Anti-Empire

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I dunno.

I see wearing you're coming from - feminism shouldn't need to be "sold" so aggressively and you're right that Valenti seems to be choosing a communications strategy that either minimizes or dumbs down political analysis.

However, I find it hard to fault a lot of what she's doing, because, yes feminism is about justice and it shouldn't be as individual or isolated as her editorial suggests. But the thing is, she's right. Feminism is about making women's lives better. You do have more fun when you, y'know, actually like and respect yourself. It seems so difficult to consider something so basic as that revolutionary but when you consider how woman have been trained precisely *not* to like and respect themselves, just making that decision and sticking with it becomes very, very important.

So, in the end, I dunno. I'm loathe to say "down with" any type of feminism, even if it's not my personal type (I need a materialist analysis to really ground what's happening).

Also, whatever disagreements I have with Valenti's style, I have big praise for her and feministing.com for being tireless advocates for reproductive freedom in a country that's conducting an all-out assault on same. And unlike the Clintons and some of the other triangulators, feminsting.com has been unwavering in insisting on full choice, full reproductive freedom, full stop. (No attempts to find a "middle ground" or any such nonsense - as if there is any middle ground with people who think it's better for women to die than to interfere with any potential, unrealized life, no matter how faint that potential is.)

I hear what you're saying, Kuri. I do appreciate the cultural analyses that can be found on feministing.com and I agree that they have been solid advocates for reproductive rights.

But, I have real problems with feminism being sold as pretty "friggin' cool". Feminism is reduced to an identity - perhaps, they'll make some new coloured wrist bands for us to sport.

Valenti's books is sold as follows: "More confidence, healthier relationships, better sex ..."

The reality is that feminism that extends beyond cultural analyses is not so cool; it is not well-received. And, it may require many of us to feel not so great about ourselves when we realize our liberation is coming at the expense of other women.

Valenti concludes her promo piece in the Guardian as follows:

"Feminists do it better. Sorry, we just do. It makes sense - when you don't have to feel guilty, slutty or ashamed, when you feel free to have sex entirely on your own terms, it tends to be much more enjoyable. So much for that myth that feminists hate sex."

Yes, I like to think with my fiesty thinking, I am savage sex kitten in the bedroom. But, here's the thing, while Valenti (who is pro-porn from everything I've read on feministing) is delighting in what a liberated, self-loving, sex goddess she is, I am ashamed - shamed to have delighted in my own liberation while never asking: at whose expense?

Young feminist might get over their body image and self-hatred problems a lot quicker if they got in touch with the conditions faced by women across the globe. Indeed, a materialist analysis of issues provides us with understanding and solutions. Faced with fashion mags, a young woman requires more cognitive resistance than "I'm okay. Women are misrepresented in our society. I'm a fun feminist and I love myself." In lieu of this, they can begin to think of the ways they are being marketed to and being kept busy discussing body politics, while being marginalized from larger discussions.

I am tired of seeing the slogan: "Feminism is the radical idea that women are people." The radical ideas of feminism don't stop there. While "equality feminism" dominates the mainstream, we have been co-opted. The revolutionary ideas of feminism have given way to easy, breezy feminism.

Let's charge ahead with radical, political, materially grounded feminism. There's some serious fucking to be done well beyond the bedroom.

Hmm...I see where you're coming from, Polly, but also what Kuri's getting at, too.

On the one hand, I do find myself rolling my eyes at about half of the posts on Feministing, and I would never buy Valenti's book. But at the same time, I can't entirely fault them for doing feminist work in a way that makes it relatable to American women who might not be ready yet for on-the-ground, frontline activism. It's not necessarily dumbed-down, I think, just more accessible.

You're right that there are more important things in the world than Yankee orgasms...but it can be very difficult and frustrating to sell radicalism to the masses. It's probably the reason that more people read Bitch than Ms..

I'm all for hearing ways to attract converts to the more serious type of activism you describe.

Thanks for the great writing, and keep up the good work :)

I appreciate your comments, Jayney. I disagree though that the way to go is to make things marketable. Just as the rhetoric of 'sustainable growth' makes people becomes less critical of growth strategies, trade policies, and so on, a watered-down feminism obscures the issues that need to be addressed. In my view, we are losing the 'war of position'. We must insist that the revolutionary positions of feminism are heard.

An example, in my view, of marketing more radical ideas is Adbusters.

I think a group blog of socialist feminists, ecofeminists, radical feminists, etc. could be very successful as well.

"I can't entirely fault them for doing feminist work in a way that makes it relatable to American women who might not be ready yet for on-the-ground, frontline activism."

I've seen Feministing issue more calls for drinking parties in clubs and to watch them advance their feminist careers with appearances at conference this, that and the other than I have seen "feminist work" going on there.

If a troupe of women flashing their bare breasts and raising cocktail glasses in an anti-toast to five supreme court justices might have made a difference in their terrible decision then Feministing would have my blessings. It doesn't and I yearn for a feminist activism that goes deeper than inventing silly REALLY hot awards to give to each other and parties, parties, parties with "naughty" giveaways and all.

I'm a feminist and even I can't take that kind of "feminist activism" seriously, so I doubt others will either.

"I'm a feminist and even I can't take that kind of "feminist activism" seriously, so I doubt others will either."

I think you've raised a key issue. Which is more important: to have a larger group of women identify themselves as feminists or to maintain the integrity of feminist activism?

I would rather align with radical feminists like those who belong to RAWA, Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era, Gabriela and so on and make some changes in this world.

I am not willing to cater to the "I'm not a feminist, but..," crowd.

I also feel we get marginalized into focusing on reproductive rights and issues of violence against women. Perhaps, if we focused on foriegn policy, economics and so on, our individual rights would not be in such vulnerable positions. If the Bush camp can go to war so easily against Iraq and erect fences along its border, it most certainly is not going to think the territories of our bodies are off limits.

Valenti and crew suffer from myopic vision.

Myopic vision, indeed. Not to mention the creation of unhealthy boundaries of who's "in" and who's "out" based largely on lifestyle choices, not on the substance (or lack thereof) behind those choices. Positioning feminism as "cool" devalues it as a political tool. Should feminists be able to drink and dance freely in clubs. Certainly. Should this be hailed as "what we're fighting for?" I'm not so sure. Particularly when it's not balanced with self-awareness and more serious discussion of these issues, like how alcohol is the #1 date rape drug and it's promoted like crazy on Feministing. I recognize that this is a bit of a spurious argument, but I think it's one of many things pertaining to feminism that should be talked about. And I don't see that happening on a lot of feminist blogs. Feministing just happens to have name recognition and that makes it an easy target.

Thanks for stopping by, FR.

I think you make a good point about alcohol, partying, and rape. I always thought I was super liberated, free, and so on. I think many women who are assaulted, however, realize very quickly that oppression persists in the form of victim blaming and so on. I think women who have had abortion may have a similar realization. While they may have always felt confident in championing their formal right to abortion, their actual life experience may make them more aware of all the shaming mechanisms that persist in society.

Another matter, is that there are mutiple feminisms. I have issues with liberal feminism in general.

I just re-read this post and the comments after being quite disappointed with another feministing post and the comments that followed. It's not directly related to the topic of this post, but it made me think about where feminism has gone. I'm amazed that a woman posting on a feminist blog is surprised to learn that the clitoris is the center of women's orgasms.

THANK YOU! I got to this old post by googling "faux-feminism," and I am so fucking tired of its vacuousness claiming to be empowerfulness-cubed. Even before I knew to identify as feminist (I was naive and knew of my equality inherently...HA!), I was curious about the history of the movement one day. Imagine my SHOCK and horror to find that its modern incarnation is of this pro-prostitution/porn fare. It's one thing to be into this as some personal tastes (even that is questionable), but to conflate it with politics and in the NAME OF FEMINISM ITSELF? Holy shit! This absurdity is what got me interested in feminism. I guess I am a "radical" feminist, in that I have actually always been a radical feminist belief-wise, because I grew up sane and free of dysfunction. I'm still trying to figure out--what is so "radical" about reality anyway?

*Sorry about the grammar ("some personal tastes"...?), but I think you know what I meant.

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