I’m going to be ranting a fair bit about this thing called “feminism” on this blog, so let me give you a quick overview of where we are with that, and why and what I will be ranting about.
I don’t exactly know how many ”waves” feminism has gone through altogether as an ”ism”, but I’m pretty damn sure that it is currently surfing on the crest of a different one than when I first started reading up on it in the dying years of the last century.
The first feminist oeuvre I ever read was a book that I picked up from my college library’s “women’s studies” section, because I saw it on the shelf and it intrigued me. It was Nadine Strossen’s Defending Pornography. Soon after that a friend lent me her copy of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s almost as interestingly named Bitch. You would have thought that with titles like these feminism was the coolest kid on the ideology block, but it was most decidedly not. I got funny looks if I tried to bring up the topic in conversations, and when I carelessly left Bitch lying around my desk at my summer job, I got an incredulous, almost horrified, “don’t tell me that you’re a feminist or something” from a colleague.
Those early years were dark, but at least I felt righteously that I was on to something.
In the following years I watched in dismay as feminism went (from my perspective) down the tubes with anything and everything that was about women making money becoming “feminist”. And way too often women making money was about their bodies, one way or another. I mean, for Christ’s sake, there was a time when Jenna Jameson, a porn star, and Katie Price, a tittie model turned self-obsessed-media-personality, were considered “feminist role models”.
Then came not only Spice Girls with their “girl power” (on which I may have something to say later), but from my perspective much more importantly Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs. As far as I’m concerned, the name was just as cool as those of the earlier books I had read in college. But more importantly, the content was expressing better than I ever could have the discomfort that I had felt about female sexuality having turned into female sexiness, and the fact that if women weren’t taking part in wet t-shirt competitions screaming in delight, they were boring tight-asses who didn’t know how to have a blast. I mean, what better sport could there be for a woman than pole dancing?
And via all that we’ve landed ... here. In the happy place where people no longer cringe when I tell them that I’m a feminist. Where my significant other (F) doesn’t cringe when I tell him that HE is a feminist. Where feminism is still about the old things of pay equality and women having control over their own bodies, but also about the honest admission that even privileged white women CAN’T have it all. Good old body hair is also back in the trenches. The job is not done, but there are various ways of doing it, and we don’t all have to agree on how to do it – nor even on what “it” is. Also, we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously... not all the time anyway. Feminism is a diverse, mature, self-confident ideology. Just like the women who were fortunate enough to have grown up under its benign influence, enjoying the fruits of its labour. The lucky gals like me.