Yep, don't we all have to make 'em. All the time. The un/examined concessions of women my age appear to be fanning the fires of another feminist generational holocaust.
The Pussycat Dolls are empowering. Indeed. We've grown up seeing women do most things they've never had the chance to do before. We see these women in highly promoted situations. The American media of the 70's loved "first women" stories. The skimmed and dessert displayed cream is supposed to inspire all of us other vagina-americans to forget about what still binds us. Obviously, we just aren't working hard enough. You can have it all. All you need to do is graduate at the top of your class without ever intimidating the intelligence of the boys, climb to the top of your corporation without scaring off your husband pool, pick a mate by the combined size of his shoulder pads and bank account, deliver several children through scheduled c-section so as not to interfere with your business trips, then at the end of a long day, don that corset for your husband and pray it keeps him from going to strippers. Who, exactly, is liberated again?
Starting in the 80's, we were sold liberation at $3.99 per tube of "natural" lip gloss and $4.50 per pack of Virginia Slims. Don't stop buying the stuff we've been deliberately hawking to your insecurities at being insufficiently feminine/subordinate. Instead, just keep buying the same kinds of stuff, because now it promises sexual freedom. And now that every individual part of your body is liberated for sexual display, not just the idea of you as a woman, we'll show you places to wax that you'd never even thought of before. Thank you, capitalism. What the hell happens when all of these ideas intersect in the mind of a 20-year-old?
Much, much, much more about this has been written by many, many, many other people. More eloquent feminists than I. But fuck'all if this isn't shaping up to be a large component of my adult identity!
So here it goes. Older feminists accuse the younger generation of frivolity, with the understandable hurt at essentially seeing their daughters blow off everything they lived for. Younger feminists and "feminists" reject the criticisms as vehemently as daughters brush off advice from their mothers. This all makes sense in an interpersonal sense.
I have to say, though, that I think my generation is far more to blame for this tension. We think that learning about all the "waves" is enough to internalize what our mothers and their mothers were talking about. It's not. They are reluctant to take us seriously because they see us referencing feminism while discussing the value of pole dancing as sexual expression. And they're on to something, girls. We as a generation (at least those of us who are even willing to use the label "feminist, which is a sad minority) are either failing to understand the level to which we, too, must concede and are conceding to the power structures at hand, or are failing to sufficiently articulate our understanding of the inherent contradictions within our speech and actions.
Granted, the older generations often fail, willfully or not, to comprehend our circumstances. All women, everywhere, all the time, have to concede to the patriarchy. Because it's there and it's not going anywhere. Even living on an all-feminist commune completely off the capitalist grid is a concession of sorts, because defining yourself in opposition to still grants legitimacy to the rejected institution, turning the ideal created in the commune into a Bizarro World, when it should be a norm. I think older women, when examining their own life concessions, underestimate the political importance of ours, and thus write us off as silly, vapid, etc. This is unfortunate.
But it is not their job to understand us and place us in context of the movement. It is our job to successfully explain and contextualize ourselves.
Nobody likes hearing criticism of their decisions. Especially not in this age of "it's my hot body I do what I want" "feminism." Women my age, we've been told our whole lives that we're "liberated" (and we damn well better be grateful), but also that we should want to constantly present ourselves as sex objects because, well, sex is fun! And our choice! Why would prudes want to harsh on our choices?
What we are not being told, homegirls, is that the patriarchy (in its current American incarnations as free-market capitalism, religious fundamentalism, and consumerism) hasn't gone anywhere. Any. Where. Every "choice" is made after constantly breathing the noxious culture all around us. So while some of us may find the commercial lipstick-liberation rhetoric obnoxious, being told that we overall have no full agency due to our continued second-class status just plain hurts. It hurts because it contradicts every other message of "liberation" we've received. But who packaged those commercial liberation ideas for us? It sure as hell wasn't the spinster aunts out to ruin our twentysomething good time. Direct your rage of injustice at those who deserve it.
So, in words probably dating back to some "consciousness-raising" sessions from the 70's, what we need to do is learn how to articulate our needs as a generation. If we want older feminists to understand that our world is an even more highly sexualized minefield of impossible standards than 30 years ago, we need to say that. If we find aspects of our liberated culture of raunch appalling, we need to say that. I believe there is some feminist conventional wisdom about the silence of complicity so often observed in men. Well, girls, we're guilty of it too.
Likewise, we are obligated to justify our concessions, just as the older women are obligated to listen to our justifications fairly with an open mind to our different circumstances. Yes, our circumstances are different. And, in many ways, we can "choose" to do many more things than our mothers and grandmothers. But can we expect those things to automatically make sense to them? For a group of women who fought to erase the virgin/whore binary system of femininity, seeing the next generation effectively saying "Fuck it, let's all be whores, they at least get paid cash" does not look like progress. Let's keep our eyes on the ball here.
If you resent having to intelligently justify your decisions, maybe you're making destructive ones. Just a thought.
(there will be a part II, when I talk about my own life, sometime.)
Current Music: Róisín Murphy