How do I play this game? By their rules or decline to state. How can ONE ethnic category describe anyone “best”? Are you more related to your father than your mother?
There was a recent post on Feministing about reclaiming the word “slut,” and I have to admit it struck me in the wrong way, which used not to be the case. When I was a teenager, I used “slut” and “bitch” frequently to refer to myself, which I considered reclaiming. Now more power to you if you still want to do so, but I kind of get the heebie jeebies when I hear it. Why? For some reason, those words seem more steeped in the patriarchal culture than other reclaimed words like “queer” or “dyke.” They just seem inherently hateful. Of course, no word has inherent meaning, but I wonder if others get this sense as well. With all the fake, anti-feminist “girl power,” the weird combination of purity balls + “slutty” grade school girls’ clothing, etc., I wonder if the “reclaiming” really is that, or if it’s just part of a mainstream attempt to use feminist language to keep girls firmly rooted in patriarchal thought. Ideas?
What are the books you’d recommend either a) to someone new to feminism or b) to feminists to get a broader perspective on the movement or an idea about a topic that tends to get ignored? Here are some of mine:
Andrea Smith, Conquest: I just blogged about this one, but I’ve finished it now and would wholeheartedly recommend it as an alternative to the white feminist “canon.” It’s also especially helpful for identifying areas where the progressive movement (especially pro-choice and environmentalist) has wronged indigenous people and women of color.
Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards, Manifesta: I like this book as an intelligent, in-depth discussion of feminist issues. It’s not particularly good for young readers (it’s a little dense) and it doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a good read for those who have the basics of feminism down and want to go a little deeper.
Inga Muscio, Cunt: There are a lot of things I disagree with in this book, but I have to admit it’s a great little read for a personal perspective on feminist issues with research thrown in, and there’s a great resource guide at the back. Muscio has a very powerful voice, and this book is accessible where more academic texts are not.
Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti (eds.), Yes Means Yes: Not a feminist primer, per se, but so much of why feminism is necessary is wrapped up in rape culture, and this anthology is absolutely mind-blowing even for someone who has been exposed to feminist ideas. I recommend this book to every woman I know.
Megan Seely, Fight Like a Girl: This is my favorite recommendation for young readers. It goes through a number of issues, making it a good third-wave feminist primer, and it’s activism- rather than academic-centric. It’s also got some great resources for teens and young women.
Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: A little more topic-centered, but this book does provide a broad overview of what Levy calls “raunch” culture. It links patriarchy to pop culture, the purity movement, pornography, sex work, etc. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but for the most part I like what she has to say.
This week, I asked the ladies of the F-Wave to share their thoughts on the word “feminist.” Should it be a required term for those who support women’s equality? How do you react when folks you would consider feminists are opposed to the term? Are you comfortable with the term yourself? Here’s what we had to say:
My fingers were bitten by the cold air as they clasped the candle. My breath blew out in white clouds that dissipated quickly in the night. Snow was falling softly, quietly, passively among the gathered crowd. It was almost too cold for the tears wiped quickly from our eyes. Here, in Minto Park, in Ottawa, we gathered to remember.
20 years ago, on December 6th, fourteen women were murdered at L’École Polytechnique in Montréal. They were murdered by a man because they were women. Because they were women who dared to pursue a university degree in engineering, a field that continues to be traditionally dominated by men. The man in question, Marc Lepine, blamed his own failures on feminism. On women’s “intrusion” into men’s privileged world. We remember these women and the tragedy that happened 20yrs ago. And we come together to address the continued perpetuation of these attitudes today.
Other names were mentioned, but it’s their stories that hit home. Distinct, despite their similarities. A woman, murdered in her driveway, by her estranged husband. A 5yr old girl, murdered, by a 20yr old man. The most horrific, three young girls and a woman, found in a submerged car. Their father, mother, and brother charged for their deaths. The woman had been their father’s first wife. Their lives were too inconvenient too be spared. We also remembered the most vulnerable in our communities. The names of First Nation women who are murdered or disappeared are added weekly to a list held by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. And so rarely do their stories appear in our media. It has been called Canada’s greatest human rights crisis.
These women died because our society perpetuates violence against women as acceptable, and even humourous. They were murdered by men who bought into the idea of defensive masculinity. That it is somehow okay to treat women as less than human, as unworthy of respect. That they don’t deserve it. That they don’t deserve life. These are not isolated incidents. These attitudes exist on a broad scale and are systemically enabled through society’s tolerance of patriarchal norms.
But, there is hope. I stood, shoulder to shoulder with my male friends as well, the candles we held lighting up their frostbitten cheeks too. They stand with us, and for us, in recognition that these are not isolated incidents, and that they are part of the solution. I am so proud of all of them, those who came to the vigils held on campus, at the University of Ottawa, and at Minto Park, for the entire city.
One of the speakers, shared his story about growing up watching his father repeatedly abuse his mother and the other women in his life. I was especially touched by his description of his identity: feminist masculinity. I like this description for our male allies. It gives them a place within the movement for change. Violence against women is an issue so huge, that we need to work together if we’re going to construct a better future. This is why we are feminists. Because this matters.
We can all be part of the solution to end violence against women. Remember December 6th, but remember the women who live this every day as well. And actively work with us for a future where they will never have to.
- Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
- Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
- Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
- Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
- Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
- Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
- Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
- Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student
The Star: Lessons of the Montreal Massacre
(see the bottom of the wikipedia article for more links)
Here it is! This is Part 2 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Part 1 may be found here.
In Part 1, we discussed how femininity and feminism are not antithetical to one another, as inspired by this Feministing post. Here, I want to discuss the image and presentation of femininity, and how it influences our perceptions.
One of the tumblrs that I follow is La Douleur Exquise by Miss Wallflower that is basically a celebration of all things feminine. Every day dozens of pictures are uploaded that reflect the general theme, emphasizing fashion photography, bon bons, woodland creatures, books, tea and inspirational quotes. I am acutely aware of its flaws. The majority of women featured are white and waif-like. It emphasizes traditional gender roles and promotes women’s sexuality and aesthetic appeal as their primary quality. But for its artistic merit, it also forces me to confront these images, and question how their meaning is received today.
My feminist theory professor was also really into art, so receiving the presentation and questioning the meaning of these images goes hand in hand with cultural feminism for me. For example, here are a few photographs that piqued my interest:
This is Part 1 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next day or so…
I read an article the other day that I found through Feministing that has brought to mind a lot of questions about femininity. The article written by Karen Salmansohn is titled ‘Are You a Feminist, or a Feminine-ist?’. The title of the article immediately set off some warning bells, but I gamely read on. Salmansohn is basically highlighting her theory behind and solution for the modern discomfort with the word feminism. Here’s how I read the article:
“…Almost from the introduction of the word “feminism” into our world, the definition has become corroded to mean something less than complimentary than its original intent. Somewhere along the line, to be a feminist started to mean a woman who’s basically unattractive both in looks and spirit.”
Okay, I would strongly disagree, but I understand that this perception exists…
“I find this negative connotation to be shameful and highly unhelpful. Women could truly benefit from finding a more inspiring word than “feminism” to stand by, as well as stand for, when seeking to become our most powerful and successful selves.”
Really? I agree with the unhelpful negative connotation, but ‘feminism’ is pretty damn inspiring to me…
“We don’t have to make a choice between feminine or powerful and successful. We can be all those things.”
OOH! OOH! Bingo! I definitely agree with this point! Okay keep going…
“With this in mind, I’d like to put forth that starting today, the word ‘feminism’ be updated to become the new word ‘feminine-ism.’”
Wait, WHAT!?!? Eff that.
And so the article goes on. I mean, I understand where the writer is coming from. In our exploration of independence as women, the sacrifice/rejection of traditionally feminine things was necessary at times in order to challenge society to redefine its norms. It also opened up incredible new avenues for women who felt restricted by these gendered roles and images. Today, we are in a much better place to reclaim some of these so-called ‘feminine’ practices. Read the rest of this entry »