my face, but it's not criticism to which I'm objecting; it's pontification, arrogance, self-righteousness, assumptions made without any basis in research or experience (like Mish Way talking smack about Katy Perry while apparently not too hip to what Katy Perry has made public stances on, but also like Camille Paglia deigning to blather on about Transsexuality without sufficient knowledge of the subject) -- and it's the very real situation in which we have allowed ourselves to be subjected to that old imperial policy divide et impera.
For About Feminism, Volume I, Number 2: Art About Feminism, click here.
For About Feminism, Volume II, Number 1: Vivi and Gigi - A Love Story, or, Who Is Vivian James and What Is GamerGate? click here.