I am woman—hear me roar

12 01 2010

I am so fucking tired of having to generate outrage at yet another horrendously stupid or awful comment on or policy regarding women.

It’s not that I’m no longer capable of outrage—note the existence of the ‘Rant’ category (or see this post)—but JesusMary&Joseph can I not simply walk away from idiocy on occasion?

Look, I’m old—an old feminist, and shit that used to rile me is now far more likely to lead me to roll my eyes. Some dickwad thinks women can’t think and menstruate at the time and I’m supposed to engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of this so-called argument?

Can’t I just laugh in his face and move on?

C. and I were discussing our respective positions vis-a-vis feminism the other night; while her views generally might be described as feminist, she declines the term. I’ll leave it to her to explain why—she’s working on a post on the topic—but she was clearly weary of the ‘rules’ of feminism. Do I have to invoke ‘The Patriarchy‘ every time some guy acts like a douche? Can’t I just say, This guy is a douche?

I think patriarchy is a key concept in understanding the development of male-female roles and relationships across societies; I also think such understanding requires a sense of critical distance from the term itself, as well as an ability to distinguish between overarching/underlying structural dynamics and the idiosyncracies of individual behavior.

Translation: Yes, sometimes a douche is just a douche.

But even if I think that scripts for individual behavior are shaped (not determined) by those structural dynamics, it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to go nuclear every time someone tosses a dart my way. Sometimes I can just toss it back—bent, if I so choose. Sometimes I can just duck.

This is called judgment, and one of the benefits of aging is accumulating enough experience on which to base this discretion.

This does not make a bad feminist or a sell-out or blinded by privilege. (Grrrr, now there’s a word that sets me off. . . .) As a long-ago grad school colleague responded to a newly-out woman’s hectoring her on not being a good enough lesbian: I’ve been out since I was fifteen, so I don’t need any lectures from some baby dyke.

Was P. invoking privilege in her put-down? Yeah—an earned one. And P., an exceptional mild person, didn’t go any further in criticizing this woman’s zeal; rather, she made the practical observation that the way one relates one’s sexuality to the world changes over time. Such change, needless to say, can indicate development in as opposed to repudiation of an aspect of one’s identity.

So how I’m a feminist has changed over the last thirty years—which strikes me as a good thing. I was twelve or thirteen when I first identified as a feminist, and took to it with a teenaged zeal. I ain’t knocking adolescent views—they’re entirely appropriate for adolescents—but, really, how sad would it be for an old broad like me to ignore the fact that I am no longer thirteen?

It is true that in those intervening decades I have come to question feminism and to shift where I locate myself within the spectrum of feminisms. It’s not that I’ve abandoned my previous commitment to equality, but in recent years I have focused more intently on issues of liberation and domination.

These are big topics, but here I want simply to make the practical point that domination affects all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. Some people might focus on race or ethnicity or class or sexual orientation or gender identity or disability or any number of other boxes in which we find ourselves, but it seems to me that we can share the general goal of liberation, as pursued in our particular ways.

So while I might have to start calling myself a ‘libber’ to reflect that larger project, my entry into this project was as a feminist. It has formed my thinking and guided my development regarding liberation, and I see no reason to discard it, now.

(There’s also the little matter of rank oppression of women world-wide and the necessity of recognizing that however general the goal of liberation, it is in fact experienced in the particular. Women’s rights may be human rights, but you can’t neglect the former and hope to achieve the latter.)

Still, I share C.’s wariness to some versions of feminism, those which traffic in conversation-stopping jargon and which allow for no nuance in how we actually inhabit this world. We discussed a couple of websites and their contributors, and the constant jackhammering in their posts.

C. was pissed off, but I (uncharacteristically) took more of P.’s mellow line. Look, I said, those websites are geared toward a particular audience—a younger, academically-oriented one. They’re pounding away on stuff that we might already have learned to deal with. In and of itself that’s not a bad thing, but for those of us outside of that target audience, it’s bound to produce its share of irritation.

Then C. asked a very good question: Where the hell are those websites for women our age?

Beyond the mommy blogs, I couldn’t think of any. Katha Pollitt keeps on keeping on, but where is the Gen-X version of Feministing or Jezebel or Pandagon? (Could we call it BabyBust? Or would that just be too cute?)

We need a site which takes account of our nicks and scars, defeats and victories, and which doesn’t expect us to get riled up every damned time someone says something stupid about women, somewhere. Righteous Broads? Crone? Or, to call on an earlier post, how about Mormo, a.k.a. She-monster?

Something which encourages us to laugh and dance and not be perfect, but human, instead. Politics, liberation—yes, but life, too. Life, always.


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5 responses

12 01 2010
Donald Mills

Jesus Christ! It’s been trouble ever since we gave you ladies the vote. An intersting rant and I thank you for it.

13 01 2010
Christine

@Donald – and oh god, how we looooooove to TALK about everything. 😉

I don’t like BabyBust for several reasons, but mostly because of the “baby.” Crone might be good if we could reverse engineer a fun acronym. I don’t know Mormo, so no feeling there. Hm. You’re good at naming things, anything else come to mind?

If we build it, will they come? Is there any feeling anywhere about why more older women aren’t online – or if they are, where are they? I mean, here we are. Are we really by ourselves out here?

I’m into spending a little time looking around – and maybe these young women’s sites will let us old farts advertise or guest post or something. Let the rest of us know there’s an alternative (once we’ve made or found one).

13 01 2010
absurdbeats

Donald: How DARE you refer to us as ladies?! I am OUTRAGED! How dare you even think to comment on this topic! Such vile hatred and puerile sentiments. . . oh, wait. Nevermind.

C.: Upon further reflection (i.e., lying in bed unable to sleep), I think any blog title should be gender neutral. Given my belief that, um, patriarchy sucks for men, too, I think any blog devoted to liberation for all really should be for all.

Plus, there’s that matter of violence which we discussed, and which we agreed requires the participation of men. So whatever gets put together should reflect an openness toward that participation.

Also I was thinking (again, while trying and failing to sleep) that we could do something retro: Since we were kids in the seventies, a fine decade of parental neglect of their young, why not something to reflect that what-the-hell sensibility?

14 01 2010
Christine

I like it. And it would appeal to the right demographic. I want Gen Xers, for the most part, not Baby Boomers. They have a megaphone already.

Which, btw, the media appears to be confused about what’s a Boomer, what’s a Gen Xer, etc. New York One the other day was reporting something about Boomers were doing this, Gen X was doing that, and defined a Baby Boomer as “anyone over 45,” and Generation X as “between 25 and 35.” Wha? Since when?? I’ve been grumpy ever since!

14 08 2013
Let’s rock with the tough girls | AbsurdBeats

[…] against the Vietnam War—it was the way through which I entered politics in a determined way. And while I now prefer the term “liberationist” (yah, woman’s libber!), I don’t give up “feminist” because a) it has […]

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