Today’s selection: The Brandeis Hoot, “Shopping for Truth: Feminist and proud” by Chrissy Callahan, May 2, 2008
I kind of envy Chrissy Callahan, who has carved out something of a college journalism career chronicling the eye-opening revelations she’s experienced simply by paying attention in class. When I was her age all I did was lie around the quad hootin’ a fattie. Maybe I would have done better in college if there had hung over my head the threat of hundreds of critical eyes squinting at my newspaper summary of Women and Gender in Culture and Society Studies 5a with Professor Sue Lanser.
Then again, maybe not.
Anyway. Callahan, her exposure to feminism in the above-mentioned course having somewhat enbiggened her obstreperal lobe, gamely imparts a sort of pre-feminism primer to the readers of the Hoot.
As our readings and discussions in 5a have proven, feminism doesn’t mean what you might think it does. To be a feminist does not mean you are a man-hater or a crazy person.
Callahan knows what time it is. She grasps that her peers are neck-deep in Dude Nation. She is aware that even now, in 2008, the average person believes that women have already achieved “equality.” She is familiar with feminism’s “negative connotations.” Thus she is obliged to start at square one and explain, to what she clearly assumes is an openly hostile audience, that fighting women’s oppression isn’t tantamount to insanity.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because of Dude Nation’s successful propaganda campaign, most women wouldn’t be feminists with a 10 foot pole, and the few who buck this trend are required to spend 83.7% of their time begging the citizenry to believe that they don’t hate men and aren’t crazy.
Callahan is young, and hasn’t yet looked into the abyss. She’s merrily unaware of the inexpressible enormity of white male supremacy. While she isn’t fooled by “prejudice […] openly advertised under the guise of a beauty campaign,” and is “absolutely disgusted” at surgically-enhanced sexbots in the media, her grasp of feminist issues remains sketchy and pop-culture oriented. I nitpick here, not to rip young Callahan a new one, but to spotlight the excellent job Dude Nation is doing if this is what passes for a “feminist and proud” diatribe at an American university in 2008.
It’s like this. Callahan differentiates between “women” and “women of color” in the annoying the way journalists do when separating the “other” from the default: “[B]oth women and women of color have made gains in the workplace.” She is trying to illustrate her grasp of the “intersectional” quality of feminism — you can almost see her looking up that lecture in her notes — but omits to conclude that “women” is not a synonym for “white women.”
When she asks, in all earnestness, “Did you ever think about who takes care of those rich career women’s children?” the spinster aunt cringes particularly. Not only does Callahan neglect to challenge the antifeminist assumption that children are strictly the mother’s — not the father’s — problem; it clearly is Callahan’s expectation — unrealistic, given that persons of color populate 20% of Brandeis’ student body — that her audience has never given a moment’s thought to the minority experience, or to the untoward effects of an oppressive class structure.
It’s a novice move to appease the oppressor in your argument, and this is what Callahan does, more or less out the wazoo. She appeals to dudely authority in her discussion of domestic violence, agreeing that women sure can be bitchy sometimes by disclaiming “No one is about to deny that women too are capable of and do abuse men.” She shrugs off stuff like pay disparity and the “glass ceiling” with the mollifying acknowledgment that “baby steps have been taken.” And for her parting shot, she asks why we must differentiate between male and female, and wonders why we all just can’t get along.
Sure, those are mostly bush-league mistakes. It’s the stuff that Callahan doesn’t address that freaks me the fuck out. Where’s abortion? Where’s pornography? Where’s prostitution? Poverty? Lesbians? The disabled? Rape culture? Health care? Human trafficking? Undocumented immigrants? The virgin/whore dichotomy? Female genital mutilation? Honor killings? The megatheocorporatocracy? The middle-class myth of love and marriage?* Did Callahan neglect this stuff because they spent so much class time on nannies and plastic surgery that they didn’t get that far on the syllabus?
Or is it because these are the real issues, the controversial issues, the issues that actually challenge dudely rights to a submissive sex class, the issues of which you must not speak lest people think you hate men and are crazy?
Of course, as some of our high school blamers have recently reported, being a young feminist is no picnic. Maybe Callahan just doesn’t feel like alienating herself from the known universe by taking a stand on anything more controversial than Barbie dolls.
Score another one for the culture of domination. The idea that feminism is about “equal pay” will never die.
* See Germaine Greer. The Female Eunuch.