Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Post-feminist era?

Today I got an email from someone, a woman, who said at the end of it something about being under the impression that we were living in the post-feminist era and so it's safe again to appreciate art for art's sake, even if it's pictures of naked women. Is this true? Are we in the post-feminist era? If so, then I think it's safe to say that the second wave of feminism was an unmitigated disaster. First-wave feminists got called a lot of things, as they marched around demanding the right to determine for themselves their own lives, and they still won for us the right to be considered a person under the law, the right to vote, and the fragile right to decide for ourselves when and under what circumstances to have sex and/or reproduce. Second-wave feminists get called humorless, insufferable, politically correct, lesbian, man-hating bitches, and it works, we've all agreed that this is the definition of feminism. How many times have you heard someone say "I'm a feminist, but not one of those man-haters" or "I'm not a lesbian" or whatever? It's like we really never felt that we owned the word "feminist" and so when folks redefined it to mean some bogeyman that doesn't really exist, we accepted that they had more of a right to define our term than we did. Well, fuck that. I'm a feminist, in that old school rabble-rousing way. I'm a feminist in the "fine, fuck it, I'm not a feminist if that's all the word means" way. I'm a feminist because I want to encounter the world as a full human being. I want to be paid what I'm worth and I want my worth to be based on my abilities--my abilities, my own skills and short-comings--not on some overly broad generalizations about any group I belong to by accident of birth. I want the right to succeed or fail on my own merit. I don't want the whole thing rigged against me just because I have a clitoris. If calling people by the names they choose instead of the names I choose for them, and trying to be sensitive to the ways in which our unexamined assumptions about the ways the world works can be damaging to ourselves and others, has somehow taken on a larger significance than basic rules of etiquette, then I don't mind if someone accuses me of being politically correct. I'm trying to be polite; sorry folks don't recognize that any more. If folks assume that "feminist" is a kind of sexual orientation, fine, bring on the hot chicks. I'm not sure how one goes about being a man-hater, but I vow to make a dramatic statement to this effect tonight, possibly by going over to my neighbors' and tearing up an image of a "Y" chromosome in front of them. If they aren't home, then I will mock the Butcher this evening for his inability to menstruate. But I think the one part of the unspoken definition of feminist that really, really bothers me is the "humorless" part. Why have we agreed to this? We ought to start laughing and keep laughing. When Bill Friskics-Warren scolded Liz Gerrigan for being "rockist," she should have looked him square in the face and thrown back her head and laughed and laughed and laughed. When James Dobson gets up in front of Congress and starts bitching about SpongeBob Squarepants' gay video, someone should have, right then, asked him if he'd actually seen it, and, when he admitted that he hadn't, they should have laughed him right out of the room. When some state legislator brings forth a bill making it a felony to not report miscarriages, we've got to laugh as if this is the most ludicrous thing we've ever heard of. Now, I'm not advocating that we only laugh at idiots. We ought not to confuse the healthy first response to something ludicrous with the only response. But we also shouldn't be afraid to recognize these things for the jokes they are. Good humor is good feminism.

2 Comments:

Blogger the Professor said...

I am a feminist because this world still assumes that the bodies that inhabit it are male, so female bodies are problems. In a terminal bathroom at the Baltimore airport I saw a woman standing at a counter right at the entrance pumping her breast milk for all the patrons to see. I wasn't grossed out or bothered or embarrassed to have seen her breats, even hooked up to a pump which does make one think about cows and dairy farms. I was outraged and saddened that her choice is to never be away from her child for more than 3 or 4 hours OR to have to pump her breats in the middle of a busy, barely clean, public toilet. Until women's bodies are the basis for constructing buildings, facilities, and even schedules (none of which would present problems for male bodies, in fact their might be some unforeseen benefits), then we all need to be feminists!

Besides, what's this art for art's sake shit?

2/02/2005 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Oh, I know! Art for art's sake. I was thinking that if I were Vincent van Gogh and no one was buying my shit and I was in and out of institutions and relying on my brother to take care of me, that "art for art's sake" would ring pretty fucking hollow, no matter how many college dorm rooms I could be assured of decorating one hundred years hence.

What about "art for getting paid's sake"?

Or is one of the unforseen repercussions of the "post-feminist era" the return of the fanciful notion that artists are different from the rest of us in that they don't need to eat or have a roof over their heads?

2/03/2005 08:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home