Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are girls post-feminism?/girl girly girlie/REALLY?

In essay after essay, the question being asked seems to be "Are today's girls beyond feminism?" or "Is feminism relevant to them?" Apparently we must re-think feminism within the context of girlhood. I don't really get it. How is feminism not already relevant?

Girls may or may not claim the word. Still, how many women claim the word? Are women today "doing" a new breed of feminism, minus the ideology, beyond the ideology? Following advances of the first and second waves, are women just out there, living their lives, with no more need for feminism? This has been a topic of much debate, with many women answering an emphatic "Yes!" That women feel strong and empowered enough to reject the "F-word" is a sign of progress. I would also argue that the media and other powers that be don't want women to have access to feminist thought. Are women poor, helpless, living in the dark? Of course not. That said, I still strongly believe that the spread of feminist thought is integral to progress and social change.

So, okay, I get it. Girls are out there playing sports, wearing glitter sparkle "You Go Gurl" t-shirts, and becoming student body president. They don't call themselves feminists or identify with feminist thought. They don't claim it. (And why would they? I vividly remember from my girlhood a history teacher writing on the chalkboard as an actual, serious vocabulary word "feminazi." That's pretty much the most mention feminism or women's movements got.) They're just out there doing it, while we, whoever we is, sit, old-farts reminiscing about the olden days.

Just because the fruit of past women's struggles is now present, everyday, on the lunch trays of this generation of girls, does not mean that feminism needs to be rethought or that we are talking about a different entity when we talk about girls' empowerment. Girls are still connected to the legacy and future of feminism. Girls (and women for that matter) are doing feminism, label or no label, in the way that they so choose. Isn't choice part of the main point?

I wish that the label that I hold so dear to my heart didn't have such a stigma attached to it. Perhaps I'm forcing a lable, but ideally, in my mind, they would be using the word. Girls Studies is Women's Studies and Women's Studies is feminism. The difference with Girls Studies is its a study from the outside, which can always be problematic.

[[Speaking of problematic, we have an essay entitled "Feminism and Femininity: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thong" by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards. They are certainly studying girls from the outside and a very strange, offensive one at that. I wonder how many girls, whose fingernail polish they so admire and write pages and pages of drivel about, would be angered by their assertion that "strong", "smart", "bold", "sporty", "powerful" and "political" are all masculine qualities. I thought that they were neutral and not tied to gender, but what do I know. Also, apparently the word "girl" has such an intensely strong stigma attached to that it must be reclaimed in much the same manner as the word "nigger." Who knew?

Here we have two worshipped third-wave feminist icons suggesting that feminine girls and women are somehow oppressed and must break free from their chains. (I thought that females' femininity was encouraged within society and made life easier if embraced...) What we really have is a horrific perpetuation of dangerous stereotypes that are full of the very nonsense that drive girls away from feminism. (i.e.: There are lots of feminists that are scary, scary, hairy, hairy manhaters! You shouldn't like them. We're cool, though.) News flash: There is no Feminist Police and they are not checking to see if you shaved your legs or put on lip gloss today and therefore are not welcome in the secret clubhouse. There ARE imperative critiques of the way that patriarchy socializes girls to behave. These critiques are then misinterpreted and misrepresented as critiques of individual women, either victims or traitors for their individual behavior. These misinterpretations and misrepresentations are then used to prevent relationships of girls to feminism and to divide feminists into sects. Voila!]]

The relationship between girls and feminism may be a complicated one, but girls are definitely doing feminism. Some of them are doing it in ways that challenge gender stereotypes and binaries and some of them are embracing femininity and finding empowerment within that. There are lots of different relationships that girls can have to feminism. Girls have definitely embraced the values of choice that have been passed down.

My example website of girls "doing" feminism is not a website that was created by girls, but is one that is utilized by girls. It is the VaginaPagina community on Livejournal. Girls frequently post to it looking for answers about sex, their bodies and relationships. I see this as a way of them taking control over their own lives and seeking out the knowledge that is not provided to them. Link:

1 comment:

Ariel Dansky said...

omg. I LOVE vaginapagina!!

Haha what's your lj username? mine is beautiflytragic.

friend me? =D