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In Defense of Populist Feminism


Alecto

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I have seen in recent days that there has been a statement by some women that they aren't feminist, or they just don't "get" feminism because they aren't well versed in academic gender studies. The following two articles were posted on The New Statesman in response to some academic criticism of Caitlan Moran's new book, which is much more in line with what some folks are calling "Fourth Wave Populist Feminism" or "Snarky Feminism."

http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2 ... t-feminism

http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2 ... google-you

I have personally experienced that feminism does tend to focus mostly on "White People Problems." I know that my problems as a middle class white woman, even in the mostly male dominated industries I have worked, pales in comparison to someone who is an ethnic or religious minority in the US who faces police profiling and educational disadvantages.

Both of the articles above show different viewpoints on intersectionality and modern feminism. Well worth a read and a discussion.

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“We're clearly not as educated or as well informed as you guys. Best stick to cupcakes and cosmo.â€

I know how Holly and Rhiannon feel :oops:

I can't even claim not to be a white middle class educated person. I'd like to think I'm Paul O'Grady's woodbine sucking granny. But i think 'ignorant' best describes me.

Thanks for the links. Felt I couldn't not reply as, well, y'know.. I'm the women you're talking about. But am a bit terrified at the same time :shifty:

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Thanks for the links.

Part of the problem with feminism is a pattern that goes like this:

1. There is an appeal to the broadest audience possible. Like having the right to vote? Believe that your husband shouldn't have the right to beat you? Guess what - you are a feminist!

2. Then, once in, you get debates where people claim that you aren't really a feminist if you don't believe in X, Y or Z.

[insert flashback to my college days, going around with an identity crisis and trying to resolve my life-long feminist identity with the fact that I liked heterosexual PIV sex/didn't support the Intifada/supported free speech/was interested in traditional Judaism/thought that accused criminals still deserved due process, etc.]

There's also an odd dynamic where concerns of ethnic feminists get dismissed because they identify sources of oppression which are different than the sources of oppression for white, American women. I've noticed that women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji don't fit in a neat box, and sometimes get flack for it.

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I am a fairly average run of the mill middle class woman with a professional job. I am married and I don't run around kicking random men in the balls. I do think women should be respected on an equal footing to men. I think it is important for me to identify myself as a feminist so people who are terrified of the term can see you don't have to be an angry manhater to be a feminist.

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Thanks for the links.

Part of the problem with feminism is a pattern that goes like this:

1. There is an appeal to the broadest audience possible. Like having the right to vote? Believe that your husband shouldn't have the right to beat you? Guess what - you are a feminist!

2. Then, once in, you get debates where people claim that you aren't really a feminist if you don't believe in X, Y or Z.

[insert flashback to my college days, going around with an identity crisis and trying to resolve my life-long feminist identity with the fact that I liked heterosexual PIV sex/didn't support the Intifada/supported free speech/was interested in traditional Judaism/thought that accused criminals still deserved due process, etc.]

There's also an odd dynamic where concerns of ethnic feminists get dismissed because they identify sources of oppression which are different than the sources of oppression for white, American women. I've noticed that women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji don't fit in a neat box, and sometimes get flack for it.

QFT. All of it. Just....all of it.

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I agree with 2xx. Populist feminism is a nice idea up to a point, but it is also a popularity contest, with the winners being (yet again) white, educated, middle class women of a certain level of attractiveness. I liked Caitlan Moran's book, and she is lauded for her "get on with it" mindset, but the whole basis of that mindset is that she has the resources to laugh off a lot of sexism. It's great that she has no angst about hiring a cleaning service and blow job jokes, but she also refuses to acknowledge the privilege that allows her to do so. Blog jobs aren't quite as funny when your the minimum wage cleaning lady being sexually harassed by a supervisor.

I also think Moran has been an asshole about the WOC tweet. Her mentality would bother me a lot less if women like her and Tina Fey were not being lauded as the new face of feminism, and reaping large profits from accepting that role. It is disingenuous for her to make her money and embrace the publicity, and then claim that she doesn't speak for all women and shouldn't be expected to. I don't see what is so populist about a feminism that seems to be an offshoot of mean girl culture. Much of the hype around this just reemphasizes the exclusivity. If you don't look like the cool girls, and you don't think the jokes are funny, then your an over sensitive bitch who can't get on with it. Meh.

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I would make the distinction between socialist and bourgeois feminism. Suffice it to say Meda is QFT.

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the thing to remember is that most publishing houses and academic institutions aren't feminist. The market sure as hell isn't feminist. People of color and radical feminists (Marxist or otherwise) aren't given much voice so much from a failure of feminism as a failure of some feminists to be able to disrupt the kyriarchal system enough.

I mean, we like to slag on Jezebel (everyone I know likes to slag on Jezebel) but it's a Gawker site. Feminist WOC sites like Crunk Feminist Collective don't have the same resources, the same audience, or the same support. The feminist books that get hyped before they come out aren't going to be the most radical, etc.

Which doesn't mean there aren't problems in purely feminist communities - classism, racism, transphobia, all of it exists in the small feminist presses and blog communities and certainly in in-person feminist communities. But it's not fair to take Moran and Wolfe as the leaders of the movement just because they get the big publishing gigs.

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I just don't think you can overlook the attitude by saying that that Moran and Wolf are not leaders. In our society, with their money and large public platform, they are leaders. If they are going to profit off the movement then they can at least take some ownership of their words and actions and take a look around them to observe that their experiences are not the sum total of the cosmos. It does not take a degree in Gender studies to do that.

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oh, I totally agree, and criticizing them is totally valid.

But feminism as a movement and as a school of thought isn't like a political party, with a formal structure and membership cards - it's a whole host of different formal and informal groups. So taking criticism of a single author who was chosen for prominence by a nonfeminist group, and applying it to "feminism", is not just unfair but a little dishonest.

It's like, if there are problems with a writer in Ms. magazine, she's up for criticism, so is the magazing and its editorial board and maybe even its funders. But saying "this has issues and those issues are inherent to feminism" is like saying "The Republican party has been taken over by dominionists and that's why democracy is inherently flawed."

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oh, I totally agree, and criticizing them is totally valid.

But feminism as a movement and as a school of thought isn't like a political party, with a formal structure and membership cards - it's a whole host of different formal and informal groups. So taking criticism of a single author who was chosen for prominence by a nonfeminist group, and applying it to "feminism", is not just unfair but a little dishonest.

It's like, if there are problems with a writer in Ms. magazine, she's up for criticism, so is the magazing and its editorial board and maybe even its funders. But saying "this has issues and those issues are inherent to feminism" is like saying "The Republican party has been taken over by dominionists and that's why democracy is inherently flawed."

Point taken.

The whole notion that there is, or can be, one leader who speaks for all feminists is flawed. How on earth can one person represent 3.5 billion people?

I don't begrudge anyone their own voice and narrative. In fact, that's my point. Their narrative is THEIR narrative, there shouldn't be an assumption that they speak for others, and we should be open to many different narratives under the broad umbrella of feminism.

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I think part of the problem, leader or not, is that a lot of people assume what one feminist says is indicative of all feminists. I think this is especially true online - where those who can otherwise feel marginalized in real life have more of an opportunity to either speak more freely under the cover of an internet pseudonym or within a like minded community. That can lead to a certain level of antagonism and expression of ideas that are not of the mainstream, and if a person's only personal level of exposure is to those particular ideas of feminism, then it certainly can color a person's perspective.

I know that if I had not been exposed to feminism outside of some of the radfem perspectives, I would have never identified as a feminist because of the general anti-transgendered bias in a lot of radfem theory, as well as a lack of inclusiveness.

To me, we need populist feminism. There are so many young women (and men) who refuse to identify as a feminist, because they either have an antiquated idea of the "bra buring, no makeup, no shaving" stereotypes of the 60's and 70's, or they think that all feminist have to hate and be exclusive of men. I think we need people like Tina Fey, who are becoming the new "Fourth Wave" of snarky, cool feminists. I've argued in my own blog we need feminism to be cool again, without compromising the basic principles of equality.

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How would you describe the difference between 3rd wave and 4th wave feminism?

The use of humor and mocking seems to be what most folks are using to loosely define 4th Wave.

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I think part of the problem, leader or not, is that a lot of people assume what one feminist says is indicative of all feminists. I think this is especially true online - where those who can otherwise feel marginalized in real life have more of an opportunity to either speak more freely under the cover of an internet pseudonym or within a like minded community. That can lead to a certain level of antagonism and expression of ideas that are not of the mainstream, and if a person's only personal level of exposure is to those particular ideas of feminism, then it certainly can color a person's perspective.

I know that if I had not been exposed to feminism outside of some of the radfem perspectives, I would have never identified as a feminist because of the general anti-transgendered bias in a lot of radfem theory, as well as a lack of inclusiveness.

To me, we need populist feminism. There are so many young women (and men) who refuse to identify as a feminist, because they either have an antiquated idea of the "bra buring, no makeup, no shaving" stereotypes of the 60's and 70's, or they think that all feminist have to hate and be exclusive of men. I think we need people like Tina Fey, who are becoming the new "Fourth Wave" of snarky, cool feminists. I've argued in my own blog we need feminism to be cool again, without compromising the basic principles of equality.

To the bolded, I would have felt the same. I think it's sad that so many young women and men don't identify as feminist. I think they do it because they don't feel included, or their only exposure to feminism is from a part of the movement they feel excluded by. I've noticed especially on the Internet, people think if one feminist says something, that's true for all feminists. I think the basic principals of equality are the most important part, and the people who don't identify as feminist can be reached when you focus on the importance of equality. Do you have a link to that blog entry anywhere? If you're willing to share, I'd love to read it. But without seeing it, I think I would make a similar argument.

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I think part of the problem, leader or not, is that a lot of people assume what one feminist says is indicative of all feminists. I think this is especially true online - where those who can otherwise feel marginalized in real life have more of an opportunity to either speak more freely under the cover of an internet pseudonym or within a like minded community. That can lead to a certain level of antagonism and expression of ideas that are not of the mainstream, and if a person's only personal level of exposure is to those particular ideas of feminism, then it certainly can color a person's perspective.

I know that if I had not been exposed to feminism outside of some of the radfem perspectives, I would have never identified as a feminist because of the general anti-transgendered bias in a lot of radfem theory, as well as a lack of inclusiveness.

To me, we need populist feminism. There are so many young women (and men) who refuse to identify as a feminist, because they either have an antiquated idea of the "bra buring, no makeup, no shaving" stereotypes of the 60's and 70's, or they think that all feminist have to hate and be exclusive of men. I think we need people like Tina Fey, who are becoming the new "Fourth Wave" of snarky, cool feminists. I've argued in my own blog we need feminism to be cool again, without compromising the basic principles of equality.

I am assuming this is not what you intend, but to me it sounds like what your saying is that we need funny, thin, rich, white women to be the face of "feminism" in order to make it palatable. This makes populist feminism as myopic and narrowly focused as some radfem theory, which can be legitimately be critiqued as feminism for thin, rich, white women (who may or may not be less funny) I am just not seeing the "populist" in this, unless it's the notion that feminism needs to be like the rest of pop culture, pick some societal winners and losers, and get some celebrity endorsements.

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My blog is here:

http://patriarchysnark.blogspot.com/

When I say populist, I mean feminism that is more "of the people" and less academic. Yes, Tina Fey is a thin white woman. But I also think populist feminism can be represented by Sara Robles (the Olympic lifter) and her fight to be respected as an athlete at her size. I think populist feminism is also represented in the lyrics of women like Meshell Ndegeocello who speak of the unique experiences of African American women (though you can argue she is third wave). The idea is that feminism needs to be identifiable to a larger audience. Yes, that means some "pop culture" -ifying of feminism, if only to get it in the hands of more people. If more people who are famous for other accomplishments can identify as feminists, it makes it more acceptable.

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My blog is here:

http://patriarchysnark.blogspot.com/

When I say populist, I mean feminism that is more "of the people" and less academic. Yes, Tina Fey is a thin white woman. But I also think populist feminism can be represented by Sara Robles (the Olympic lifter) and her fight to be respected as an athlete at her size. I think populist feminism is also represented in the lyrics of women like Meshell Ndegeocello who speak of the unique experiences of African American women (though you can argue she is third wave). The idea is that feminism needs to be identifiable to a larger audience. Yes, that means some "pop culture" -ifying of feminism, if only to get it in the hands of more people. If more people who are famous for other accomplishments can identify as feminists, it makes it more acceptable.

I agree with this. My concern is that the current list of "funny feminists" do not include Sara Robles or Meshell Ndegeocello. It is currently a pretty short list. I hope that list expands, but dont hold out much hope for that as long as one of the funny feminists tweets that she doesnt give a shit about WOC in the media. And then doubles down on the comment. Ande then is defended by many people why imploy that WOC are just being whiney victims if they express criticism of that statement. I wish some of the 4th wavers would spend more time actually mocking the power structure and less time marginalizing other women. (Again, I realize that feminism has no official "leaders", it is not a membership organization, but these are women who have been lauded as leaders by the media, speak on these issues, and make money writing about their version of feminism. If they are going to embrace the benefits, then they need to embrace some of the responsibilities that go along with being a media darling)

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I just did some googling and found the "I don't give a shit" twitter comment. Yeah, it deserves criticism.

I hadn't read her book, but just read some excerpts and interviews.

One on hand, I agree with the idea that first-world women are living within a feminist context, but at the same time I think we really need to say that we're living in a global village and there are a hideous number of women who are NOT getting even the most basic of rights today. In a world where we have immigration and international trade, how do you say, "well, my backyard is pretty feminist"?

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