Hey, you guys! It is almost a new year! A new DECADE, even. That is a big deal, right? And, as we approach our bright and shining future, it’s time for us to engage in some serious thoughts. Thoughts about Feminism! Where has it been, where is it going, at what point do we just get around to establishing that the true point of Feminism is and has always been for me to have my own rocket car, etcetera. And who do we trust, in this hour of futuristic thought, to guide us on to Feminism’s new era?
Probably not Nicky Loomis of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, that’s who! Oh, I know, I know. “Nicky Who-mis of the Where Where WHAT, now?” That is what you are saying. And I sympathize! I’ve never heard of this person, either! But Nicky has written us a letter, about our movement, and the many faults Nicky happens to perceive therein. And since it is addressed to us – to ALL OF US, in fact – I think we should give it a fair hearing. It begins:
See? It’s for you!
Hi. How are you?
God damn it, Nicky Loomis of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU NOT TO CONTACT ME. It’s over! Let it go!
Guess what? Another decade is done and people are starting to wonder where you have gone.
Um, fucking EVERYWHERE, I think? Did you try Google? Did you look for the explosion of independently-run and/or corporate-backed feminist media that has been one of the better developments of this past decade? Like: there are some big places we hang out on the Internet, really. Did you try Shakesville, Feministing, Pandagon? A website entitled, last time I checked, “Feministe?” These are some of the easier names to plug into your Google machine! They’re not even the only names I know or the only names I seek out because they’re continually attached to work where I can find Feminism hanging out and chilling and entertaining guests; they’re just names that are substantially easier to know about or have heard of than, say, “Nicky Loomis!” Did you try the feminist or feminist-friendly offshoots of major for-profit media? DoubleX, Broadsheet, Jezebel? You can find Sarah Haskins on the Internet too, I hear! She has a little TV show, I recommend it!
Also, do you read things that are printed on paper? Such as the print-media zine-era survivors and thrivers, like Bitch? The second-wave stalwarts like Ms.? The many feminist contributors to your more progressive magazines and journals? Feminism can be found there, too! And also at bookstores. Do you go to bookstores, Nicky Loomis? You can find Feminism chillaxing in a lot of books, at a lot of bookstores, in the sections devoted to Feminism! Some of the writers associated with this general Internet milieu can also be found in these “book stores!” And some of the writers have been around longer, longer than the Internet itself, making friends with and introducing people to and supporting Feminism, and their books and articles and the results of their hanging out with Feminism and helping Feminism out are fucking all over the place! It’s crazy!
Also, here is another place you can find Feminism: in real life. Did you check real life, Nicky? I recommend it! Maybe if you look around – like, at protests and women’s shelters and some of your more major feminist organizations and in your office and in your family and in your general life environment, those are fun places to look – you can find Feminism and feminists there, too! A lot of them, in fact!
Did any of this register for you, when you were writing your little letter? Like, this whole thing of Feminism entering the national conversation yet again, and being adopted and researched and learned about and participated in by so many people, and basically being a whole lot bigger and more visible and more accessible right now, at the end of this particular decade, than it has been in years and years and years? It’s all possible to learn about, via an entertaining buckets-o-fun process I like to call “knowing a damn thing before you sit down to write!”
Or not. Anyway, now that we’ve established Nicky’s in-depth research and expertise relating to the whereabouts and nature of Feminism, time to field some suggestions!
Feminism, it’s time for you to rebrand. Think of me as your Oprah on makeover day.
HOW TO IMMEDIATELY ENDEAR YOURSELF TO FEMINIST WOMEN IN ONE SENTENCE OR LESS: Assume they will all go buck-wild crazy with enthusiasm if you mention “Oprah” and a “makeover.” Works every time!
A lot has changed since you were coming up in the world. First things first: the name has got to go. I know, I know, you like it; it’s important to who you are. But think about what it did for Puff Daddy and get back to me.
Oh, yeah. I remember when Puff Daddy was calling himself “Feminism.” That was weird! But, hey, maybe we can ditch the whole “Feminism” moniker! I read about it in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, so I’m pretty sure it’s a good idea. I recommend that we now dub our noble movement, “Hot Sexy Wet T-Shirt Tits for Beads Jell-O Shot Party X-Press.” You know, for branding purposes! Or “Girls Gone Wild.” Is that one taken? Maybe we could just call it, “Dudes, Cut That Bullshit Out Right Now, Or I Will Make You.” That is the phrase most likely to flash across my mind, right before I engage in some Feminism. We’ll work on it, Nicky! We will, as you suggest, get back to you!
You remember how in 1983, Gloria Steinem published “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” a collection of stories chronicling her journey as a feminist so far? I was zero years old.
Wow. I was one! I was really into Bert and Ernie, if I recall. I insisted that Ernie was a girl, because I liked him, so he had to be. I shoved peas up my nose sometimes and I thought broccoli was baby trees! Oh, and also? I would have had the good sense not to publish this article. Some of us mature faster than others, is the moral here.
Steinem suggests “bottom line” regular acts to support your cause: “Writing five letters a week to lobby, criticize, or praise anything from TV shows to a senator; giving 10 percent of our incomes to social justice; going to one demonstration a month …”
Feminism, this is simply too much! Many women in my generation like watching TV because it has gotten better.
Oh, my God! I LIKE WATCHING TV, TOO! We have SO MUCH IN COMMON! And I agree: in recent years, there has been more TV with feminist overtones or undertones or just general tones, coming from folks like Joss Whedon and Tina Fey and all the many folks on Mad Men or Battlestar Galactica or whatever, and even the misogyny of some TV – though not gone, and not un-appalling – is more widely called out than it once was, and people seem to seek to avoid that, simply because an increasing number of people feel comfortable saying that something is “misogynist” and that misogyny is a good enough reason not to support it. I wonder if all those ancient withered feminists of ’83, writing letters to praise the good stuff and criticize the bad, creating a culture where it was totally acceptable to view pop culture “through a feminist lens,” as the saying goes, had anything to do with that at all???
No. Pshaw! Gloria Steinem, contributing to the benefit of the culture? Couldn’t be! She’s just so old! And acknowledging that this made a difference back then would imply that it could still make a difference now! Which is just plain wacky.
Feminism, you are kaleidoscopic in the reactions you cause.
To some, you stand for equal rights in the workforce; to others, you’re about babies, marriage or sexual freedom. You’ve become about as tough to define as America itself.
Feminism is especially tough to define if you don’t read any feminist writers, or seek out any feminist expertise, and if you rule out engaging in any feminist activism! Just saying. Or if you insist that a movement dedicated to bettering the lives of over fifty percent of the human beings on the fucking planet have only one priority (again: getting me a rocket car is a good one to pick, ladies) which is universally agreed upon and espoused by all of its members! Just saying. Oh, what’s that Nicky Loomis? You have a final point?
Even in the workplace, “women aren’t afraid to be women anymore.”
Huh. That’s awesome! Because, you know, there have been times when I’ve been totally afraid to be a woman. Like: walking down the street, late at night, alone, when being a woman means some dude might rape me. Or going to a bar and having to keep an eye on my drink, because being a woman means some dude might roofie and rape me. Or basically always having to think about what I’m wearing and who’s around and what my exit strategy is and whether my friends (also women) and I are safe from being roofied and raped, or raped without the aid of roofies, which might indeed happen to us because we are women. I’m kind of afraid to be a woman at those times! Or when my ideas and work are dismissed by men, because being a woman means that I’m not cut out to be an intellectual equal, and being an openly feminist woman who talks about being a woman and seems totally not ashamed of that fact means that I’m either frivolous or a fringe-dwelling wack-job. That happens, and makes me scared to be a woman! Or when I’m patronized by men, or regarded as a “bitch” because I advocate for myself, or taken advantage of because I fail to advocate for myself, or sexualized and fetishized in a creepy way that by no means depends on my consent or participation, which can happen in lots of places – an office, maybe! It’s happened there – because I’m a woman. When a boss hits on you, or when a man addresses his female employees as “girls” and treats them like particularly stupid five-year-old children: that’s kind of scary. Because of the woman thing. You know when my mom was probably afraid to be a woman? When my dad beat her up a whole bunch. I was scared to be a woman, too, because I got to see it. When I worry that I won’t get jobs, or will be taken less than seriously at my job, or will have to enact some unsatisfying and impossible compromise with my job, due to the fact that I can (probably!) have babies and will be perceived as (or will be) the parent most responsible for taking care of any babies I have, I get scared to be a woman. When issues that are kind of super-important to me, like having access to birth control and abortion, get kicked off the table by the “liberals” who are supposed to support me because those trivial women’s issues are not worth fighting over: I get scared to be a woman around those times. When I’m engaged in the constant negotiation of disclosing my sexual history or tastes, and in the more-or-less mandatory sexualization of my body, constantly trying to negotiate between “stuck-up ugly bitch who won’t put out” and “dirty whore,” I get scared to be a woman, because that can affect everything from my job to how friends and family treat me to how people think it’s appropriate to interact with me on the street, and can be utilized as a justification for any number of crimes and shitty acts enacted against me, up to and including the aforementioned rape and beating-up-a-whole-bunch. And when people act like all of these things that might happen to me are not real issues, are either trivial or not worth thinking about or funny – a lot of people think they’re funny, I’ve gathered – I’m scared to be a woman. Really, REALLY scared! I’m scared to be a woman pretty often, actually, now that I think about it! But, hey, as long as those things have stopped happening – have they stopped happening, Nicky? Surely, with your research skills, you can fill me in – let’s ditch the fear of being women! NO FEAR, like the t-shirt says!
Of course, I would still be a woman, whether I was afraid of it or not – I can’t precisely turn that shit on and off like an iPod - so for some reason getting over the “fear” of being a woman seems slightly less important than making sure there are fewer things for women to be afraid of. But, you know, sure: let’s work on making women not afraid to be women any more. My first suggestion? Make them less afraid to be feminists.
[Cross-posted at Feministe.]