Those Who Refuse to Cackle
Gail Collins and Stacy Schiff discussed the Mama Grizzly phenomenon (movement?) in the Times yesterday. Naturally, they took some time to talk about those traitors, young women.
Every time I go on a speaking tour I get questions from sad middle-aged women who want to know why their daughters all insist they aren’t feminists. They might be planning to devote their lives to healing fistula victims in Somalia, but they won’t let anyone call them feminists because they think it means being anti-man, or wearing unattractive shoes.
THIS MAKES ME SO ALL CAPS! I have been hearing this from older feminists for twenty years. And seriously, Gail Collins, you have women who are feminist enough to come and see you speak, and to have raised daughters who are off healing fistula victims, but they weren’t able to convince their own children that being a feminist doesn’t mean being anti-man or wearing unattractive shoes? I’m getting a whiff of something I will politely call exaggeration here.
Statements like this tend to get lots of aggrieved responses from young feminists saying, “But we are here!”—which is true but which closes the conversation into a territory war over recognition and leaves out the people we should be talking to—the women who do not identify as feminists.
Painting a picture of non-feminists as morons who think it’s about hating men or wardrobe changes does two things—first, it neatly sidesteps the fact that a lot of young feminists actually have been criticized by older feminists for the way they dress! For real! Also criticized for: who they date, voting for Barack Obama, thinking strippers aren’t necessarily the enemy, listening to hip hop, getting married, and not subscribing to Ms.
But secondly and far more importantly, it ignores the very valid critiques of feminism made by a lot of non-feminists who object to feminism’s racism, transphobia, ableism, homophobia, and continued denial of same. It ignores the fact that there are women all over the world fighting for gender justice without calling themselves feminists. It ignores the fact that feminism has done a terrible job of making itself known as a force for liberation—the force that gave (American)women pants!—and instead mostly expends its energy on feeling aggrieved about not getting its due.
I love Gail Collins but we are talking about someone here who wrote a book called When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present that doesn’t even talk about womanism. It also has a 20-page index that doesn’t include “race” as a topic.
It does, however, have 8 entries under “shoes.”