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STATE OF THE FEMINISM: Time for a Rebranding, Ladies!

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:

DEAR Feminism,

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.]

21 Comments

  1. Excelsior wrote:

    Yes. Just yes. I really needed to read that right now. So thank you.

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Beth wrote:

    Wow, fantastic post. Happy New Year lady!

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  3. trifling wrote:

    HA! yes. thank you. awesome. Happy 2010 and thank you for all your ladybusiness dissection in 2009.

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Liza-the-second wrote:

    Sady, I love your writing. I just wanted to tell you that, because you probably don’t hear it enough. (I mean from the world at large, not from me in particular. I am not imagining that you are sitting at home thinking, “Yes, yes, accolades of thousands, but what does LIZA think of my writing skills?”)

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  5. Mercer Finn wrote:

    I thought broccoli was baby trees!

    Me too!! Also, fantastic article. Also, happy new year!

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
  6. I suppose I shouldn’t have, but I clicked over to see the original bit and was sort of startled at how much worse the piece was than the quotes you pulled out of it made it sound. In the future, I will just trust your assessments without clicking over to read for myself, to save myself the headdesking.

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  7. snobographer wrote:

    From the article:

    “We’re better and worse,” said one Hollywood assistant. “We’re amorphous; we’re confused – when do I have kids? Will it ruin my career?”

    Were all us feminists supposed to have made a collective decision as to when exactly we should have kids? I suppose I can do Tuesday. How about we all have kids this Tuesday? For feminism!

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  8. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    I’m a bit drunk, as appropriate to the date and hour, but I just want to say Happy New Decade, you’re absolutely right, this Loomis character is writin like a regular douchecase here, and thank you, for this and for all your other insightful and funny posts.

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Chris wrote:

    God, I am so effing tired of hearing people criticize feminism who have clearly never actually researched what feminism is or what feminists are currently doing. So many people think they know what feminism is, and they just…don’t. But of course, you already made that point much more eloquently than I could, so this comment may be a bit redundant…

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 2:27 am | Permalink
  10. caffeineadddict wrote:

    ‘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.’

    What makes me REALLY angry here is the way Loomis is complicit in the invisibilisation of all the different modes of feministic protest that so many men, women, trans and intersex folk perform (either deliberately, semi-deliberately or not) in everyday life. Maybe she doesn’t know that things like micropower, irony, sarcasm, performativity, embodied protest etc. etc. exist? Maybe in her so many years on this planet she just hasn’t *noticed* them, or entertained the idea that they occur, but she is just not conscious of them? If this is the case, one can only wonder *where* it is she is living.

    ‘Pies or no pies, in your comeback, I’m not asking you to lose the glasses and go panty-less like Paris Hilton. I’m asking you to relish our kaleidoscopic qualities so we can again relish you.’

    I got from the article that, a) she wants to rename feminism, b) this is because feminism is dead and/or has become too narrowly focused, and c) if this happens everyone will embrace feminism. So am I to take it that if we just call feminism something different, everyone will start identifying as a [insert new word for feminist here]. No wait, of course they would, because people (especially women) are really stupid and they would have no idea what was going on!

    Oh, and I love how when she conducts her own ‘research’, and realises that ‘feminism’ means many different things to many different people (however problematic some of the responses were), she still opens the piece with ‘Dear Feminism’, as though the movement IS an easily identifiable, ontologically stable community. She shouldn’t have bothered with the ‘research’ at all.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink
  11. Danielle wrote:

    This is (for ME PERSONALLY) the single most important article that I have ever read concerning Feminism. I have never seen my frustrating thoughts and concerns expressed in such a powerful way before. I want to thank you for this, from the bottom of my tired, female heart. Those last few paragraphs especially give a voice to all of the wordless rage and fear I experience EVERY DAY. I read your stuff whenever you write it, and I read about twelve other feminist sites as well; in all my years of reading and researching, nothing compares to what I felt just now as I finished this incredible article. I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m exaggerating, because I’m not usually one to fly in and immediately give props, but I honestly wanted to thank you for writing this. I am truly thankful that you took the time out to dive into these painful thoughts and feelings. It must have been so stressful to dissect your fear and irritating and rage and all of the hurtful memories that have been built up over the years of JUST BEING A LADY. I mostly feel as though I could never do it, and that’s why I don’t have a bunch of amazing blogs which inspire women and girls everywhere. I depend on women like you to do this hard work. It inspires me to keep going, to maybe do some hard work of my own, and to have more faith in myself. I’m NOT crazy. This is NOT ok, and that guy is a JERKFACE. Thank you once again. Please don’t stop writing.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  12. Danielle wrote:

    Oh, wait. Apparently Nicky Loomis is a woman? Wow, that is twice as disappointing.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  13. kate wrote:

    I don’t comment on articles too much, but this was really an amazing article. The last paragraph was just…perfect. Thank you.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Permalink
  14. v wrote:

    thank you

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 4:39 am | Permalink
  15. kristyn wrote:

    Second exactly what Danielle says. I read this blog because, Sady — your writing makes it easier to be me. Less afraid.

    I’ve posted to your blog before concerning fear — both about fear and from places of fear, and once about something I wrote from a place of fear. It’s a big thing for me. And it’s heartening to know that somebody else understands, because as silly as this seems, sometimes I feel like I am the only one.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  16. ALL HAIL SADY.

    *starts designing rocket car*

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  17. *terrorist fist-bump of solidarity*

    Awesome.

    Monday, January 4, 2010 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  18. prefer not to say wrote:

    I love you.

    Monday, January 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  19. Linda Binda wrote:

    Sorry for the necromancy, but let me just say this:

    What’s the difference between Loomis’ logic in her article and the logic used by writers who bash Islam as super-extra-bad and “terroristy?” Because Islam is put on the idiot box as this super weird, bad, crazy thing, somehow that is truly all there is to Islam, especially with choice Quranic quotes translated by who knows what. (I’m an atheist, and even *I* will call bullshit on the Islam-bashing — imagine that.) If anything, she makes us ’80s-born folks look fucking stupid. It’s the moronic “if it’s not on TV, it’s not real” line of thinking again.

    Loomis, this was what my mother told me about Looney Tunes cartoons when I was 7, and so I shall say it for you and for any concern troll who thinks what you have to say has any merit at all:

    Just because you see it that way on the TV doesn’t mean it’s real. Just because it isn’t all over on every single news network, it isn’t on every radio station, it isn’t written about in every mainstream newspaper, and your friends have never heard of it or are at a loss to explain what it is, that doesn’t mean that it DOESN’T EXIST.

    (And just because Elmer Fudd can take an falling anvil to the head, and be OK afterwards, doesn’t mean YOU can. :) He doesn’t exist, and neither does Bugs Bunny. They’re DRAWINGS. ^^)

    Even the right-wingers commenting in the newspaper comments section called bullshit on her article. They said, “I guess YOU wouldn’t know about feminism, what with your two master’s degrees, yet still living with your parents.” I don’t agree with that line of logic, (I still live at home myself — no degree (yet), and I’m jobless, and housing isn’t exactly cheap and easy to get), but I was amused by it.

    Even THEY could grasp what feminism was, one of them citing Sarah Palin as an example, before proceeding to bash her(?) leftist straw-feminist. What does that tell you?

    As for those saying that feminism needs to do more political advertising or to “rebrand,” I think if we had any more of Amy Siskind and her ilk on the TV any longer, I think all the public political selling we’ll get of feminism is that of the unrecognizable, RACIST, fence-sitting right-wing variety that SHE and the PUMAs have to offer. The media puts on whom they want to see, and women like her get the ratings for their “news.” Is that the “advertising” route feminism should go? Ick.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  20. Chari wrote:

    Thanks for this post, Sady; especially the next-to-last absolutely AWESOME paragraph.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  21. tabby wrote:

    freakin’ awesome. your writing kicks ass and doesn’t even bother to take names. i LOVE it!!!!

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

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