Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Shhh - I'm a Feminist

Wednesday the first week of semester I crashed a fantastic lecture called Nymphs, Sluts and Madonnas (I know, best class name ever, right?) which is a subject all about feminism and how women are represented in the media. The name derives from the idea that women have typically and historically been stereotyped as one of the three - nymphs, sluts and madonnas.
"Is this the state of feminism today - Britney and Christina pashing Madonna for a bit of attention? Christina on all fours, kneeling next to Dave Navarro's crutch as he triumphantly plays the guitar solo from her song?"
"American women are wealthier, healthier and better educated than they were 30 years ago. They’re more likely to work outside the home, and more likely to earn salaries comparable to men’s when they do. They can leave abusive marriages and sue sexist employers. They enjoy unprecedented control over their own fertility. On some fronts — graduation rates, life expectancy and even job security — men look increasingly like the second sex."


"What is a woman? ‘Tota mulier in utero’, says one, ‘woman is a womb’. But in speaking of certain women, connoisseurs declare that they are not women, although they are equipped with a uterus like the rest. All agree in recognising the fact that females exist in the human species; today as always they make up about one half of humanity. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity.
"Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being." Simone de Beauvoir
What is liberation for women? Is it the freedom to flash our tits, or is it the right to reserve our desire for sex?

Ariel Levy argues that women have built their own prison, that with the rise of raunch culture and the feeling that women are empowering themselves through their own sexual liberation, stripping, posing nude, etc means that femininity and sexuality are becoming commodities; sexy is a product, and women are selling it - and themselves - short. To what extent are we perpetuating our own derogative stereotypes?
Germaine Greer is now seen as an opinionated woman who is behind the times, a loudmouth who wants to make a fuss. When did feminism become a dirty word? Are we no longer proud of our femininity, or do we simply think we have 'made it' in terms of equality between the genders? OR are we in fact regressing with a generation whose motto is if you've got it, flaunt it?
Most of us would consider ourselves progressive-thinking, open minded women, right, who don't judge each other but are in fact united against the sex that has supressed us for so many years? But I was struck by the fact a few days before this lecture, when moving back into college, a dear friend of mine was pointing out a girl from another college who she sniffed at and said "she's slept with all the boys in her college." We want to be treated with respect, as the same, but we're not willing to do the same of ourselves.
Is the media to blame - "Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse [are] getting more publicity and kudos from their bad behaviour than they ever did before." After all these years of feminism, girls still get judged by their looks, not to mention their reputation. Is it the (so-called) exploitation of women by lads' mags? Is it "role models" like Paris Hilton, who is supposedly sexy? Or is it because we've become ultimately content with what be an increasingly neo-feminist society that still condemns women who feel comfortable enough to "sleep around," a phrase that in itself carries negative connotations, because we feel like 'feminism,' whatever that may be, has been 'achieved'?
Is feminism what defines us, what we let define us, or how we define ourselves?
More to the point; are you a feminist?



harshni said...

Feminism in the classic sense of the word was captured in this beautiful quote by Kurt Cobain "I've never met a wise man; If so it was a woman"

Kurt was the best thing that ever happened to feminism.The "In bloom" video, the liner notes on "Incesticide" stand testimony to this fact. Kurt was of the view that social liberation can be achieved only through the eradication of sexism.

He wrote "if any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us-leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records". NOW THAT'S A MAN!

Vini said...

Interesting post. I don't know if I am one, JAG. (Sometimes I really wish I knew your name:) Every movement seems to have its swings in opposing directions. It is sad to see how feminism has come to represent stocky women with choppy hairstyles, heavy jewellery and opinions too loud to be taken seriously. I think my own resistance to writing a paper (which uses a feminist framework to analyse three films) for college stemmed from this stereotype.

I believe there are many very vital women's issues which need to be looked into in a refreshed, thought-provoking and comprehensive manner. By this I mean, if we could develop a sensitivity towards people who seem different from us in general, I believe it could help us increase our awareness and insight with respect to women's issues as well. I don't meant to equate the problems of racism, poverty, anti-homosexuality with the challenges faced by women. But I think we need to educate both men and women to love and respect each other.

What about you? Are you a feminist?