Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pondering the Feminist Agenda

I woke up grouchy this morning.

Maybe it's due to financial insecurity. Or this sinus headache. Or general rage at my former employer who may have played favorites with her employees and retaliated against anyone who went over her head, but is protected by narrowly written laws that benefit the bosses. It's beyond annoying, but it's a fact that must be accepted.

I might be grumpy as a result of the because the banging and crashing metal at the construction site out my window. A fifteen story building is going up next door - part of a larger project that's been making a racket for two full years now. Another unpleasant fact that must be accepted along with the economic clusterfuck that traps me here for who knows how long.

Or maybe it's just PMS.

One of the things I have been contemplating now that Velvet is safely occupied learning important life lessons with my parents in Texas is convoluted feminism. Sarah Palin's antics and popularity have made me wonder if there's room at the feminist table for girls who liked Barbie. Not that Sarah Palin is a feminist by any means. But there are plenty of women who had princess phones and pedicures who are just as outraged by the patriarchy as anyone else. Often women who acknowledge that there are inherent, biological differences between males and females and/or who choose to follow a more traditional path feel excluded by main stream and radical feminists.

My mother has never been a Girly-girl. She wore plastic goggles while she knocked out tile with a sledge hammer and renovated our home. Since she was home when her kids got out of school and considered her family was her career, many first wave feminists looked down their noses at her. If feminism was supposed to prove anything, it's that people of all genders should have the freedom to make their own life choices. Those choices should be treated equally under the law and in the work place and in divisions of domestic labor. No one's life choices should be dictated by anyone else's ideas on proper gender roles. That so many "feminists" seem to denigrate the choices of other women as somehow counter feminist is distinctly problematic to the movement as a whole.

Further, many of these same feminists are quick to attack men - who clearly have to deal with their own brand of bullshit under the patriarchy. Granted, white men make more money and have benefited in many ways from the double-standard that seems to be a Republican banner. That people manipulate the rules of this patriarchal society for their own gain is no surprise. Phyllis Schafly provides one of my favorite examples of this irrationality since this woman ditched her family to grab the national spotlight and make a bundle by telling other women they should be staying home nurturing their families.

People who benefit from the status quo are not interested in changing anything. That's why so many Republicans of all genders, and other people who aren't as easily labeled, cling to the Eisenhower era. That's why Ronald Regan told white people to go back to the suburbs and shop. It's what Jimmy Carter was talking about in the Malaise Speech - our commitment to consumerism, material possessions and other sundry bullshit. People who capitalize on exploitation - arms dealers, crooked bankers, industrial polluters, grandiose politicians: that's the result of this patriarchy. All people suffer regardless of gender - not just women. Ergo: there has to be room at the feminist table for everyone not just women who went to Ivy League schools and studied Women's History from militant feminist professors.

One of the reasons Sarah Palin got where she did today is a result of a large percentage of American women feeling so alienated by condescending, confrontational "feminists" that they won't even consider calling themselves feminists even as they themselves struggle to receive equal pay for equal work. I'm not sure why Sally Ride said feminism had nothing to do with her being an astronaut. Without the feminists, Sally Ride would have been a nurse, a teacher, a secretary or a mother. The end. Those were the choices. Perhaps Sally Ride had her nose in a math book and didn't read her history as she became a role model to little girls. Little Girls who liked science and weren't afraid to show it because they might not be popular with the other kids - especially the boys.

But some of those smart little girls liked tiaras and Barbie. And some of the boys liked tiaras and Barbie, too. That orientation is just as valid as refusing to shave your arm pits while reading Simone de Beauvior.

When I saw this photo of Farrah Fawcett, I thought: Now that's what fifty looks like.

Maybe some people won't remember that when told she didn't look fifty, Gloria Steinem said, "This is what fifty looks like." Naked Farrah would piss off a whole lot of feminists - and not only feminists with big asses and bad hair cuts. When she was young and hot, Farrah wouldn't even show her tits because she wanted to be taken seriously. As a mature woman, Farrah could do what she wanted and showed the world that fifty can be just as visually stimulating and very likely much more intellectually and sensually stimulating than mere youth. That's a feminist statement.

All this polarization and infighting among people who should be working together for the common good led to the rise of Sarah Palin and the audacious behavior of Dick Cheney, et al. This phenomenon is evidence that everything Jimmy Carter said was wrong with America is still wrong.

Plenty of people say Jimmy Carter sucked as a president. Maybe he did suck, but time has shown Carter was right on many counts. Maybe thirty years later, we're ready to give his famous speech, Energy and the National Goals - A Crisis of Confidence, the attention it deserves.

Carter's Speech Therapy, NYTimes, July 14, 2009


The Peach Tart said...

Damn....I couldn't have said it better myself. Keep it up.

Gail said...

Hi there-

I "ditto" Peach Tart. You are such an excellent writer - and I love the image of your mother with the goggles and sledge hammer. Your influences are SO vast.

Love to you

PENolan said...

Thanks, kids.

Jaliya said...

Beautifully said ... Huge thanks xo

Utah Savage said...

Great post. I worked as hard to get Carter elected and I did for Obama. I thought Carter was a great president and in the long view, history will see him as such.

I am a feminist. And I have always believed that women who chose to stay home and raise a family had a damn hard job that should be paid labor and come with the benefits all labor should have. I also think women who work in the sex industries should be able to organize and receive all the same rights as other workers. I'm a critic of Barbie and have written a series of Aging Barbie pieces. Barbie and Playboy entered the zeitgeist at about the same time. Then the term "hardbody" became part of the language when referring to the ideal female form. Then implants and vaginal rejuvenation. A pedicure is a good thing. A pussy that looks like an eight year olds on a fifty year old woman is not. It's perverse and so is our culture.

Again, great piece of thinking and writing. PMS was never like that for me.

Maggie May said...

Your blog is so interesting. I love the title itself ;) and your thoughts are intelligent, easy to read, brimming with vibrancy.

Victoria said...

Nice. Some of your posts make my blogging easier... since you say things so well, why repeat (-:

PENolan said...

Pussy Rejuvenation? Oy!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. I was kind of chicken to post this one for fear I'd get yelled at by somebody. It's hard to be a chicken but I'm trying to get over it.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

I earnestly believe myself to be a 'feminist' male because I earnestly support the assertion of our mutual equivalency in the calculus of the stars. Your essay is evocative and persuasive and very much apropos to your situation, as I read it. Nicely done!

dissed said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

PENolan said...

Hey Woody and dissed - yeah, it's funny the way the mind can cogitate on stuff when kids aren't taking all the oxygen out of the air.

dissed said...

And how about that photo? I wasn't that fit at 25, when I ran a mile a day, walked to and from work and lifted weights.

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