Sunday, May 17, 2009

If That's Feminism, F*ck Feminism

So, love-to-position-ourselves-as-the-pragmatic-liberals-which-often-means-fundamentally-conservative has launched its official women's website DoubleX this week, and boy, oh boy, did they know how to set things off, by inviting enemy of the third-wave, Linda Hirshman to contribute regularly. She kicked her contribution off by ripping down a pro-feminist blog. Ah, sisterhood.

If the women of Jezebel had at any point said they hoped to define feminism for the 21st century and hoped all their readers would follow their actions and adopt their implied ideologies, there would be plenty to criticize them for. I don't read the comments often, but when I do, I'm usually struck by how damn smart Jezebel commenters are. They're grown women, mostly feminist, with opinions of their very own. The Jezebel writers are not their role models and not their models for feminism.

Does Hirshman (and Wolf, Bindel, Leveque, Winstead) really have nothing better to do with her pulpit than accuse other women of being self-indulgent? That's the idea of the blog. It's a blog about indulgence (sex, fashion, drinking, etc.). That's why I don't go there for serious social critique when what I seek is serious social critique. But Jezebel still manages to convey every day that the ideals of feminism are desirable and being worked at, even if readers might sometimes point out when they contradict themselves. There are plenty of indulgent blogs directed at women without any hint of a social conscience, so I really have to know why Hirshman is so upset about the ones who do show their feminist stripes on a regular basis.

What are her biggest examples of their failings? Well, two of them were date raped and didn't report it. Oh, you mean they're like more than 90% of rape victims in this country? You mean, you're actually going to call these women indulgent because they didn't report their attacks? You mean, you actually said this?

Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!

Doing what feels good to you is the only standard that is allowed. The problem is that no one really wants to admit that some things feel bad, because that admission would threaten the whole system of unlimited individual action.


How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape? It’s incoherent.

Right. Because I'm sure the only reason these women didn't report their rapes (when they were teenagers mind you(!)), was because doing so would threaten their ability to live in a system of unlimited individualism. Feminists can't criticize rape culture unless they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and did what The Movement needed them to do after they were raped? WHAT?!

Hirshman's idea of sexual politics and liberation is sort of frightening. Part of what she hates about Jezebel is clearly that they show that being sexually free is not safe for women. They talk a lot of about fucking and they've been abused in the past. Why is this so problematic? It's reality.

As a generation of young women is discovering, and as polemicists from Camille Paglia to Ariel Levy have pointed out, there’s something missing in both points of view. Women can pretend they’re female chauvinist pigs, but it’s still women who are more sexually vulnerable to stronger men, due to the possibilities of physical abuse and pregnancy. These Jezebel writers are a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom; in fact, it’s the supposed concern with feminism that makes the site so problematic.
So what's the alternative for her? We never have sex the way we want to have sex because it puts us at risk for rape? Shouldn't it be up to individual women to decide whether they want to be sexually expressive in spite of their vulnerability?

I really never wanted to be the type of feminist who told other feminists they needed to chill out and worry about more important things, but in this case, I can't help it. If your greatest concern about a feminist fashion blog is it promotes indulgence and individualism (and her only example of this is that they didn't report date rapes), please find something else to work on protecting our daughters from. We aren't your daughters, Linda, and you really don't need to be lecturing us about indulgence. Feminism is not a contest in flagellation, and women should not have to be super heroes to be considered good feminists.

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