Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Feminist Update

It occurs to me that someone who thinks that feminism is all about strewing barbed wire across the cultural landscape in order to set up some protected woman-friendly, woman-validating space might be surprised to find themselves here, a place full of Whitman and Ginsburg and rap music and country music and baseball references and a writing style that owes a great deal to Chris Hyatt and Eric Szulczewski. I also don't write a lot about women artists, though this isn't some accidental oversight. It's pretty deliberate. I know how to talk about what I feel when I read, say, Uncle Walt. I don't really know how to talk about what I feel when I read Mary Oliver or hear Bessie Smith or look at Georgia O'Keefe. There's an element, I think, of me holding too close to myself the things that touch my soul and letting the sparkly stuff distract us. I should probably address that at some point. But, I wanted to talk a little bit about why you find here what you do find here, lots of things that aren't exactly "woman-safe." Miller, for instance, is all the time talking about the gaping putrid gashes between women's legs. Rap music is full of bitches and hoes. Country music still thinks it's fine to have songs about men killing women, but frets about the "controversy" surrounding songs about women killing men ("Goodbye Earl") even when those men are abusive ("Independence Day"). And those things do piss me off. Those are deliberate stances, aesthetic decisions, made to draw a firm distinction between who gets to make edgy, provocative, upsetting art (men) and who gets to be the object up on display and/or who plays the role of provoked and upset uncool folk who just doesn't get it (us). It's tiresome, to have our own contributions and creative endeavors overlooked or devalued, when we're doing so much that is deeply meaningful. And so, I don't blame anyone who says, "well, fuck them, I'm taking my precious things and going home." It's an understandable response. As is drawing firm lines and saying "Girls only here." A lot of what this culture produces is scary and I worry about the effect on everyone--boys and girls--of the messages they receive. Making safe and nurturing spaces is important and I appreciate the women and men who work hard to do that. But there's a long, long history in this country of "protecting" women from things we're supposedly too delicate for. Yes, it's clever. Make art and culture as unfriendly as you can to us and then run around arguing that women need protection from art and culture. Whatever, motherfuckers. If there's something important there, or even the possibility that there's something important there, your misogynist bullshit isn't going to keep me away. I might be scared shitless. I might act like a darn fool because I don't know the rules and mores, since I've been kept busy with my girly shit in rooms you don't pay attention to, for thousands of years. I might wish I'd not looked or listened. But I'm not going to be run off by your casual cruelty towards me. There is nothing that this culture produces, this country, my country, that will remain off-limits to me, if I decide it looks interesting. That's the kind of feminism going on here.

8 Comments:

Blogger Rhein said...

what other kind is there?

6/02/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Peggasus said...

On occasion I have wondered what sort of mother I might have been to a girl. A pretty militant, stick-up-for-yourself-under-all-circumstances, you-can-do-anything sort, I suspect.

But I have had to approach this from the male point of view instead. I daresay (fervently hope, at least) that I have instilled in my boys those same qualities when they regard their female contemporaries. I think the norm is changing, slowly but surely.

Not having worked in corporate America for almost 19 years now, I have no idea what the workplace is like now. But here in the trenches, I must say I am somewhat hopeful that things are getting better. They take for granted that some moms work and some don't, and it doesn't phase them in the least one way or the other. That will undoubtedly carry through with them into their adult years, and their girlfriends and wives will have come from the same circumstances.

I think the world my mother grew up in and the world my kids are growing up in are very different indeed in this respect. We have come a long way, baby.

The hand that rocks the cradle and all, you know.

6/02/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your style!
I agree 100%

annde

6/02/2005 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I prefer the other kind of feminist. The scary, illiterate, noisy kind. I recognize them sooner and am less likely to offend and get my ass kicked.


-Jon

6/02/2005 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

Your writing and thinking are so interesting and enlightened. I enjoy stopping by here, every time I do. Keep it up!

6/02/2005 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Thank you all for your kind compliments. Peg, I agree. I had a funny conversation the other day with the Man from GM who was complaining that all the women he meets are boring, that they have no hobbies. I accused him of being a feminist, and he denied it, but it made me happy to know that he, at least, really wanted a woman with a life of her own. I'm glad I've been such a good influence on him.

Jon, no one here is going to kick your ass. Here at Tiny Cat Pants, we only kick people in the head, and that's only if we're stretched out enough to get our legs that high.

6/02/2005 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Frankie and Albert?

(In reference to paragraph 4.)

Elias

6/09/2005 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

But Frankie felt bad about it. Samuel Adams records a version from Clarksdale where the judge tells old Frankie that she's free to go and kill herself another man, but instead she went down to the depot and "slammed out her brains."

I think it's fine in any form of music to kill a loved one and then kill yourself.

6/09/2005 09:54:00 AM  

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