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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Angry

Sunday night, I was at a study group session with A, and C (and later J, although he wasn't around for this conversation), when the conversation turned to feminism. I don't remember why or in what context, but C made a comment that was essentially derisive of feminists. He cited the crazed "feminazi" (although his apathetic, apolitical nature refused to let him actually say the word) and told us a story in which a feminist teacher of his mocked a female student because the student wanted to, one day, give up her career and become a mother. He deridedmocked this teacher, implying that this was what feminism was. That is not my feminism. As a woman who identifies more with the race activists than the gender activists (alas, 'tis my own bias), I nonetheless wonder why non-feminists has a hard time with the concept of the accessible feminist. Why must all feminists, in the eyes of people like C, be loud, rambunctious, sex-crazed, ugly, reactionary (white) women who seek to castrate all men and demean all "good Christian girls"? Recently, Sour Duck wrote a series of blog posts on the angry feminist. She cited another feminist blog's recent decision to become less angry and more rational in its writing. C's words, in conjunction with the discussion over at SD made me wonder if anger and majority acceptance really must be mutually exclusive. The stereotype of the angry, hairy, rabid Amazon feminist has certainly done a disservice towards the feminism movement. While there's nothing wrong, per se, with being the personification of the stereotypical radical feminist, it has been far too easy for the puritannical, patriarchal mainstream to vilify our community based on its superficial disgust with such a persona. While the radical feminist who fits the stereotypical image has its place in the birth of mid-twentieth century feminism, I feel a disconnect between the mentality that fueled the development of that image and my own humble feminism. In an effort to uplift women and overthrow patriarchal oppression, radical feminists have in some senses embraced our marginalization to the point where I feel justified in criticizing much of historical feminism as having ignored, even ostracized, a diversity of female identities and experiences. Yet, I react vehemently to C's words, and feel a personal affront when he characterizes of all feminism as the kind who would chastise a woman for choosing to be a mother and homemaker. "Hey! That's not what feminism is!" I immediately argued. A backed me up; we were both feminists and yet we both felt compelled to distance ourselves from his stereotype. Wikipedia's article alone suggests that while there are feminists who would find such a decision distasteful at the least (and I am one of them; I have a hard time accepting being a housewife as an equal life choice as all others, merely because I feel it is the source of a lot of historical female oppression), feminism throughout time has had differing opinions on that and other issues. Separatist feminists have coexisted with radical feminists, liberal feminists, third-wave feminists, and a number of other equally viable interpretations of the umbrella feminist ideals. What really got to me that night, however, was how little the general population knows about what feminism is, was and can be. The Everyman should be aware of just how accessible feminism, at its core, is to every man and woman. There's more to feminism than the extreme radicals portrayed (and, in many cases, invented) in the media. For feminism to survive, we must find a middle ground between Mary Daly and Ann Coulter -- two women who couldn't be more different from one another, and yet who both are, I would argue, strong, independent women who embody (if not necessarily articulate) the ideals of a female-empowering feminist movement. The mainstream needs to recognize that beyond the traditional feminist icons are women like Shirley Chisholm, Alice Walker, Rosa Parks, and Helen Zia -- strong women of colour who exist as distinct from "traditional" 'First-Wave' feminists while still subscribing to many of those feminist ideals. The mainstream needs to know that feminism and gender equality is more universal than that limiting stereotype, and that it encompasses women that even C might identify with. Our anger, rather than ostracizing the mainstream, can be used to bring the feminist movement back to popular acceptance. People like C, who know little about historical feminism (not like I know much more, by the way) need to know that it's more than just the stereotypically "angry" who are angry, but a diversity of women like A and I who have reason to call ourselves feminists. We will only end the 'feminazi' stereotype by showing exactly how stereotypical it is. C needs to hear more of our anger as feminists, not less of it, to learn that our movement is not dying but thriving as an alternative to patriarchal rule. And as a woman of colour, it's not just people like C who need to hear me roar, but the feminists themselves who need to be reminded of the feminism of women of colour as unique and note-worthy. Sour Duck and a host of others have proclaimed their anger, and tonight I jump on the bandwagon. I am angry. I am not a "feminazi". Deal with it.

7 Comments:

Anonymous alicia said...

nice wiki linky of feminism, jenn, thanks.


yes, there are very few separatist feminists in the world such as mary daly who would like to form continents of only women and lesbians.

i'd recommend bell hooks feminist primer feminism is for everybody. a little bland but accessible.

11/01/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Melinda Casino said...

Nice piece - I like the angles you bring in (race, confronting casually ignorant statements about feminists, etc.).

Your readers may be interested in the comment you left to my piece on anger at Sour Duck. ;) I appreciated your thoughts!

I think part of the problem, which I alluded to in my piece but didn't really explore, is that anger is a power emotion and is tied in with status. This complicates things for women considerably!

I also believe that being in touch with our anger can be a creative, energizing force that helps us (women, feminists) achieve great things. But we're encouraged to stuff it, deny it, and remain silent about it. I think this has a crippling effect on pushing through feminist (and progressive) goals.

Thanks for the menion, I'll add your piece to my follow-up piece.

11/01/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

Great article, but I have to disagree with you that Ann Coulter embodies any part of the feminist movement. Taking advantage of the gains that feminism got her does not a feminist make.

Frankly, I'm for a plural idea of a feminist movement, but you need to believe in gender equality no matter what the specifics are. And, I'm sorry, but any woman who could say that she doesn't believe women should have the right to vote just doesn't cut it.

11/01/2005 06:48:00 PM  
Anonymous alicia said...

Conservatives use verbal sleights to confuse and Ann Coulter is not a feminist. She may call herself one but is the antithesis of one.

11/02/2005 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Ann Coulter may not be a feminist like feminists on the left, but she is a feminist, in my opinion, if only because she is a strong, female voice who embodies the fact that women are just as capable as men of having a political opinion and speaking out on it.

I don't like what Coulter has to say, but I do respect that she's willing to say it (and be oh, so, wrong). If I were to strong females as feminists only as long as what they did with their voice furthered the liberal feminist movement, than I could not, in any way, support a woman's choice to be a housewife.

Yes, Coulter is a hypocrite and she has disparaging opinions of political women, but we cannot ignore that she is a strong, intelligent woman who believes herself to be as capable as any man of her stature and career. She demonstrates to the world that women are just as capable as men when it comes to speaking our minds. In that way, I consider her as influential a feminist as any.

It's like saying that Michelle Malkin is not an Asian American activist. She is. She proves that Asian Americans can have a political voice and vocalize it. She's not a leftist Asian American activist, but she still has an influential place in the Asian American activism community.

The reason I feel this way is precisely because I loathe the idea that feminism is a "leftist" issue. I don't think it is -- I think we need to realize that feminism includes accepting women for their choices, even if it is counter to the feminist movement, for being able to exercise their right to choose oppression and/or domesticity.

11/02/2005 01:28:00 AM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

Does Malkin espouse that Asians are inherently inferior to white people?

If so, then I'd be hard pressed to call her an "activist" for Asian Americans. If not, then the comparison doesn't stand.

I still don't believe that taking advantage of feminist gains makes one a feminist. Feminism is about choice, yes, and Ann Coulter has made the choice to be a strong mouthpiece for the Right. That's fine. However, feminism is also about equality. And, while Coulter might be out there trying to get her opinion's heard just like any man, the opinions she chooses to espouse are anti-equality. And that's just not a feminist value.

When it comes down to it, I understand that the feminist movement has made it possible for women to make their own choices. Every person should have the right to live their life the way they see fit. However, that doesn't mean that it's in any way, shape, or form feminist to try to convince a nation that women are inherently inferior to men.

11/02/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous alicia said...

Ann Coulter is not a feminist because she is against women's political, economic and social equality.

She is a strong female voice but so is Phyllis Schaffly who believed she could have a career as a lawyer and spokesperson for the Eagle Forum.

She may be supportive of women who are housewives but so are most feminists nowadays.

But I see what you're saying.

Margaret Cho has said that her mom was a feminist in the real sense, meaning a strong, self-determined woman. I tell people my mom is a feminist for the same reasons. They did exactly what they wanted which was raise a family regardless of what people told them and that is admirable.

11/02/2005 03:03:00 PM  

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