Via Carrie Adkins at Nursing Clio, we come back to the ranch to find Lindy West’s “What No One Else Will Tell You About Feminism:”
ONE MORE TIME: If you are not a feminist (or something blamelessly ignorant, like a baby or a ferret or a college freshman), then you are a bad person. Those are the only options. You either believe that women are people, or you don’t. To help you pick one, here is some information!
First-Wave Feminism: Maybe We Could be Citizens now?
These were the tough old 19th-century bitchez (note: Calling women “bitchez” with an affectionate z is pretty upper-level ironic material—maybe just stick with “women” for now) like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who were all, “Heeeeeey bros, we were thinking that maybe if you’re not busy we could get the right to vote and stuff please maybe?” Then they proceeded to righteously fuck shit up until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, which gave American women the vote. A lot of the first-wavers were totally racist, plus they were still pretty into the idea that a woman’s job is shutting up and scrubbing stuff. But, you know, nobody’s perfect.
Second-Wave Feminism: Maybe You Could Stop Raping Us, Please?
After World War II, women started to be like, “Oh! Maybe I can get a job and tell my husband to stop raping me!” They began taking on subtler forms of sexism and misogyny—things that might not be legally mandated (like voting rights) but were fucking up women’s lives nonetheless. These women would become the second-wavers. In 1963, Betty Friedan made everyone go crazy by suggesting that the nuclear family might be a crock of shit that stifled women’s potential and made them unhappy. Then sooooooo many things happened!!! . . . . Once shit started to get done, shrewd anti-feminists took the opportunity to declare sexism officially over, because women were now allowed to not be raped (sometimes) and also to work for low wages in garment factories and rapey advertising agencies, and therefore any woman who complained about anything from this moment onward was a hairy, braless bitch. Women continued to fight, because women are awesome. Fuck Phyllis Schlafly.
This is really not a bad overview of the past two centuries of feminist history in the west. I might suggest that in fact, feminism predated the nineteenth century, but whatevs. Maybe it would go something like this:
Feminism: Maybe We Could Be People Now?
So, it was the Age of Reason, and man-people were all about making radical statements about their rights, like “all men are created equal” in the United States, plus they were all about the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen in France too. Some women were like, “are we not people too?” instead of chattel, and women like Mary Wollstonecraft and Judith Sargent Murray wrote about how it wasn’t a natural inferiority but rather a lack of education that was keeping women down. Sometimes married women like Abigail Adams tried to be jokey and polite with their husbands, who were all about the rights of men, and wrote them letters about “remember the ladies” and suggesting that “all men would be tyrants if they could,” but their husbands wrote back assy things like “as to your extraordinary code of laws” in which women would be considered equal citizens with men, “I cannot but laugh.” Like the total douche that he was. And then the Age of Reason ended with a military dictatorship in France, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the expansion of slavery and wars against Indians in the U.S., and all even rich women got was the empire waistline, which was pretty comfortable while it lasted, but of course it didn’t.
I love how the first comment showing on the Jezebel blog post demonstrates conclusively that antifeminists are 1) dumb and 2) humorless: “To be honest, I don’t think this is a persuasive piece of work at all. Sorry. If I were trying to convince someone of exactly what this article is trying to say… I’d find something less snarky and condescending. You don’t sway someone’s opinion to your side by making them feel stupid or talking down to them.” Right. If only this guy were around to advise Mary Wollstonecraft, Judith Sargent Murray, Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul, Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, bell hooks, and all of those other bitchez who didn’t get shit done the way dudes wanted! And without the pointless elipses or subject-verb disagreement!
I’ve been offline and have missed so much this week. Gore Vidal is dead! The even more embarrassingly jingoistic Olympics coverage by NBC!
National Lampoon’s Mitt Romney’s Gaffe-tastic European Vacation (or, the Kiss My Ass Tour)! So fill me in on what you’ve been seeing, reading, hearing, and thinking, in addition to your entries for a brief introduction to feminism before 1848.
17 thoughts on “Isn’t it cute? She thinks she’s people!”
“and Olympia de Gouge was all like, whatever Rousseau and the later Assemblée Nationale Constituante, our declaration of rights should be the same as yours….d’uh.”
Can I just say that I love that historiann said “whatevs” and “douche”? 🙂
Listening to minorities one learns that their complaints are typically true and valid. As a man, I do know that women are treated badly by almost everyone; you notice it everywhere and always.
Gore Vidal represents everything that is wrong with Western world progressives. Arrogant, racist, upper classy, fake and frequently well off. As someone who calls himself a Cesar Chavez Democrat, Gore Vidal was not one of us; he was with the slightly pinkish Romneys.
What happened last week? Two cancers are running for president; we are in deep smelly.
I guess I am a bad person because I don’t consider myself a feminist. I support human rights and civil rights for women, but things like the “nuclear family might be a crock of ….” are one of the reasons most of the world’s population does not consider themselves feminists. I also think that feminism as described above is a specifically Western ideology that really does not address most of the particularities of Asia, Africa, and other societies outside North America and Europe. The fact that the post does not mention a single Asian or African feminist is pretty much proof of this. But, despite the lack of a Western model of feminism in these areas there have been women elected as heads of government and state. The most notable example in West Africa being the current president of Liberia. This is something that feminism has not achieved in the US.
Yes, you are a bad person if you don’t call yourself a feminist, Otto. Maybe you need to find another treehouse to hang out in. (IOW, re-read the part above about antifeminists as 1) dumb and 2) humorless.)
Which reformist ideology of the modern world anywhere around the world has “addressed most of the particularities” everywhere around the world? Why is it only expected that feminism do everything for everyone around the world before it can do anything for women? I wonder.
Historiann, I’d love to hear your thoughts on womens’ gymnastics. I’ve been vaguely watching the Olympics, on and off, and am appalled – as I am every 4 years – by the sexualisation of the young women. Make-up, glitter, tight suits (or rather, what the suits don’t cover) designed to titillate creepy men, and “artistic” strutting, should have NO place in sports.
I always feel, when watching these events, like I’m complicit in a pedophilic gaze. Male gymnasts get to cover their legs, thighs, and buttocks, to not wear make-up, to not have their performance evaluated on “artistic” merit (i.e. sex appeal) as well as the actual athletic merit. I’d find it less creepy if the women were older and had more agency in their presentation.
Then there’s all the obsession about their smiles. Why the f** should they have to smile? I’m not talking about the moments of sheer joy when they win medals or turn in a great performance and of course they are happy, but the fact that they are – like most women, still – under relentless pressure to smile almost all the time, in a way that men never are. I suppose it gives the message that yes, these women may be fabulously strong and kick-ass, but they are still sweet and well-behaved and (heterosexually) available. And what’s with the Gabbi Douglas smile meme – is it a way for white viewers to render a successful Black woman as less threatening?
I dunno, there may be a way to reconcile feminist principles with the glitter, make-up, and talk about smiling, but I can’t help feeling that it’s all just a way to allow viewers to not talk about the fact that these are powerful, amazing women doing mind-blowing athletic feats. Kind of like the way the commentators of the women’s soccer team, during the World Cup, wouldn’t shut up about which players were engaged to be married! Any thoughts on / reactions to women’s gymnastics? I’d love to read them!
I have a heck of a lot to say about gymnastics because I spend lots of hours a week in the gym with my son, who is a competitive gymnast. But I won’t hijack Historiann’s blog to say it all. I will just say that if my 11 year old were a daughter rather than a son, she would be finding a different sport for all the reason you indicate, plus rampant eating disorders. There is an artistic element in men’s scoring but it gets discussed quite differently. It gets framed in terms of execution rather than so much about smiles and hair!
Well I really only wanted to give a shout out to Mary Wollstonecraft on education but having read J Otto’s comment, I can’t resist: dude, really? One successful individual means freedom from oppression for all? It doen’t even mean freedom from oppression for that individual.
What do you mean by Chavez democrat, koshembos? Chavez had his moments of brilliance but his success with white supporters depended largely on portraying farm workers as weak and downtrodden, not strong and empowered by the union. Is that what you mean, a benevolent elite lending a helping hand to the colored folk and the ladies while leaving the structures responsible for inequality and oppression unchallenged? No thanks.
What’s amazing to me is the Feminism?-Eww! defense applied near-universally. (I guess it’s better than the Feminism?-Kill! defense which we also still have, but I find it too hard to be properly happy about that improvement.)
It’s amazing because other bigotries people have dropped — e.g. Catholic-Protestant, slavery, serfdom, caste systems — have always resulted in richer, happier societies for everybody. (Correct me if I’m wrong, historians!)
But somehow, if we stop trying to crush half the human race, all we have to look forward to is a grim, joyless future in which men can do nothing but dishwashing.
Some people need to stop staring at the mirror long enough to take a look outside.
truffula: I think koshembos’s point was to scold me (once again!) for my admiration of Gore Vidal. He hates Vidal, whereas I’ve always been entertained by his essays and his overall persona. So I think he would agree more than disagree with you–the term Chavez Dem was not meant to be a compliment.
As for the gymnastics: LouMac, I’m sure you have more to say on this than I do. Yes to everything you say–it’s the women’s ice skating of the summer Olympics. I also find it deeply troubling that the highest profile “women’s” sports are usually performed by girls. This year, it’s even happening in the swimming. I wonder if this is one of the things that keeps the “women’s” sports acceptable–it’s OK for them to succeed at that level because they’re just girls, and for the most part there’s no future in the sport professionally in a way that will make them any serious coin.
Imagine a world in which the highest profile “men’s” sports were actually most successfully performed by pubescent or teenaged boys. It’s literally unimaginable, isn’t it? I find ntbw’s comment so interesting, as she is the parent of a male gymnast. It sounds like she wouldn’t permit her daughter to do the same sport.
When I scold someone, it’s not benign or subject to interpretation. My views are mine independently of what other think of them.
In my view, Vidal represents the corruption of progressives. He was also a negligible author.
Chavez was a fighter for the poor while today’s Democrats forgot the poor, went to wars that killed the poor and help the rich that abuse the poor. They fight for nothing.
Historiann, I admire you as reflected by this blog. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
While I’m with you on most of the points about women’s gymnastics, LouMac, I want to add that I think we should be careful about casting some of the artistry as sexualized and think of it within the larger, international history of gymnastics. For instance, many Russian gymnasts or their coaches come from a background in ballet. If you compare the performances overall, the American team tends to display strength with a little jerky artistry while the Russian team displays ballet-like artistry with some hidden strength. (Granted, you may not notice this given NBC’s awful coverage. Including the fact that they didn’t even show the silver medalist’s score!) So, in a way, I think the artistry may be a part of the history of how artistic gymnastics has developed. As for the way that these girls are sexualized through (too much) make-up and revealing outfits.. um, yeh. It is the winter version of ice skating, even down to the revived Cold War-ization of US/Russia competition.
Interesting point about the “women” competing in Olympic sports being, in fact, girls. There’s also the case of women on the US cycling team being referred to “girls” even though they’re in their 20s and 30s. I think this may be part of the larger move toward women in their 20s calling themselves “girls” which frustrates me almost as much as, “I’m not a feminist, but…” comments. Do we really need to accept the way that we’ve been infantilized by referring to ourselves as “girls” as if “women” can only be old, humorless hags?
I don’t mind the scolding, koshembos. Not from you, anyway.
I used to resent Vidal, but I guess I decided he was more amusing than irritating. I found his memoir, Palimpsest, strikingly moving and hilarious. (His comments about Truman Capote and Lee Radziwill are hilarious.) It reminded me a bit of the Education of Henry Adams, but with more fistfights (Mailer) and bitchiness. Vidal lived a kind of Zelig-like life, and always retained his powers of observation and his trenchant wit. Who else could write convincingly about being on the fringes of Camelot, at the center of the New York literati of the mid- and late 20th century, a would-be politician, and Hollywood as both a writer and an actor as well? It’s an amazing life any way you slice it, with a bonus of being called a faggot by William F. Buckley on live teevee.
His novels were never to my taste, esp. the historical ones. Too ponderous and too much about presidents, in my view. He was a terrific screenwriter, and not a bad actor. He was perfect in Bob Roberts, but I guess he was playing a version of himself had he been successful in politics.
I never took his condescending comments about “the Assistant Professors” personally. I took it as a manifestation of the intellectual insecurity of a man who never went to college, for all of his intelligence and family money. The guy served in the Deuce as a teenager, so I can forgive him his latter-day condescention. Some of his literary criticism was brilliant.
If you read nothing else, read “Pink Triangle and Yellow Star,” an essay he published more than 30 years ago but which presages so much about the conflicts over sexuality and gay rights vis-a-vis the New Right. Brilliant, and hilarious too.
So Chavez dem has a positive connotation. Thanks for the clarification, koshembos. The recent scholarly writing on Chavez, his tactics, and his legacy is worth reading.
p.s. His takedown of Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom (whom he dubbed “The Therns”) is also worth reading.
An addition to the early history of feminism:
Back in the old days, I mean really old, like when laws said shit like married women couldn’t own property and, even worse, were kinda their husbands’ property, dudez got off on putting down women in big boring books like ‘The Romance of the Rose’. Fancy-pants jerks called this the ‘querelle des femmes’ which is French for ‘the woman question’ but it didn’t seem like anyone was actually questioning anything about women except how much worse they were then men.
Things didn’t get better in the Renaissance and after. Douches like Martin Luther were all ‘guys are better and smarter because their shoulders are all wider than their hips so that means their brains are totally the biggest while girls are just useless in the brain ways because they carry a lot of junk in the trunk’ and a Scots jerk named John Knox put out a book he titled ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.’ They were totally blown away when women kicked ass as rulers, like Queen Elizabeth in England, or as writers, such as Marie Dentière, who totally pissed off the leaders of Geneva with what she wrote.
Yeah, some women were ballsy enough to sass back to these douchey dudez in print. Not just Marie, but lots of other women like Jane Anger (which was totally a stage name like P!nk or Madonna!) who published a book in which she called out all those lies about women being weak and stupid and so hot to trot for any guy that they had to be pretty well locked away just for their own good, really! Anger said that women weren’t below men or even equal to men, she said women were better than men. And she was funny, too, ripping these guys a new one, like when she wrote that dudez would totally disintegrate without women to take care of them: “Without our care they lie in their beds as dogs in litter, & goe like lowsie Mackarell swimming in the heat of sommer.”
But Jane Anger was, like, mostly ignored, because she was a woman and everybody knew that women didn’t matter because they couldn’t go to university or do anything really important (except for being queen in some countries and that was still so second-rate). No, dudez just kept at it, whining to each other about how those ladiez were totally dumb and should be so much more grateful for how their menz put up with them! And that really, wouldn’t it be better if they weren’t educated at all? (No, seriously, that was what a cardinal, you know those church guys who wear red dresses?, said about his own nieces because teaching girls to read and write would totally mess them up.)
I came late to this conversation, but after reading the comments above about women’s [sic] gymnastics, I happened to come across this:
Just goes to show our heteronormative bias in terms of the male gaze….. 🙂