The disconcerting part comes when Ms. Siegel, in a spot-on moment, calls us the “I’m-not-a-feminist-but” generation. As the daughter of a radical-feminist writer, I was so comfortable using “feminist” that I wasn’t even aware of the word’s stigma until my teens. But some of my girlfriends—who take anything from birth control to women’s sports teams as a given—don’t know the first thing about feminism’s history, and don’t seem to care. Ms. Siegel’s analysis of third-wave feminists is accurate: Their relationship to their mothers, real or metaphorical, is thorny. But what of the scores of American women who are afraid of the “F” word? The scariest reality is not the tension between feminists—at least they exist!—but the untapped resource of strong, independent women who are feminists but don’t know it.

This is exactly what I’ve been heartbroken about for years My mom wasn’t the politically active flavor of hippy, so I can’t claim a generational legacy as a feminist, but I as long as I remember knowing the word I identified as one. Too many other women my age and younger? Not so much. I remember being floored when an LJ blogger who was, to me, a poster child of neofeminism- she likes to print stickers with slogans about the dangers of commercial menstrual products and sneak into stores and plaster them on tampon boxes- derided the feminists from some other community for their anti-porn stance. ‘Scuse me? Feminists can’t like porn? Wha-huh? I honestly didn’t know that the girls and women I’d label feminists were infighting and splintering over crap like whether or not porn’s empowering or exploitive. (How ’bout both?)

So, above, I’m quoting Nona Willis-Aronowitz who’s reviewing Sisterhood Interrupted: From Radical Women to Girls Gone Wild, by Deborah Seigel. (Second link’s to her blog.) The review (in the New York Observer) is formatted appropriately enough, with two reviewers- Nona’s the “daughter” and Linda Hirschman, WHOM I CANNOT STAND, is the “mother.” I’ve GOT to read this book. I need to hear this idea explored and supported. I also need to read something that doesn’t rhyme, contain bright pictures, nor is accompanied by (my favorite) blinky lights and bleepy sounds (thanks Grandies. Really.) Or something that’s not copy for a billion different product descriptions for the packaging company catalog. No, it’s still not finished…

8 responses to “a(wo)men!

  1. Our great grandmother was a suffragette. I’m not sure of all the details, but I’m sure mom or Ethel could fill you in. And my mom thinks it’s just a travesty that after everything he did (to advance women’s issues, etc.) that I am a SAHM. It’s what I CHOOSE, which to me, is one of the core values of feminism. I cried when Betty Friedan died. I also own a book called In Defense of Porn. Come up and browse my titles sometime…a Friday, perhaps!


  2. Yeah, I just don’t get that people think SAHM & feminist are diametric opposites. Bu was floored that I didn’t want to go back to work.

    And forgive the anger here, but is your mom’s way of parenting supposed to be better? Because I beg to differ.

    I’d love to visit soon. What are you gals doing this Friday?

  3. I personally, anymore, refuse to identify with “feminist” because I think at this point, the word is outmoded and needs to be replaced. We are not facing the same issues that the first wave faced-we are not the same people, it’s not the same world.

    I want to be a person. I don’t want to argue semantics with other women who will judge me for a number of things unrelated to my stance on how women/girls should exist in the current society. I believe more firmly in individual rights-creating strong PEOPLE to help move the world, instead of the reliance that I see on groups to “back” people up.

    I love knowing where my rights have come from and started-but I think we’re kidding ourselves in some ways trying to limit ourselves into pockets that don’t quite apply at this point. My personal perception of feminism has been colored by experience and exposure-neither of which have been good.

    I’ll be strong on my own terms, where there is no bullshit. For some reason, the BS infiltrates everything with feminism, at least in my experience.

  4. Thordora,

    I get what you’re saying, but is it really that different in this generation? Any movement will necessarily evolve, but empowering women is still the goal here- the freedom to be a person first is still quite a journey away. I feel like first we have to almost totally redefine woman (and man too- men are missing so much in the current gender paradigms) and then we can move past the need for so much attention to gender- the equality and beautiful differences will just be a given.

    Meanwhile, I wish we could just realize that the anti-porn righteous rage feminists, and the sex workers, and the lactivists, and the lesbian moms and the child free career execs are all really striving toward the same essential goals. Of course there are a thousand ways to fight the battle and a thousand battles to be fought but empowerment is really the goal here. The thing is that by trying to define one set of “demands” or create a strict and narrow definition of feminism, which will exclude and divide, we are buying into the bullshit we’re trying to get past: the idea that anyone but us as individuals can determine the nature and amount our power or worth.

    I guess I can relate to your feelings though- I have had the same negative experiences with Wicca, and am loathe to identify myself with many of the flaky nuts I’ve met, but my beliefs are Wiccan so I try to just redefine the term for myself and remember that any label for a group or movement is going to be flawed because there will by variances of opinion within the group. The unity is more immportant to me, though, so I claim the word feminist and refuse to let the bullshit take it from me. So, non flaky, sex loving, baby making Wiccan feminist:)

  5. i strongly agree with thor.
    we cannot redefine woman without establishing our individual rights and value first. as long as working moms pick on SAHMs and vice versa, as long as childbearers degrade childless women and vice versa, there’s no way we can redefine womanhood. we need to be able to be proud of what we are and what we do without constantly comparing us to others, either men or other women. if we need to devaluate others to feel more valueable ourselves, that’s not a great sign of self-confidence.
    the same thing goes for race, sexual orientation, cultural and religious backgrounds. hell, i’ve met racist black people and hetero-hating gays. where’s the sense in that? if we all weren’t so damn self-conscious in the first place we’d be more willing to accept others as they are.
    as long as most people still think they can raise their value in society by devaluating others, we cannot empower ourselves.

  6. I mostly believe that we need a new “term” period. Or we just need to be women. men are men-they don’t have a Movement. It almost feels like nothing gets done unless it’s validated 6 ways from friday as being part of some grand movement as a woman. I’m tired of that. I want to push people I know to vote not because I’m political, but because I believe you MUST in a democracy. I want to actually get involved in politics not to push a feminist agenda, but to create positive change for women and parents, and to set an example for my children.

    I can’t quite put my finger on what annoys me so much about the current state of “feminism”-but I find myself very alienated from the wants and desires of a group which increaasingly does no reflect myself or any of my beliefs.

    I think the freedom is there-IF we take it. Instead, i see SOOOO much standing around, whining for semantics. You want a flexible job? Find one. You want better day care? help create it. Stop relying on everything else to change-BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT. More than anything, maybe it’s that which bothers me-the “We’re empowered, but hey! Everyone, change for us!”

    We, as women, need to demand and take change. Period. Don’t like the system? Work within it, or opt out. It isn’t all about us.

    Bah. I don’t really know exactly what I’m getting at, but I find the current movement very selfish and self absorbed, and not making very much headway because it’s busy fighting itself.

  7. I’m so excited we’ve had this dialogue, or quadralogue or something, going on.

    I guess where I’m coming from is thinking that the Movement or the Idea of feminism can encompass all of what we’re saying here. Maybe the terms and labels do need to evolvce, I don’t know… I just know for me the word has history (er… herstory) and power based on the past and I celebrate that. I don’t know…I’m certainly coming from a place different than Thor b/c I’ve never run into anyone with whom I totally disagreed who called her or himself a feminist. Anyway, I’m so curious to read the book.

  8. Try “The F Word” as well-you might like it-I can send it to you when I finally finish it (I’m terribly slow with non fiction these days)

    I guess my basic premise is that we need to stop splitting into splinters and come back together again to make TRUE progress. Too many hands in the pot and all that.

    I’m not arguing to be a jerkbutt. 🙂 I just think that we could do a lot more if there wasn’t always a competition for who has it worse or needs more attention. A woman is a woman is a woman. Let’s fight for women’s rights in the workplace over all first before we get into all the trickle downs…

    I’ll shut up now. 🙂 I tend to lean towards male type of thinking, which tends to NOT adhere to traditional feminist thought I’ve noticed.

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