PilgrimSoul: I think what initially annoyed me about this article was that here was this woman claiming to respect all the diversity in feminist activism and saying there isn’t one leader and then of course appropriating an account of the current State of the Movement for herself.
PhDork: Yeah, that’s a problem. I’m pretty horked off the same things that usually get my goat: what I see as a straw-feminist division between second and third wavers (without, of course, being clear about what is meant by these divisions), and the unilateral declaration in the title: “The End of the Women’s Movement.”
I think Courtney is pretty smart, but why the fuck would you say something so extraordinarily unhelpful to everyone you’re supposedly allied with? “It’s all over girls!” If its not straight-up stupid, it’s just cheap and flashy.
PilgrimSoul: It strikes me as a highly idiosyncratic form of alliance, yeah. In that sense it bugs me mostly because it uses this “coat of many feminisms” rhetoric as a way of sidestepping a discussion about continued racism/classism/heterosexism in feminists answering to the dominant paradigmatic description (i.e. young, white, upper/middle-class). It’s an easy way to get away from the difficult question of whether one is really fighting for women when one considers oneself responsible only to a particular segment of them.
I’ll tell you one thing, I’m pretty damn sure the way to help women is not to self-anoint as a “professional feminist” with an unexplained aversion to the word “patriarchy.”
PhDork: And one who doesn’t care about identifying as a feminist? That I don’t get at all. How many times do we have say “Words mean things. Words matter.”
The thing is, I agree with her that of course the feminist movement (yes, I will use that term) has changed, has to change, and will be better for the change to include women who don’t look like you and I (and Courtney), but yeah, it is does seem like a feint.
And for the record, I have more of a sense of sisterhood now than I’ve ever had in the past. I choose to identify as woman and a feminist, and with other women and feminists, especially those who don’t share my demographics.
But maybe we should tackle her questions: Is there a formal feminist movement anymore? Does there need to be?
PilgrimSoul: See, I don’t know that there ever was a “formal feminist movement” in the sense Courtney means – she’s too focussed on the generational divide in this piece, apparently, to remember that this disagreement over what a “woman” is long precedes us – but I don’t know that anyone was agitating for the election of a Grand Poobah of feminism. (And by the by, who was it before? I’d like to jot down the Feminist Line of Succession in my Moleskine.) Because for all this hand-wringing about Steinem I’ve always thought her “leadership” of the movement was an ex post facto media construction, though admittedly not one she’s done much to declaim. But it seems to me that bell hooks and Audre Lorde and any number of other women have done some leading in their time too but they got erased from the history we’re told because they aren’t as media-friendly, and I’m not sure why we continue to permit this erasure.
But even assuming Courtney’s right, I do think her incrementalist approach is a poor substitute for actual solidarity. Because it seems to presume that we all need to waste our time persuading each other that our “interest” deserves attention, whereas my view is a little more absolutist: it’s either wrong to oppress people or it isn’t, and since oppression on the basis of gender rather clearly exists, why are we all standing around talking about how we have different interests? Isn’t that kind of self-indulgent? Because to the women whose oppression is active and immediate and here-and-now, there isn’t nearly so much time for talk.
PhDork: Good point…there was “a” movement only in terms of how it was presented by the media–the same media that gave us the bra-burning bullshit, so I don’t know if we oughta buy what they’re selling.
There have always been movements, plural. Different groups. Steinem, Lorde, hooks, Dworkin, were all part of different movements. They lived different lives and ran in different circles (which touched, perhaps, but were not identical). Wow: just like today! Only now, the internet means that we–of the industrialized, world-wide-webbed world–have circles which are more likely to touch than before. Because of the web, we (well, I, anyway) am far far far more likely to know about other women all over the world, even if they don’t know about me. Which is fine. I have privilege aplenty; it’s incumbent on me to help those who have less.
PilgrimSoul: I seem myself to have missed the day on which it was announced to Young Women (TM) that we were to regard ourselves as having reinvented everything. And what I find frustrating about positions like Courtney’s is that in her eagerness to articulate “our” feminism, she seems to have declined to learn from past arguments. Everything old is new again, I guess, but it’s getting us precisely nowhere in making real advances for women.
It’s funny, JD Regent is always talking about how she thinks the women’s movement is powerful, and I guess I don’t disagree in terms of collected energy – but it seems like the devil’s in the details of getting the damn thing marshalled. And I guess I don’t see how Courtney’s positing the movement as not just over but also irrelevant gets us anywhere
PhDork: Exactly. What do we gain by saying “there’s no capital-M Movement anymore”? She ends with this “but now there are movementS (capital S),” but that seems like an ahistorical understanding, as well as dismissive of all our foremothers’ efforts.
The need to break off and start anew seems to me a kind of patriarchy 2.0: overthrow and replace the father (who looks like mother). I don’t feel the need to tell any other feminists to “move along” so I can take my place at the table. The table can–should–just keep expanding to seat everyone who wants to pull up a chair.
About “formal”: what does that even mean? And who gets to decide?