Feminism: "I'm grateful, now please shut up"


Readers...today I have some opinions to share. While most of the posts on this blog will be oriented toward a curation of content related to sex, from time to time I'd like to share with you some of my own thoughts and sentiments. I hope you enjoy...and let me know if you would like to see more like this....

When Bob Guccione died I questioned who the new guard of sex was going to be, one of the ongoing questions that haunts me, but at least on Wednesday night I was given faith in who the new feminists are and how they are going to transform the word "feminism" from often being a dirty word. That's right, not a dirty word and not our mother's or grandmother's version either.  

In an event hosted by More Magazine and moderated by Naomi Wolf, the author of The Beauty Myth four out of the twelve women featured in the November issue article "What the New Feminists Looks Like" took the stage answering an array of questions about pornography, the definition of feminism and who is or isn't a part of the club as well as the intergenerational strife that occurs between the feminists of yore who marched in the streets and the contemporary feminists who blog.  

 While the methods and the issues of feminism have evolved, it was deeply apparent, the need to stop getting caught up in the hurdles of this divide and finally start to jump over them. When the older generation asks "What have you done lately for us [women]?", how do we answer? When we ask for mentorship, how do we ensure a certain segment of women in power don’t impose the cliché of the glass ceiling, fearful of giving the reins of power to a new generation that may be preoccupied with newer feminist issues? How do we deal with this antiquated "litmus test of feminism"? While some intergenerational collaboration occurs, it seems "feminism" is the hardest nightclub to enter. The bouncers there are typically so tough, the average woman has stopped trying to get in. 

While I hold many, many feminist ideologies and issues close to my heart, with my academic and professional universe based on these beliefs, I would find feminism an unnatural label to apply to myself. I think a lot of women in my life would feel the same way. When I think of my own girlfriends who are educated, successful and curious about the world but who have jobs outside of my gender and sex-centric space, I think they would find this title even more off putting. Does that make us bad women to not want to identify with this label? Or is this the whole point of the new feminism, not needing labeling or a club or even a blog following to belong? I know my own work with sex and at times pornography, even if it is the presentation of such as a social artifact, would be very upsetting to a certain segment of the feminist population, so maybe I'm afraid of the title because I am afraid of the attack. If I stand on the sidelines, I won't get tackled, right?

 I think a lot of women have become intimidated by not being feminist enough or not being well versed enough in the various ideologies, and just don't want to play the Aussie rules version of defending themselves as feminists. It isn't that the average woman doesn't care, I think the average woman cares deeply and tremendously, but not knowing the right jargon, not attending the right conferences, not reading the right article  or potentially not being hyper on top of the news/legislation in regards to the topic makes those woman sit on the sidelines of feminism, instead of participating. How do the new feminists make feminism less intimidating and accept that some women only want to go as far as feminism within a scope that makes sense for them? 

The issues of feminism have evolved, at least in this country, from the right to vote, to the right to have abortions, the right to be equal (in some cases more successfully than others), but the echo of Wednesday night was also, "we might all be women, but it doesn't mean we are a collective" and "it doesn't mean we have to like each other." Our womanhood is not enough to unite us through the complexity of the issues that confront us, and how our feminist issues evolve and progress through various life cycles. But underlying it all, the new feminist as did the generation before them, wants to be heard.

We still want to be heard. We want the totality of our identities to be acknowledged--maybe we are democrats, republicans, independents, libertarians--maybe we like men, maybe we don't--maybe we aren't all white or middle class, with our economic class or ethnic, racial, religious sense of self defining our persona in ways closer to our hearts than out and out politics--maybe we aren't all heterosexual--maybe we want to have babies, and maybe we don't. We want to heard and have control over our own bodies, able to decide if we want monogamy or enjoy casual sex. We can like sex, we can be pro porn, while we can also choose to detest it. We can care about the rights of women around the world, about sex trafficking, sex tourism, sex slavery, maternal mortality, rape as a tool to do warfare--we can say there is more than one right way to achieve empowerment. More's editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour joked at the beginning of the night about her proposal for the panel to wear a shirt addressing the previous feminist generation saying "I'm grateful, now please shut up." This offhanded comment struck a chord, I am grateful, I am very grateful, but I'm also ready for the movement to make me feel more welcomed. My biggest advice for the new feminists who are doing incredible things... please don't fall into the same patterns of our ancestors, let the average woman come play, even if we sometimes don't know all the big words. We share the same beliefs and sentiments, but we are intimidated, help us get past the fear of the dirty word. Help us get past that legacy bouncer that keeps denying our entry.

To read another summary of the night, please read http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2010/11/767038/generational-and-digital-divide-feminism

 Image featuring Lena Chen, Allison Kasic, Courtney Martin, Naomi Wolf, Lesley Jane Seymour and Shelby Knox Courtesy of 92YTribeca