OK, I missed something here

December 05, 2003

Via LeeAnn I see that Dana at Note-It-Posts has started a new blogger alliance called Bloggers with Boobies. There is also a sub-group for men called Bloggers who Support Bloggers with Boobies.

Dana wanted "a badge of pride for all strong, self-assured female bloggers ..." and, in the spirit of someone who is pefectly willing to tell folks she disagrees with to "suck my left tit" she decided to use boobies as her rallying signal.

This is fine by me - I like strong, self-assured women, I like boobies, I think a little crudity adds spice to conversation even though too much potty language destroys conversation.

What threw me was how Dana finished her manifesto: "a badge of pride for all strong, self-assured female bloggers (like me) who refuse to be ashamed about their femininity. We're the anti-feminists."

I guess I have been hanging out with the wrong sort of feminists, because I am more familiar with the body-aware feminists who urge women to "own your cunt", who celebrate bodily differences while denying, absolutely and unequivocally, that these bodily differences should be related to power hierarchies.

To steal definitions from Nancy Cott, an ahistorical definition of feminism in the long twentieth century - describing the ideal type rather than one particular manifestation of similar ideas and organizations - boils down to:
1, A distinction between sex (plumbing) and gender (how we act, think, and react to others).
2, An awareness that sexual differences are real, exist and will continue to exist
3, A rejection of social hierarchy based on gender
4, An awareness that gender roles are socially constructed, not Divinely or genetically defined
5, A sense of social solidarity or group awareness among women.

Now, to some extent I am arguing against a straw man woman in this little rant. Dana does not appear to be arguing against feminism as I defined it above. Rather, like many young people in the twentyfirst century, it appears that she has allowed one particular group of feminists to own the label, and because she disagrees with the violent prissiness of the Andrea Dworkin crowd, she must be an anti-feminist.

When talking about gender roles in class I often use the following exercise. I first ask how many people in the room describe themselves as feminists. Almost none raise their hands. I then lay out Cott's definition, especially the rejection of power hierarchies based on gender, and ask how many agree with that. Almost all do agree. Then I point out that I have just defined feminism, and ask them why they embrace the goals while denying the label. It always leads to an interesting discussion. I am trying to replicate that discussion in this blog and trackback.

Now, it might be that I am being like King Canute here, only without his irony, working against a tide in changing group identity labels and against a tide in changing notions of gender norms. In other words, it might be that the mainstream feminists have succeeded so completely that all we ever hear about are the wild-eyed crazies or the anti-feminists who want to take schools back for boys, turn the constantly redefining sets of gender norms in another direction, and regain some level of male entitlement. Or, it might be that I am missing something crucial in Dana's world view.

Posted by Red Ted at December 5, 2003 12:40 PM | TrackBack