Saturday, January 15, 2005

Some thoughts on the f-word

Since it's Friday and I needed a break from the ton of things I have to do for next week's classes and my own research, I disappeared into my recently returned inbox and followed some links from Foe.

First I read The End of Feminism's Third Wave by Lisa Jervis in Ms. Magazine. Jervis is the cofounder of Bitch Magazine - the only publication I've never missed an issue of since its first. She and I are the same age, and accordingly get associated with the "third wave" of feminism. I've never cared for the label and its connotations either, but in this article she does a better job than I ever could explaining why. You should read it yourself, but the gist is that if you think you're different than second-wave feminists because you like to make fun of things, wear lipstick or have sex, you're being only slightly more polite - and no more progressive - than if you had called them hairy-legged manhaters like anti-feminists so often do. As Jervis bluntly states:

"Here's what we all need to recognize so that we can move on: Those in their 20s and 30s who don't see their concerns reflected in the feminism of their elders are ignorant of history; those in their 50s and beyond who think that young women aren't politically active or active enough, or active around the right issues don't know where to look. We all want the same thing: To borrow bell hooks' phrase, we want gender justice."

Agreed. I've always believed that anti-feminism at its most insidious gets women to belittle and undermine each other. There's no reason to think we all need to agree on everything, but neither is there a reason to think that we want is fundamentally and irreconcilably different. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, I would also add that feminism of any wave is not just a women's issue.

From there I jumped to another article written by Jervis in LiP Magazine on the peculiar problem of politics, pornography and the ass-kicking babe. Again, she's able to articulate things I struggle with - like why I was inspired by the women in the Kill Bill movies and why I was bored by the women in the Charlie's Angels movies. Now before anyone says "Hey Anne, where's your sense of humour?" I'll point to the article above and also say that I share Jervis' position here that the combination of (pornographically inspired) femininity and violence - like catfights in bras and panties or even kicking a guy's ass while dressed in latex fetish wear - does way more to attract and hold the male gaze than it portrays a self-possessed female strength or self-determined beauty. Jervis also points out that although The Bride's violence in Kill Bill was not sexualised, it was based on another common female stereotype, the "fierce mama".

"The simplistic questions to ask are if these images make for good role models, and whether they're good or bad for feminism. But what we need aren't better role models, or images that can easily be labeled 'good' or 'bad' ... What we need is substance beyond the pornographic. What we need are conceptions of female violence that preserve the potential of the threat that our rage and our power represent."

Hear hear! I'd also add that we need to get beyond maternal violence, and the idea that mothers would, or the expectation that they should, do anything to protect and defend their children. After all, why do chicks have to look good - physically or morally - when they get pissed off or just wanna get even?


Anonymous Carlos Davila said...

Good blog. Keep it running!


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