Feb 06 2009

College sophomore is a feminist but

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.


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  1. thinkingdifference

    Gramsci said hegemony works by co-opting the dissent and reintegrating it into the ‘norm’. In a way, this discourse of feminism is being co-opted by patriarchal systems and reintegrated: feminists are really not that bad, they can fit within the system… I don’t think anything can stay radical for long. After all, as soon as something radical gains followers, the process of co-optation (as soon as you start reproducing the ‘radical’, it looses the radical edge) begins. Some call this process the change of radical thought into ‘common-sense’. I call it the progressive death of critical thinking.

  2. Lauren O

    Off-topic but related story about college seniors (basically the same as college sophomores) I thought Twisty might enjoy:

    Yesterday, differences in interpretation of an English renaissance play prompted Liberal White Dude X to turn all the way around in his seat and tell me, “I’m just as much of a feminist as you are!”

  3. Rainbow Girl

    I AM a feminist, AND I am increasingly tempted to stage a public bra-burning at my university.

    Except I can’t do it spontaneously because I wear incredibly practical underwear. So I would have to plan ahead and wear an expendable bra and carry a lighter. Maybe douse it in fuel ahead of time just for fun.

  4. slythwolf

    I’ve got expendable bras. It turns out that if you buy them, then grow out of them in a month, the company won’t take them back.

  5. ChelseaWantsOut

    I’m a senior in college at a nearly all-male school with only four majors: Game programming, game art, game design, and computer engineering. I’d like to take this opportunity to rant, if that’s all right.

    I’m an artist, and for my senior project I’m working on a game with some programmers and other artists. Last week, a conversation came up about Diablo II (a typical dungeon adventure game where you and some friends get together and kill monsters for gold), and my (also female) artist teammate mentioned that she doesn’t like to play as the amazon character because she is not realistically proportioned. A bit of back-and-forth ensued, which I stayed out of, ending with the team’s producer (male) saying, “That’s stupid. That’s like if I were to say that I don’t want to play the paladin because he’s black.”

    And that’s when I jumped in. “What?! She’s not saying she’s prejudiced against people with breasts larger than their heads and waists smaller than their necks, she’s saying that women like that don’t exist and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to stand, let alone slay monsters!” To make a long story short, my male teammates basically tried to tell me that there is no objectification of women in games, and even if there is, it’s not a big deal, and even if it is, you can’t sell games without objectifying women. I tried to explain to them that objectification of women in games is simply a natural by-product of the way women are viewed by our society as nothing more than holes for dickin’. They were totally dumbfounded that I was actually angry about such a “trivial thing.” We eventually got back to business, and once the producer was finished laughing about my ridiculous outburst, he apologized. “I was just joking around, but I guess I hit a sore spot, so I’m sorry.”

    Later, I got a very long, inarticulate e-mail from one of the programmers, telling me how he agrees with me, but doesn’t agree with me, and how there are much bigger problems facing the world that we should all be focusing on, and how hard it is to be a white male and have people assume he’s a pig. He also mentions that “throwing a fit” about injustices merely makes people uncomfortable and inspires dislike. Here’s his opening sentence, unedited: “So, in lieu of what happened this afternoon, I wanted to make my opinion fairly clear on the matter, as you seemed truly offended, and I certainly don’t want that.. so perhaps from my end, I can give you some peace. ;)” And his closing: “If you read this far, I’m proud of you. ;)” Condescension from beginning to end. Also, I think he meant “in light of” and not “in lieu of.”

    I wrote him a long, better-reasoned and better-written response, which he took as an excuse to write me another long e-mail. Though rambling and largely incoherent, the basic message of this second missive seemed to be, “We all forgive you for your irrational diatribe, and hey, sexism is inevitable. If it were the other way around I’m sure women would treat men as shittily as they’ve been treated!” I haven’t responded to it, and though we’ve had several team meetings since then, everyone seems to be pretending it never happened.

    I guess I’m just writing this to see what everyone thinks. Sorry there’s such a tenuous link between the original post and my comment.

  6. Orinoco

    Liberation? Revolution? Radicalism? Oh lord, the students I’ve taught at three different universities can barely stand essays that have any argument at all that dares challenge the status quo unapologetically. They look at polemical tracts and manifestos with utter disbelief that anyone could ever take such a style seriously. They literally cannot believe that such a genre ever had any respect or had an effect on an audience.

    Take a stand and make some pithy points and suddenly it’s “Preachy!” “Shoving stuff down my throat!” and “Going tooooo faaaaarrrrr!” By and large, they resist critical truth claims not on the merit of logic or veracity, but on whether said claims harsh their mellow.

    So, a certain movie can’t be sexist if they like it. Society can’t be patriarchical if they have tons of fun with their boyfriend. It’s as if they’ve gone to the doctor, received a diagnosis that they have cancer, and their response is, “Naw, that can’t be, I’m going to the Bahamas for spring break!” wha?

    When their critical analysis consists of little more beyond, “do I like it or not?” and the reasoning behind their conclusion something along the lines of “uh, just because…,” there’s little hope that “system critique” can ever be possible.

    In short, in terms of both content and form, the age of critical theory and liberatory practice is either dormant or dead with the yutes. While such radicalism has always been somewhat uncomfortable, as taking unpopular stands generally tend to be, it’s also become incredibly uncool. Mass capitalist culture has worked its magic well.

  7. Orinoco

    Just to be clear, I’m not blaming the kids! IBTP, bien sûr!!!

  8. rootlesscosmo

    @Orinoco: I think it’s worth looking at how radicalism became uncool. 35 or 40 years ago, it was one of the kinds of cool an undergraduate (or a young person even if not at college) could adopt; that in turn was a big change from the “silent generation” that came before. Since the patriarchy is a constant, looming, powerful presence, we need a way to explain these rising and falling tides of resistance; I don’t think they can be shrugged aside as trends in campus fashion, though that might be a factor. I don’t have an explanation to hand but I think the question is worth exploring.

  9. Dasiy P

    I am going to start my own chapter of the Fuck-Off Pink Sari Zero Tolerance Vigilante Group. Maybe it will spread to colleges and stuff.

    Saying that, I suppose the faint-hearted fems won’t really know why their sposed to be angry I guess, or indeed, that those episodes of depression and eating disorders, could just be teensy- weensy sypmptoms of anger turned inwards. We’ll just have to do some good ol’ fashioned consciousness raising, but sheesh, this is getting tiresome. How long before we start taking to the streets again, like in the 70’s when the media painted that nice pic for everyone and firmly embedded it in everyone’s brain, about what a feminist was, and more importantly, LOOKED LIKE!!

    Words, words, and more words…..fuck that. Time is up for that now….we need actions. Pink saris…..respect to those women.

    sorry, just really peed off today.

    Nice to get a comment in that’s not no. 678 or so!

  10. nonanon

    Orinoco, it’s more like they’ve just concluded that because they’re good little environmentalists and use string bags in the supermarket, that their car exhaust must be made of fairy farts.

    I just have no more patience for that sort of self-delusion any more. I’m insanely, cruelly, viciously SICK OF IT. And not among “them,” the nebulous “them” of those OTHER stupid people over THERE who aren’t enlightened like the wonderful, feminist “we” are. I mean “us,” too. Whoever “us” is. I’ve had it.

    Knock yourselves out, people.

  11. slade

    Ridicule is one of patriarchy’s methods of keeping women from declaring their radicalism…as they are bombarded 24/7 by a misogynist MSM that screams eyeliner, diets, botox, fashion, and breasts.

    Only good thing about our culture today is that the Greed and Machoism has done about all it can do except collapse. Of course, I remember the words, ‘Be careful of what you wish for.’

    I must admit that what I have seen of today’s youth is disappointing. They hold tight to their gender roles and opinion has become fact.

    And so little in Imagination. But I keep Blaming Loudly and Publicly.

  12. madeleine

    The bra-burning isn’t apocryphal, it’s European. Here in Holland bras did get burned. No need however to douse them with gasoline first: the ritual was to have a get-together with a nice big fire and throw them in.

  13. Haley

    Then you really, really, really don’t want to read this or this.

  14. MarilynJean

    Yes. I can’t get over how (young) women try to justify feminism within their own terms. For example, the color pink. I admit to liking the color, but I can’t get over how everything I can possibly consume, use or wear is pink. I see perfectly intelligent women saying it’s totally OK to wear pink and be cute and still be a feminist.

    I know shit like that is superficial and only part of the bigger picture of identifying as a feminist, but it kills me. Being radical isn’t cute, so it’s as if they’re saying “Let’s redefine radical to make it easier for us.”

  15. other orange

    Take a stand and make some pithy points and suddenly it’s “Preachy!” “Shoving stuff down my throat!” and “Going tooooo faaaaarrrrr!” By and large, they resist critical truth claims not on the merit of logic or veracity, but on whether said claims harsh their mellow.

    Orinoco, I can testify to the same thing happening in my classes. If I hear one more variation on “it’s a good point, but couldn’t they have phrased it more delicately ?” I’m going to flip my desk and my wig in succession.

  16. Cycles

    I’ve also noticed something that I think is related: failing to understand that cultural criticism of a thing (a Diesel jeans ad, a boob-shaped pillow, a victim-blaming news article about rape) is more than just criticizing the thing itself, in a vacuum. It’s a criticism of the culture and circumstances that caused the thing to come into being, and how we experience the thing.

    I think people sometimes interpret feminist critique as either constantly taking offense, or imposing a PC buzzkill on every damn thing. It’s not about me being offended at any particular manifestation of the patriarchy. It’s not about me getting my little feelings hurt. Feminists are not asking for an apology on behalf of all men, or whatever, for having to endure the horror of exposing our tender and precious eyeballs to a photoshopped Victoria’s Secret ad. I’m not particularly mad at Victoria’s Secret, or at least not more than any other company or person that benefits from patriarchy.

    Rather, feminists call out the hypothetical lingerie ad as an example of bigger things at work. It’s a tool of consciousness-raising: getting you out of the rut of just accepting an influx of messages unquestioningly. But some take it as a personal attack on the thing itself, or even on people who enjoy the thing. Or they accuse feminists of being hypersensitive (encouraging cultural hypochondria?).

    One example stuck in my craw is this Sociological Images post about an ad for a tire company. Mrs. Potatohead is relentlessly nagging Mr. Potatohead; eventually her mouth gets knocked off and she can’t nag any more. Ha ha ha.


    The comment that got me thinking about being “offended” versus using it as an example:

    Or, you know, spouses sometimes get on our nerves.

    Not everything negative said about every fictional ladypotato is sexist.

    It’s a way to shut down the conversation: focus on the one thing, make excuses for it, deny the existence of the system that caused that particular thing to manifest in the way it did, and don’t bother to deconstruct the shared assumptions that allow it to communicate its message so effectively.

  17. MarilynJean

    Wow. Yes,Cycles. That is also a very good point. That really helps further my thinking.

    Sometimes I love the comments more than the blog post itself.

  18. Hedgepig

    Cycles: What a great point. When feminists point out examples of sexism, it’s not about being offended, it’s about saying “See, here is evidence of the underlying structure.” But most of society does not recognise that there is a patriarchal system at all. We are forbidden to extrapolate from the specific, if that makes sense. It’s an ingenious way to deflect criticism: deny that there is any problem in the first place. If only the slave-owners in the US had thought of that (“But the slaves are all equal to us. They have exactly the same rights and opportunities we do.”) they’d probably still have slaves.

  19. Oaktown Girl

    MarilynJean said:Being radical isn’t cute, so it’s as if they’re saying “Let’s redefine radical to make it easier for us.”

    Yes, and my frustration comes from the fact that so many young women don’t look at the root (patriarchal) causes of why dressing up in cutsie male-pleasing outfits makes things (at least on the surface) easier for them.

  20. alicepaul

    Also, what if I AM an occasionally hairy man-hating lesbian? Why is that bad? Am I fucking it up for shaved, straight feminists everywhere?

  21. slythwolf

    Yeah, like, what the hell is supposed to be so bad about being hairy, fat, ugly, man-hating and/or a lesbian?

  22. Oaktown Girl

    As a man-hating heterosexual, I can testify that you don’t have to be lesbian to be a man-hater, and that really makes patriarchal heads explode!

  23. Notorious Ph.D.

    You know, I’ll come out and say that Tiffany’s letter inspires me to hope, rather than despair.** I find that I’m becoming increasingly more radicalized with age. Even in my early 30s, you would not have caught me talking about the Patriarchy out loud. If Tiffany is, in her early 20s, able to claim the name of feminist with no apologies (or very nearly none), then she’s miles ahead of her peers, and by the time she’s 35, will probably be leading one of the brigades in the Twistolution.

    **Okay, well except for the implicit assumption that it’s okay to be a feminist, but not okay to be fat, hairy, or lesbian. In other words: you can be a feminist so long as you’re still fuckable. Sister has a ways to go there.

  24. Twisty

    “Also, what if I AM an occasionally hairy man-hating lesbian? Why is that bad? Am I fucking it up for shaved, straight feminists everywhere?”

    I would have addressed Ms Lam’s implicit homophobia had I not been on a tight schedule today, and had I not believed that the blametariat would take care of it for me. A commenter recently said that she gets more out of the comments than the original posts, and I couldn’t agree more!

  25. Sylvanite

    Notorious Ph.D. just made the comment I was intending to make. Not only was I not consciously aware of the patriarchy when I was younger, but as someone who was ambitious and interested in becoming a scientist, I indulged in quite a bit of blame-the-victim misogyny. You know, thinking I was better than the other girls because I didn’t like pink or act overtly girly. As I got older, I realized that my anger was misdirected. I know who to blame now!

  26. Hedgepig

    “As a man-hating heterosexual, I can testify that you don’t have to be lesbian to be a man-hater”

    …or ugly,fat and hairy! You should see my legs, not to mention my charmpits. (I’ve got ugly and hairy covered, I’m working up to fat).

  27. yttik

    I remember reading an article about hormones, oxytocin, the one that helps you have maternal instincts. The theory was that it also gives you patience and the ability to think ugly things are cute. Hmmm, like some male behavior perhaps? Is it possible that we were designed with a built in chemical high that makes us willing to tolerate the intolerable for the purpose of reproduction? Alas, the article never answered that question, but they did note that as women age their oxytocin levels drop. Interestingly, this doesn’t hamper their ability to nurture at all. But apparently it does severely reduce their ability to give a crap about what other people think of them, especially men. Women with low oxytocin levels are not trusting, not tolerant, and not desirous of sexual approval.

    All women are different of course and we barely understand the role of hormones, but when I read one of those articles by a young apologetic feminist who is quite worried that someone might view her as hairy legged, I think, ah poor baby she’s still under the influence of the oxycotin. Hopefully she’ll sober up soon.

  28. Nepenthe

    “I’ve got ugly and hairy covered, I’m working up to fat”

    Sorry Hedgepig, but there’s little evidence that a non-fat person can become fat without trying really really really hard at it. I’ve got all the bases covered though. *languishes in her den of furry, gluttonous sin*

    Also, I’m delighted by the word “charmpits”.

  29. Spiders

    That could explain why I no longer like babies, yttik. Interesting.

    I also share this frustration over the younger women and their attitudes. Being a mature age student I’m surrounded by this group a lot. Some of them even use the same anti-feminist memes that started up back in the 70s. One youngun looked at me with concern one time when I was on my feminist soap box and said “But don’t you agree that men no longer know whether or not it’s ok to open doors for us?” Like that was some kind of genuine humanitarian crisis.

    In light of the excellent point made by cycles, I think I’ll make more of an effort to not just point out manifestations of patriarchy, but to also name them as signs of the broader structure. Usually I expect other people to automatically get that part.

  30. Jan

    ChelseaWantsOut, sounds like you could’ve used this bingo card during your group conversation. http://girl-wonder.org/girlsreadcomics/?p=66

    Situations like yours make me wish we had the IBTP forums back. They were so helpful for talking things out and coming up with ways of dealing with this kind of crap. Will we ever get them back? Please, Twisty? Pretty please?

  31. admirerofemily

    yttik notes a study showing ‘as women age their oxytocin levels drop’ and ‘women with low oxytocin levels are not trusting, not tolerant, and not desirous of sexual approval’.

    Did the study also note that ‘as women age they get ever more EXPERIENCE of the patriarchy’ and that it’s just possible that it is this, rather than oxytocin, that leads to low levels of trust and tolerance?

    Oh, wait, no. Couldn’t be that. Cos then they would have to invent an ‘anti-experience drug’, whereas ‘Our new, improved, Oxytocin Treatment Therapy will have you trusting and tolerating the most egregious patriarchy-ism in no time’.

  32. JulieRuin

    I’ve written a few of those mediocre articles on feminism. And any positive mention of radical feminism is quickly kicked to the can by liberal centrist editors racing toward the median. I think it’s true that reading these papers is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of American young adults… but not all the ideas expressed in these articles are the sentiments of the authors. Besides, the youth-radicals don’t write for student papers (at least not at UT). Maybe they don’t exist any more. Maybe we’re too comfortable in our prolonged adolescence, and those who aren’t spoiled are just trying to make it.

    To Orinoco and other orange:

    I’ve had the opposite problem! I mentioned in a class one day that ‘radical feminism’ didn’t seem quite radical enough, which quite shocked a few lecturers. Throw me some preachy manifestos that go to farrrrr! Do you have a course website I could visit?

  33. thebewilderness

    Oh Chelsea.
    “Later, I got a very long, inarticulate e-mail from one of the programmers, telling me how he agrees with me, but doesn’t agree with me, and how there are much bigger problems facing the world that we should all be focusing on, and how hard it is to be a white male and have people assume he’s a pig.”

    What problem can possibly be considered more important than the oppression of half the human population of the Earth? What? I need someone to explain that to me because I have been hearing it for over sixty years and it has never sounded like anything but self serving codswallop to me, then and now.

    Give ’em hell Chelsea. They desperately need to pull their collective heads out of their asses and take a good hard look around.
    Thank you for giving them a reality check. I hope you are able to provide them with many more.

  34. Hedgepig

    Chelsea, you are the only sane person in the building. Run, don’t walk, out the door. Sorry, I know that’s not any good advice, you’ve got to make a living. Anyway, the attitude of your dudely workmates is indicative of wider society. Even if you escaped the building, it’s outside waiting for you, as you no doubt know.
    All I can say is that your responses to these idiots was apt and articulate and right, and you have the admiration and support of this blamer. I hope you know how innately superior you are to these dimwitted dudes and that the knowledge gives you the strength and confidence to continue to challenge them.

  35. Hedgepig

    oops, just realised I mis-read Chelsea, it’s a college project, not a job. In that case..oh, pretty much the same stuff I said before.

  36. Irlandese

    yttik–I think you’re onto something. There is no end to the reasons why I stopped giving a shit about patriarchal approval. Lack of oxytocin…hmm. Isn’t that what speeds up your labor during childbirth?? Took me 26 hours and that was almost 16 years ago. It’s been on a downhill run since then. I guess low oxytocin levels are an indication of the evolution of the female species…we’re freed up later in life to view men unhindered by hormone-goggles. I’m there.
    Women who will not wear the feminist mantle are consenting to their own eradication. It’s a damned shame.
    BTW–my legs resemble hamster fur at the moment. Yeah.

  37. Daisy P

    So, we can either organise a secret plan world-wide, to regularly spike men’s drinks, or food, or whatever method of administration, with oxytocin, or give women of all ages anti-oxytocin meds?

    I’m dreaming again….but interesting to think about…

    Disclaimer…..please don’t take this comment that seriously!

  38. Daisy P

    RE: Chelsea’s post….

    ” ………he agrees with me, but doesn’t agree with me, and how there are much bigger problems facing the world that we should all be focusing on, and how hard it is to be a white male and have people assume he’s a pig. He also mentions that “throwing a fit” about injustices merely makes people uncomfortable and inspires dislike. ”

    That is almost text-book misog-o-speak, patronizing, demeaning, and the usual entitled, “it’s all about the men”, in other words, their “problems” with being so entitled, of course are going to far out-weigh yours, particularly when you are physically outnumbered in this particular situation.

    People may assume he’s a pig, because he is. Men’s entitlement from birth mean that they develop blindness to seeing the entitlement and of course, being unable to see the injustice of such a “small thing” as the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies in games, they will of course be resistant to admitting any guilt, and will not be willing to give up their entitlement to objectify and commodify.

    His assertion (this was a statement of fact too), that you “threw a fit”, and that this upsets people is also typical misogo-strategy…it doesn’t matter that you are upset or angry or just plain damned asserting your right to your opionion, what matters is that OTHER people are upset by your right to state what needs to be said.

    This is an example of just why being a feminist is so hard, and why it’s so important to keep going anyway. This is an expample of the basics of why many women just give up fighting.

  39. Daisy P

    Sorry, left this one out too…how could I miss that one??

    “…..and how there are much bigger problems facing the world that we should all be focusing on…”

    Yes, which problems? And so, go away like a good little girl, let the men worry about this, wimmins stuff is just so, like, unimportant, ie, your anger is unimportant, and this statement is such a cliche’d excert from the entitled misongynist’s bible that it’s almost laughable.

    I do hear your anger, as we all do.

  40. Astrophilia

    As a college sophomore, reading Lam’s article and everyone’s critique of it made me feel like a damn precocious blamer. College life and everyone in it is so dude-centric and antifeminist that I get into plenty of arguments with the Feminist Society (since I’m one of ‘those’ feminists) and everyone rolls their eyes when I say the word ‘revolution’. But then again, on the outside of our mild blaming circle, all of our society posters around campus get defaced with images of disembodied flying cocks raping stick-women (signed by the ‘Menist Society’, which turned out to be the rugby team). It’s hard to be a feminist in such a male-focused, male-made, sex-steeped institution as a University. I’m lucky to have found Twisty’s blog, or else I would have suffered a rage-induced aneurysm months ago.

  41. AngmarBucket

    I remember one of my “friends” in art school saying, “I hate feminists” or something like that. I can’t remember what *I* said in return, but it was something in defense.

    She hates feminists. A female student, at a college, saying she hates feminists. That would be a little like Obama saying he hates Martin Luther King, Jr. as he sits in the Oval Office. It’s so ironic it could de-wrinkle shirts.

  42. Valerie

    Dear older radical feminists,

    Under-30s who agree with you exist. I have a few personal friends who do, who I met by sheer coincidence. Please don’t take the sort of idiots who get published or the sort of idiots whose parents can afford your school as some sort of barometer of youth culture, okay? Actual youth culture is often way less stupid, as it exists outside of bastions of privilege like mainstream news and college campuses.


  43. lurker

    Hope it’s ok for me to jump in here – but I feel that I need to throw in my “stop saying hormones are only the cause of behavior without recognizing that they might really be the effect of it” viewpoint regarding the oxytocin discussion. There are way too many cultural mediators involved in just *why* certain women fall into the nice good little culturally-prescribed female behaviors. As a 25 year-old woman who has been a radical feminist since I was the ripe old age of 17, I can tell you that, as hard as it is to exist in a world that stands for practically everything radical feminists are against, it is that much f*cking harder to be one when you are very young and therefore literally surrounded by people who really, really *want* you to be a good proper little female.

    How so? Think about it – younger women have usually just gotten out of high school, a place where they are around hundreds of other young, insecure people who generally don’t like to stick out from their particular social crowd. They would develop a tendency to want to run and hide from anything that would make them seem weird, gross, too angry, too nasty *according to the rules of their group/crowd/scene*. So these young women almost always have a vested interest in NOT appearing to be a feminist – it would disrupt their lives too much. Also remember that these are YOUNG women…you know, the patriarchy’s favorite type of female. They get more attention and approval from men (which funfeminists love to conflate with power) than older women who’ve been around the block and can smell bullshit much more easily than her younger, less experienced counterparts.

    To get back to my main point, I do think it stands to reason that our hormone levels at any given moment can be reflective of what we have been experiencing, not just an indicator of *why* we might be predisposed to think or behave a certain way. Radical feminists don’t get much social approval: I usually have to bite my tongue around my colleagues because I know that my views are so unpopular and so entirely against the way most people fashion their lives that it would be utterly pointless (and I suspect counterproductive) for me to express them. Oh, I do express them at times, but not nearly as often as I wish I could. That pisses me off, makes me feel like an outsider who’s constantly trying to find *someone* who just f*cking gets it. Now what effect does living like that have on my hormone levels? On the hormone levels of those non-feminist young women (the type the patriarchy approves of, remember that)? Perhaps they can be cutsier and perkier than we can because they just don’t have as much to be pissed off about – yet.

  44. Daisy P

    Dear Valerie

    Thank (Insert Your own concept of any higher-power belief named rep here, ie, Gawd, just don’t make it male),

    Thank you so much for that encouraging post.

    The reason that there are many like you, is because the problem that us older fems tried to tackle all those years ago, are still there. It’s just the clever ol’ pat have got the younger ones running around using up energy trying to figure out what feminism really is.

    They used every crafty trick in their big pat manual to shoot us down and make us go away….and seemingly, we did for awhile. Then, the 90’s happened, Bill Gates got us up and running with his pornology empire, and hey, the rest is history.

    The older fems get particularly frustrated, as we can see just how the whole patriarchal (porn being the visible evidence of this, pure and simple) system has evolved into what it has today, how it has worsened far beyoned our wildest expectations, and so it is heartening that some of the younger ones can see the bullshit, without being blinded by the red-herring tactics of the pat, and without the benefit of hindsight.

    So thanks!! (Where are the rest of you??)
    Daisy P

  45. undercover punk

    As a 30 year old radfem, which I guess makes me officially *not* a yuth anymore, I would like to thank and congratulate all the female college students who expend their precious time & energy raising feminist awareness on campus and educating others about the inherently patriarchal aspects and attitudes of higher education. Thank you for representing. We change minds one at a time.

    I also want to share my somewhat different, personal experience. Though I was indoctrinated to feminism by my mother (and my father, represent.), I attribute my most radical feminist philosophies to what I learned and was exposed to at Smith College (1996-2000). It may be a uniquely female (and queer) focused intellectual community, but it schooled me and enlightened me to the insidious domination of the patriarchy in ways that I had never comprehended–or even thought of–before. Feminist theory is highly valued at Smith and the college culture is designed, at least in theory, to empower women. So much so that some of the patriarchy-loving students (naturally) complain about the “radical” political atmosphere. It’s not a perfect community or an institution perfectly free from the constructs and dependencies of the patriarchy (by any means!), but it’s a very different educational experience than what is offered in most university settings. My four years at Smith are the closest I’ve ever been to anything remotely imitative of a feminist revolt.

  46. MHW

    I’m a freshwoman at Bryn Mawr College. And yes, many of us call ourselves freshwomen. It’s nice.

    (I mean, granted, there’s been recent news of a fun! burlesque troupe that’s in the works, and the word “empowering” has been used around it, and there was a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” last night, and there have been laments about chivalry and it’s sad fate, but most people are, in some way at least, aware of the patriarchy in their lives.)

    Actually, we have an annual “May Hole” celebration. You can see video here:

    Around 1:48 is when we start chanting about the patriarchy. It’s no feminist utopia here, but it is a welcome relief from the rest of the world.

    We also have pretty good vegan food.

  47. ChelseaWantsOut

    Jan, thebewilderness, Hedgepig, and Daisy P: Thanks for the encouragement. I needed that. I’ve been at this damn school for so long sometimes I forget there are real actual people who feel the same way I do about this shite.

  48. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    MarilynJean: I could not figure out why it bugs me like it does, but now I get it. My whole undergrad college (Sweet Briar) has gone pink, with cute little vixens (not foxes, mind you–vixens)on everything. And the school where I currently teach has pink versions of everything to do with the school name/logo for female students. Lanyards, notebooks, sweats, hats, bumper stickers–everything comes in a pink version. The co-ed is back!

  49. Jezebella

    Let us not bag on the young, for I live in a town of 20,000 godbags, many of whom are women over the age of 21, and I am, I am quite certain, the only radical feminist in the tri-county area. From the viewpoint of the middle-aged (as I am now), the kids’ reasons for not being feminist seem kind of dumb, but they’re not any more wrong than those of my age cohort.

    By the way, you can get pink John Deere gear here, which is the Buttcrack, Miss. version of pink college gear.

  50. polly styrene

    “fat,” “ugly,” and “man-hating lesbians.”

    Guilty as charged. Do I get to be a feminist now?

  51. Stella

    I am 29 and have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. I certainly had more than my share of patriarchy-approval-seeking years, mostly borne out of economic insecurity, but I cannot remember a time when I didn’t sense these injustices, and talk about them, loudly. It’s always seemed obvious to me.

    My alma matter also has pink branded everything, and I don’t know many women who self-identify as feminists, much less radical feminists. I need to meet some, truly. I get the old eye-rolling response from everyone except my mother and my male partner, strangely enough.

  52. Jet

    I’m 28, and up to three years ago, I was often heard to angrily tell the fantastic feminists around me to stop telling me I was oppressed. I was, I opined often, not in any way hampered by my gender, able to get any damn job I wanted thankyouverymuch, and ferf’ssake, stop telling me I’m a woman! (Women are icky, said the unexamined thought.) I also detested “girly” behaviour, was proudly “one of the guys”, and exhibited every other trait a sufferer of Patriarchy Stockholm Syndrome could be expected to display, sexyporn clothing included.

    Being lucky enough to be surrounded by older, awesome feminists did nothing to my outbursts, but vexed them terribly, I am sure.

    And then I went overseas, and I was roundly disabused of the notion that I could “opt out” of being a woman and everything that entails, by the blunt tactic of local men attempting to buy me from my tour guide.

    And so was born a feminist. What did it take? In-my-face proof that the P cannot be colluded with.

    So! There is hope for young women; I just hope that most are not as dense as I, and Get It in less extreme ways.

  53. Level Best

    On the theme of invasive pinkness: I went to a mall this weekend to get a watch battery replaced and espied The Pink Store. It’s dedicated to breast cancer pink gear. Wrong in so many ways.

  54. Laurel

    About the bra-burning:

    Me own sweet mum also claims this actually happened. She’s not European. She is, in fact, from the U.S. Midwest and apparently saw it in action at a university.

    Perhaps it’s been overblown to mythic proportions, but evidence suggests it did happen at some places. At least, so I believe now that I know someone trustworthy who saw it with her own two eyeballs.

  55. Megan

    I’m 19, female, and really disenchanted with both the glaringly obvious misogyny in society and people’s unwillingness to recognize it. I don’t have an academic background in feminism or Gender Studies, but I’m a feminist. A newbie feminist who has a lot to learn, but a feminist. Unfortunately, I also have a lot of social anxiety, and don’t really want anything to do with our school newspaper. The last feminism-related article was written by a lovely forward-thinking woman who believes that abortion is a privilege, not a right. Too bad if you happen to be a rural woman in need of an abortion or even Plan B (which she classifies as abortion, for some reason), because the right of pharmacists and doctors to NOT DO THEIR JOBS comes before a woman’s bodily autonomy. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a feminist to realize the school paper sucks; I think the writers are the only ones who take it seriously. So for now, I just try to inject a little feminism into my daily life. I’m currently working on convincing my little brother that sexism is actually a problem and not a fairy tale invented by women who hate being happy. He “doesn’t think of [rape] in terms of gender”, and believes that when I say that most rapes are committed by men against women, I am (A) being a evil sexist manhater, and (B), ignoring female rapists and male victims entirely. Sigh.

    @ Orinoco,

    Many of the teachers in middle and high school discourage this kind of essay writing, whether they mean to or not. Writing an essay your teacher disagrees with often results in a poor grade regardless of quality, even if that teacher said (s)he wanted your opinion. As a result, students learn early on to either figure out what their teacher’s beliefs are and write an essay to suit or just spit out a few pages of pablum that nobody could possibly disagree with. One guy in my high school could barely write and had failed Grade 12 English twice, but on the third time through he wrote all his essays about cats. Our teacher really loved cats. He got an A in the course.

    @ Chelsea,

    Ew. Just ew. I haven’t spoken much to my classmates (see: social anxiety), but I’m in computer science and the only female taking the courses in my school’s yet-to-be-official game dev track. Most of them seem pretty OK, but then again, I’m mentally comparing them to the idiots in online gaming communities and the frat-boy wannabes that overrun the rest of campus. I hear the industry itself is about the same as your experience, but I’m crossing my fingers for the future. Women going into game dev reject at least one gender role by default. I hope that means that we are more likely to be feminist, and will help each other to clean up the industry from the inside out. I can dream, anyway!

  56. Hedgepig

    Megan, I think it would definitely make a difference if more women were involved in game dev. You’d be a pioneer, and that’s a tough role, but as long as there are only dudes giving their input the misogyny will never lessen.

    Keep working on your little brother. The penny might drop sometime in his life, even if it’s not for awhile. He might be 30 and suddenly think “A-ha, that’s what big sis meant when she said..”

  57. Michele

    In a discussion in my college freshman English class I stated that I was not a feminist because I “wasn’t old enough” (I was 18). I’m 44 now and have reflected upon that moment many times, always with a grimace and a wish to go back to that professor and apologize for being so fucking young and STUPID!!! Of course I was a feminist, how could I not be? But it did take years for me to admit it, both to myself and others, much like my atheism. I’ve stopped apologizing for both and figure people will either deal with it or not. I have a 4 year old daughter (thank you society for allowing me the choice of when to bear live young, I only hope my daughter is afforded the same consideration) in whom I hope to instill a basic sense of being a feminist, starting with, “unless a penis is required to do the job/play with the toy, both boys and girls can do it.” I’m waiting for the call from her school…

  58. orlando

    Hedgepig: given up on our brother yet?

  59. Hedgepig

    orlando: sssh, no need to discourage the young’ens.

  60. Saila

    “As a matter of fact, I have yet to read one of these things that even mentions feminist revolt.”

    Don’t you worry, Twisty. I am a 19 year old college sophomore. I think about a feminist revolt just about every waking moment of my life. I have been reading your blog (among others) for a few months now and I feel overwhelmed by my newly gained awareness of my own oppression. However, I will hold off on writing articles until I have gained a bit more formal knowledge on the subject. I just thought that perhaps I could provide a glimmer of hope.

    I apologize if I sound like idiot and for all of the “I”s in this comment.

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