How The Pushback on the "War on Women" Gave Feminism a Better Image
As everyone who reads this blog knows, I am probably less sanguine about the outcome of the current assault on women's rights than some, but that's only because I'm old and I foolishly believed much of this was settled long ago when I was young. Maybe it's just that when you reach a certain age you realize that change, both good and bad, happens over a longer time horizon than you were able to see when you were younger and I'm seeing that some things peaked and seem to be going the wrong way.
I am, however, very pleased to see this from Rebecca Traister this morning. I think she's right about it and it's a good sign. I don't know how much influence it will have on policy, but the social implications are important:
Fighting funny may not be inherently more effective than fighting mad, but it does help to correct abiding misapprehensions about feminism as a cheerless vortex: anti-male, anti-sex, anti-porn, anti-fun. In 2012, the anti-everything platform was occupied not by feminist agitators, but the GOP politicians they were battling.
It was presidential candidate Santorum and not, say, feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who complained in March that pornography “contributes to misogyny and violence against women.” Santorum also could be seen, in a widely disseminated interview, barely able to bring himself to say S-E-X, opining instead about how contraception encouraged people to do things “in the sexual realm” that are not “how things are supposed to be.” Virginia Del. David Albo, who sponsored the mandatory-ultrasound bill, was too Victorian to utter the word “vaginal,” and spoke instead of “trans-V this” and “trans-V that” in a tale he told on the Virginia House floor . . . about his wife’s decision not to have sex with him after the ultrasound story became news.[...]
Images of ultrasound wands and all-male congressional hearings; social-media campaigns; these weapons of a rowdy feminist blogosphere goosed boycotts, donations to Planned Parenthood and state-house demonstrations nationwide. Youthful engagement zinged through mainstream popular culture; on “The View” in May, 20-year-old actress Eden Sher recommended Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism: a Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters,” raving that the book “makes it absolutely impossible for anyone, but specifically young females, to not want to take action.”
Women’s rights activism enlivened even small towns such as Dunkerton, Iowa, where residents protested an appearance by Bradlee Dean, a conservative Christian preacher whose band had recently told a group of high school girls that they would “have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren’t virgins”; demonstrators included female students with signs that read, “This is what a feminist looks like.”
For too many years this ridiculously condescending image of feminists as man-hating losers who just "need to get laid" has made far too many otherwise sensible women recoil from claiming the label. It's long past time for it to be put out to pasture.
The stereotype was never correct, by the way. Indeed ,the most famous feminist of our time was Gloria Steinem and she was a very sexually attractive woman. So were most of the women who marched and protested and otherwise pushed the feminist agenda during the second wave. The image of the ugly, hairy "pie-wagon", as Ann Coulter so memorably called them, was a figment of the right's own insecure fever dreams and a throwback to the 60s complaints about hippie style, which were always pathetically crude and juvenile.
Feminism represents all women, young and old, pretty and plain, boisterous and shy, married and single, straight and gay. That's the whole point. Instead of lumping al of us in with some generalized definition of womanhood, feminism seeks to allow each individual the freedom to define herself. One would have thought that would be a major plank of the allegedly liberty loving right, but that's never been the case. The only thing they really think should be free is the benefits they get from the government.