The recent meltdown at the Spinster HQ computer lab took with it the data* Phil and I’d been compiling on that interesting genre of student newspaper essays entitled “I’m not a feminist but.” This loss is a minor tragedy, because if I remember a-right, a pattern was beginning to emerge. And now we’ll have to start all over again, dang it.
I do recall a few pertinent data points, however. These “I’m not a feminist but” pieces are written pretty exclusively by women’s studies sophomores who bravely identify as feminists. Their purpose in writing is the enlightenment of their fellow students, whose ignorance on the subject of women as human beings is apparently a given; thus their introductory paragraphs give a brief, unresearched overview of feminism in popular culture, the chief feature of which is the obligatory allusion to hairy bra-burners (this allusion is non-negotiable; I suspect that if the writer omits to include it, her editor puts it in). They define the ultimate goal of feminism as equality. Their tone is slightly defensive, mixed with appeasement. Their arguments usually boil down to something like “people think feminism is bad, but it’s really not, because it’s good for men, too.”
Here is an “I’m not a feminist but” article written by Tufts womens studies sophomore Tiffany Lam. Lam’s essay is a bit more sophisticated than others I’ve read. For starters, she titles her piece “I’m a feminist, but.” She not only argues that feminism is relevant, she gives a whole passel of reasons why, and doesn’t once mention “choice” or the “right” to wear lipstick. She has a decent grasp of feminist ideology, particularly of the concept that violence against women is a humanitarian crisis.
Here is her hairy bra-burner line:
Feminists have been antagonized as fat, ugly, hairy, bra-burning, man-hating lesbians; these enduring stereotypes have been manufactured by the mass media to discredit feminists.
Note that she fleshes out the picture with “fat,” “ugly,” and “man-hating lesbians.” Gilding the lily perhaps, but props to Tiffany for grasping that the bra-burning thing is apocryphal.
She also gets props for calling out the “‘I’m not a feminist, but’ people.”
Saying “I’m not a feminist, but women should not have to pay for their own rape kits” is almost like saying “I’m not an environmentalist, but people should really turn off the lights and unplug appliances when not in use.” Prefacing a feminist thought with “I’m not a feminist, but…” makes it seem as though one is apologizing for having those thoughts, when in reality, what is there to apologize for? If you’re a feminist, don’t be ashamed of it. If you’re a feminist, don’t deny it. If you’re a feminist, say it.
You go, Tiff!
However, it crumulates the spinster aunt to see Ms Lam defining feminism as “the belief that men and women are equal.” Hear that noise? It’s a howl of agony from somewhere deep within over which I have no control.
Why am I obsessed with student newspaper essays on feminism? They strike me as a sort of barometer measuring the influences of feminism on youth culture. Or at least measuring the influences of feminism on kids who write in student newspapers (admittedly I have no idea where or even whether those two groups intersect). And I have to say, the news as it pertains to radicalism isn’t good. I have yet to read one of these things that wasn’t pretty lukewarm on the subject of feminist revolt. As a matter of fact, I have yet to read one of these things that even mentions feminist revolt. Liberation from patriarchal oppression seems to have slid entirely off the young scholar’s radar, replaced with this wackaloon “equality” idea.
See here, girls. Equality is all well and good, but the “dominant paradigm,” as Tiffany herself calls it, happens to be a paradigm wherein women are an oppressed class. The whole bogus set up specifically precludes equality. So there can be no equality until the paradigm — Tiffany means “patriarchy,” although she doesn’t come out and say it — has been gotten rid of. And there’s no way to do that without revolution. Obviously, since in America in 2009, it falls upon college sophomores to introduce to their campuses the idea that women are human, the legislative “baby steps” approach to equality ain’t workin’!
* It remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to resuscitate Mungo’s hard drives; the emergency airlift of necessary equipment has been delayed because apparently Fed Ex can’t find Rattlesnake, TX.