Monday, July 16, 2012
What is Feminism?
So why the resistance to calling Brave a feminist movie? I'm shocked, really not so happy, to find hostility toward the word "feminism" in my own house. At my kids' age, or actually a year younger, I organized an event on feminism at my junior high! I've been a feminist forever. What is it about the word that turns the young folk off? I can only take my interrogations so far (teenagers, who needs 'em?), so this is speculation, but I think kids today take for granted everything we were fighting for back when I was their age. Of course women can be doctors, lawyers, newscasters (remember when all the anchormen were men?), athletes, soldiers. They can do anything they want, and should get equal pay for equal work, etc. etc. So the substance of feminism is obvious and uncontroversial. The problem, then, is ... what?
Speculation: to young people today, "feminism" doesn't actually mean freedom, equality, self-determination, and the like. It surely means that, but also ... (what?) ... I guess making too big a fuss about the wrong things, so being (somehow) a pain in the ass. A feminist is someone who insists on the word "women" instead of "girls", or tries to outlaw innocent fun like calling people "bitches" or "pussies". A feminist (in the negative sense) is constantly making a mountain out of a molehill. A feminist is against sex, or something, so allying yourself with feminism is unsexy.
But no--I may have to undertake some stealth indoctrinating over the summer--really a feminist is just someone who is tuned in to the disadvantages that still hold women back, and who wants better for women. Feminists can disagree about all sorts of stuff. There's no party line about language or anything else, save fundamentals like equality, self-determination, and the like.
The NYT magazine had an amusing article about feminist comedian Caitlin Moran, author of the book How to Be a Woman. I may have to smuggle that into our house and leave it around. Maybe for the young folks feminism + funny = fine. We shall see.