Tuesday, January 4, 2011

tuesday reading

"I've been to a feminist 'mother-daughter dinner party' where the feel-good bonding degenerated into a cross fire of complaint and recrimination, with younger women declaring themselves sck to death of hearing about the glory days of 70s feminisim and older women declaring themselves sick to death of being swept into the dustbin of history. I've been to a feminist conclave convened to discuss the intergenerational question where no young women were invited...I've delivered speeches on the state of women's rights to college audiences whose follow-up questions concerned mostly the liberating potential and stripping, their elders' cluelessness about sex and fashion, and the need to distance themselves from an older, 'stodgy' feminism.

"at the age of 51, and by birth cohort a member of neither [feminism's] 2nd nor the 3rd wave, I am not exempt. sometimes I find myself in rooms where, by default and despite my years, I'm expected to represent the youthful feminist viewpoint because there's no one younger around. more often, a middle-aged grumpiness tends to place me of the 'old' side, as when I open a leading feminist work and find a prominent 3rd-wave feminist defending her 'extreme bikini wax' or read a feminist blog in which a young woman avers that 'wearing a wonderbra is a statement of empowerment' and expounds on the pleasures of 'choosing between "apricot sundae" and "mocha melt" eye shadow'...when I 1st began writing about womens' rights nearly 2 decades ago, I liked to say that feminism was the simply worded sign hoisted by a little girl in the 1970 women's strike for equality: I AM NOT A BARBIE DOLL.* now I'm not so sure.

"feminism takes many forms and plays out in efforts in which younger and older women do collaborate over serious issues, usually out of the spotlight. it would be inaccurate to say that the generational schism is the problem with feminism. the primary hurdles feminism faces are the enduring ones. basic social policies for working mothers are still lacking and sex segregation in the workplace and the attendant feminization of poverty have hardly changed (the top 10 full-time jobs for women in the US--secretary, waitress, sales clerk, etc.--are the same as 30 years ago, and over the course of their prime earning years women make 38% of what men make); male dominance of public leadership is still the rule (men occupy 80 to 95+% of the top decision-making positions in american politics, business, the military, religion, media, culture, and entertainment); sexual and domestic violence remain at epidemic levels (nearly 20% of american women report having been sexually assaulted or raped, and 25% of women are physically or sexually attacked by their current or former husbands and lovers); and fundamental reproductive freedom is perpetually imperiled (mounting, onerous legal restrictions; violent attacks on family-planning clinics; and no abortion services in more than 85% of US counties).

"but these external obstacles also mask internal dynamics that...operate as detonators, assuring feminism's episodic self-destruction. how can women ever vanquish their external enemies when they are intent on blowing up their own house?"

--from "american electra: feminism's ritual matricide" by susan faludi in the october 2010 issue of harper's magazine

*I wanted desperately to illustrate this post with that photograph, but I am unable to locate it in any database open to me or anywhere online. in addition, somewhat disturbingly, the only references to the existence of this photo is by faludi in her 1991 introduction to backlash titled "blame it on feminism," and references after her are all references to this introduction. I wonder if faludi is the only person to have seen this photo and where. I should also note I'm only guessing, based on her hints and research, that my links to sisterhood, interrupted and feminine feminism are what faludi is referencing.

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