Sunday, December 21

What feminism means to me.

Would this blog get more links, have higher "revenue" (what's that?), or a bigger hit count if I were a man? Well, I could sit here and at long last confess that in my other blog life I'm Eschaton, but you probably wouldn't believe me.

I love this comment thread, not only because the people in it are smart and lively but they're also honest. And I want to address directly those who feel a twinge of guilt when their eyes roll back as they hear the word "feminism."

That's alright. It's taken me a while to come to grips with what feminism means to me. I'm working on it, because I think it's worth working on.

Feminism means very different things to different people. I can only speak for myself. Ma hunnies, I've been abused, overlooked, put down, touched inappropriately, pushed, underpaid, and attacked simply because of my gender.

But with all of that I don't believe that the world is an evil place where I have to fight all the time to make it better. I can laugh a lot, love a lot, work hard, eat, kiss, knit, read and with all of that make the world better.

Oh, and I can write.

There are some times when you just have to fight. I get that. Trust me, I get it that "being good" does not always win the battle. I've admitted big defeat in that arena. Sometimes you have to be bad and you have to kick ass and you have to get out. I get that.

The reason I respond more often with resilience than anger has much to do with having a mother and father who listened to me. They treated my opinions with respect, so as I grew up and some jerk groped me, I knew I was of value and didn't have to put up with that. It took a lot longer when I had to abandon dreams of being a so-called good wife in order to endorse my inherent value, but I did that too.

Power is the right to say no to what you don't want, and yes to what you do. And to be treated with respect regardless of your own personal choice, provided that choice does not harm others.

Recently I've discovered the world of "sex-positive feminism." In the seventies this world was about telling off Andrea Dworkin, all sex is NOT rape and all porn is not anti-women, etc. I think sex-positive feminism has become a little less about that and a little more about enjoying one's sexuality, even if that means you are not exerting but rather surrendering power in doing so. It still amazes me that feminists who will march in the streets (justifiably) to allow two men or two women to marry each other, point with horror at certain other sexual deviances which are clearly consensual, and cry rape or warn that they're triggering or even misogynistic.

Extreme case here, but what if you are a woman who enjoys tying up other women, and find women who enjoy being tied up? Those were the original sex-positive feminists. They said, "Wait a minute, you think we leather dykes are, ahem, endorsing patriarchy? Somehow we're collaborating with the subjugation of women? And we're not invited to your "real" feminist colloquium on pornography as a human rights violation because we like photography? Pardon our French, but fuque vous."

One friend said it's like complaining about driving. The car ahead of you is always going too slow and the car behind you is too fast. If you sit in judgment against everyone, then the only person driving the correct speed is you. So all of what is right and wrong sexually is what YOU PERSONALLY can handle in terms of your own judgmental comfort level.

But wait a minute, Blue Gal, I thought this post was going to be about feminism, and you're making it a post about sex!

My point exactly. And to seal the deal, I have a little "Women's Studies in Popular Culture" class exercise for anyone who thinks I'm off the mark.

Listen to the song below, and then deconstruct Mary J. Blige by writing an essay based on one of the following options (choose only one, turn in your bluebooks via the comment thread below):

A. Convince us that because she sings this song, Mary J. Blige is not a good feminist.

B. (Advanced feminist critics only) Write a porno script that incorporates Mary J. Blige and her drummer. Make it good.


  1. B! BBBBBBBBB!!!! B!

    Oh my. I think I need to stick my slightly overheated brain-pan outdoors for a moment...


    Ah, better. What I meant to say was:

    There are some times when you just have to fight. I get that. Trust me, I get it that "being good" does not always win the battle.

    It's built into Canadians: "polite" and "pushover" are not synonyms. Valuable information whichever side of a debate you're on.

    Hmm. A post about sexuality and my word verification is "trann". Think Blogger's trying to tell me something?

  2. yes, wow, do i agree with you!
    i have said for years that my trying to be "kind" does not mean that i am weak. no one could make it tru some of my life and be "weak"
    trying to see the other side of things does not make me a doormat.
    picking which battles to fight to me, is the smart thing.
    some people look to take offence.
    they search offense out and then rant about it to the point that it has a negative effect on whatever issue they champion.
    people that insist on their way for everyone else even in feminist issues are no better than the sleazy televangelists that condemn everyone but "their" type of christian to hell.
    to me, for me, i can not be a "feminist" without being a "peoplist" as i call it. if you can not raise a woman up without pushing a man down then you do a disservice to both.
    push down the unfairness, the evil, the hurtful and care for all people. and if a person is wrong and hurting you, hurting others, call them on it and do what you have to do even if that person is another woman.
    i'm going to be 57 next month and i've been thru a lot. most women my age have and i'll be damned if i'm going to have anyone, let another woman or woman's group tell me how i should live the rest of my life or with who or HOW i should conduct myself in my most private moments.

  3. and you can write. indeedy. sometimes like a house on fire. like this here.

  4. Nice post. I'd basically call myself a sex-positive feminist, although the term has a lot of baggage. I wrote about the terminology issue last spring. (That post has some very useful links to other people's thoughts on it, too, such as figleaf's and Sunflower's.)

    I teach women's studies, so I get to wrestle with these issues all the time. A lot of what I try to do in my writing and teaching relates to the question of how can feminism help us build more joyful, satisfying lives. I'm with Emma Goldman: if I can't dance, I don't want to be part of the revolution.

    Sex is a big part of living with joy. Feminism can enhance this. What frustrates me is that so much of sex positive feminism is aimed in one of two main directions: defending power as a legitimate erotic element between lesbians, or affirming sex work and the people who perform it. Not to knock that at all - but I'd like to see more attention paid to how regular old heterosexuality can be transformed by sex-positive feminism. I try to do this in some of my sexuality posts, and figleaf is wonderful on this score, but it's still largely a neglected area, especially in academic feminism.

    In general, while I think there are moments when anger is appropriate and even necessary, I also believe that if you get stuck there, you'll go nowhere, politically *and* personally. I *do* judge drivers all the time (hey, you would too if you lived in Ohio!) but in the rest of my life I try to let compassion and empathy be my guiding star. This is probably one reason I enjoy your work, Blue Gal, because even when you're snarky or annoyed, there's a generous spirit that shines through.

  5. Precisely why I have embraced my savage side. There are times and places for "nice" for "kind," I get that and usually comply, however there are far more times for speaking up and that often pisses other people off. I'm planning one of those times tomorrow when I go to group therapy with a bunch of depressed Mormon matrons. When asked why I'm so sad this year, I plan to talk about the fact that, being gay (wish I were) and having the Mormon Church support the passage of Prop 8 has ruin my chances of wedded bliss with my gay lover. I will no doubt cry big crocodile tears. Does this make me mean, a fraud, or is it an act of feminist outrage taken to it's logical conclusion?

  6. Anonymous4:16 PM

    "Power is the right to say no to what you don't want, and yes to what you do. And to be treated with respect regardless of your own personal choice, provided that choice does not harm others."

    True dat.

    I think one of the keys to making sexuality less about power and exploitation is gaining the cultural maturity to talk about sexuality. Just ask. Then follow Blue Gal's value above.

    Regarding Ms. Blige's song, I tried to listen to it as "Feel like a Man" and inserting gender appropriate pronouns. Hell, it's a love song. The singer wants to cut all the bullshit and get close. To feel more human. The beauty of this song and this post is, she is asking for what she wants.

  7. Wasn't entirely certain what feminism was, but I support equality for women. Thank you.

  8. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Feminism ought to be humanism; as in, why should a woman not be free to do as she pleases? Is is just inherent in humanity to try to set up "big me little you" caste societies? Do we have the ability to rise above it?

    I really wonder.

  9. Yes-totally agree with you! That Huff post was Dworkinistic! I love your ideas and views. I am new to reading your blog, but always enjoy coming here and look forward to reading your work in the new year!

    As an aside-that was Thom Yorke from Radiohead in the background of that Mary JB video, wasn't it?! Odd sighting, but he seemed to be really enjoying the song!!


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