Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feminism: an unchangeable entity or a dynamic struggle?

This is going to be raggedy, so bear with me.

In considering girls and feminism, the questions that are commonly emphasized are “Do girls need feminism? Are they a part of it?” Implicit in these questions is the more problematic, self-conscious fret: “Do girls need us anymore?”

If feminism is irrelevant to girls, that is, at least in part, because it is being framed as a fixed entity, something “established feminists” own. The “problem” with girls and feminism comes as a result of the presentation of feminism as something one must adopt rather than define. Saying “Here, claim my feminism,” integrate my history, my struggle, into your identity, mirrors the social construction of girls as consumers rather than producers. If we are approaching feminism as something concrete, unchangeable, a pair of pants one must put on rather than fabric that someone can sew into whatever they want, we are still treating girls as a target group of consumers.

The idea that women can be post-feminist is ridiculous because, to me, feminism isn’t a set of criteria that defines our actions. It is a tool used to dismantle patriarchy and, as such, it should continue to grow and evolve with our changing needs – from an allen wrench to a mallet. It can become a manifesta, a creedo, a lifeline – but it must be defined by our own needs, goals, and life experience. The rhetoric of postfeminism frames feminism as a specific ideology with its own predetermined goals which girls must conform to, rather than one they are able to form to their needs. This requires girls to accept or consume feminism rather than form it.

I think, eventually, everyone must define feminism for themselves, based on their own contexts and needs. Hence the multiple branches of feminism: ecofeminism, anarchafeminism, radical feminism, etc. We can work together toward a common goal (ending oppression) without requiring uniformity from all our partners in struggle.

Third Wave emphasis on choice and an incorporation of a clear knowledge of the intersection of all oppressions may help redefine feminism as something that is accessible and useful to girls. The extent of its effectiveness will hinge on our ability, as feminists, to redefine feminism in society. The question is: how can we repackage it? The co-optation of Girl Power and feminism in the media is pervasive. (As a side note: I saw a commercial for an energy company that totally co-opted “Power to the People” as it’s slogan for disgusting, non-renewable energy. Great job!) So it happens. Our messages get co-opted. And the only solution to this problem that I can fathom is producing our own media – culture jamming, creating zines, re-forming advertisements. Getting into schools in programs like YWLP and starting conversations between girls and women is vital to the evolution of feminism. Feminism needs to be reclaimed as a word, yes, but it also needs to be redefined in popular culture to include dynamic choice. It’s our job to swing the conversation to include a true consideration of feminism as anything that challenges oppression and patriarchy.

- Ali

PS. When I looked for an example of girls doing feminism, a lot of porn came up. :/

1 comment:

Leila said...

It's sad that one cannot research "girls" without porn coming up. I dealt with that alot while constructing this course--looking for books, websites, etc. I've found "girls studies" or "girls and feminism" helps the search. Great post. :) Leandra