A Nomen Nescio says:
now and then i run into self-described feminists who insist that people should read up on the basics of feminism before commenting on it. these are folks who can get very upset with anyone who tries to criticize what they (the "anyone") see as "feminism" without first having read some laundry list of classics the self-described feminist considers essential to any enlightened debate and criticism of the subject. these are the sort of people who'd not only start "feminism 101" websites, but insist you have to go read all the back archives of same before speaking up on feminism.
which, y'know, is reasonable in itself. there's lots of subjects that people really should read up on before jumping in with both feet and landing with them both in their own mouths. no reason why feminism can't be one more such subject, really.
except... that's usually the case with subjects of academic study. ivory tower stuff, where the language used is highly technical jargon and one reason to read up is just so you'll be able to understand what's being said, and so on.
but if you want to have a grassroots movement for social change --- that is, political activism --- then you really can't afford to retreat into the ivory tower. if you want to change the society we all live in, you'll have to speak to everybody using everyday language that nobody needs any special education to parse. that's really just the way social activism works, i think.
so, is feminism an academic specialty for rarefied study, or is it a grassroots in-the-trenches movement for changing how everybody lives? can any one thing be both at once?
My off the cuff response:
eh, i feel two ways about it. yes, there is more to feminism than usually gets talked about on the blogosphere, and it'd be nice if more people...read more. and no, activism and theory are definitely not exclusive.
meanwhile, thing about feminism 101, that actual site as conceived, I mean, is meant more as a sort of perma-intrablogular FAQ so that other topics elsewhere don't get dragged down, over and over, by people responding to the same questions or points that have been posed by other people a million times before. this, i don't have a problem with. it's not that the concepts are so difficult, it's, well, FAQ.
but yeah, i do find it obnoxious when people throw around shit like "this is advanced feminism," particularly when it's painfully obvious that if there -were- any such thing, that would not be it: 9 times out of 10, it's not about o say comparing subtle differences between early radical feminism, socialist feminism, and cultural feminism, or an exegesis of Helene Cixous' idea of the "abject," or even a non-academic but still complex "personal is political" discussion of the ways in which sexism intersects (o noez) with racism, homophobia, ableism, classism...
but no, most of the time, no no no. usually what it means is, the person is pulling rank, making up in spittle and volume what she (sometimes even he) lacks in either activist cred -or- theoretical chops. much less plain ol' decent behavior toward the actual other women in the topic...
"Cool it. I'm an ice cream salesman. I am senior to both of you."
forget it, Jake, it's Internetstown.
That doesn't really address how it does and doesn't play out in what is laughingly known as "real life," I realize.
There is also the (long predating Internets) feminist concept of "the personal is political," which has been tossed about here before, and if I can find the relecant conversations, I'll come back and link 'em.
Nutshell, mine at least: it was supposed to be, and this was indeed a radical concept, once, that so-called "trivial" shit, iow everything normally consigned to the domestic sphere, is also part of the political structure.
So, basically, what this means in practical terms is, sometime during the throes of the Boomer generation sociopolitical upheavals, a number of women who'd been fighting for various leftist causes looked at their lives and then each other, and went,
"You know, Radical Robbie keeps yakking away about labor, and don't get me wrong, I support the union, too; but somehow he doesn't seem to make any connection between the exploitation of the Workers (tm) and the fact that I'm expected to make his damn dinner and do his laundry, without pay, while he yaks away, completely oblivious as to how dinner got on the table and the clean clothes got in his drawer. What's wrong with this picture?"
...among other things. Including reproduction and yes, sexuality in general, which is arguably where the whole thing went pear shaped. Or perhaps, where it became not just "including" but "primarily about, to the exclusion or at least dwarfing of all else." I'm not gonna argue that either way right now. Certainly it's gonna be explosive, because its incredibly intimate and we have (again, arguably, depending on your standpoint) all manner of collective sexual and bodily hangups which cannot be rectified by anti-misogyny alone, although yes, there does seem to be a connection.
Anyway. Long story short, for whatever reason, and however it came about, what seems to have happened here is, "the personal is political" has devolved, by and large, into
"If we all rigorously police ourselves and each other for our individual choices, some of which blatantly support the Patriarchy (tm) and others do not, all those individual decisions to abstain from porn-watching, lipstick wearing, blowjob-giving, and so forth, will add up to Revolution. This is by no means Underpants Gnome logic. p.s. By a total coincidence, those things which I need and value in my own life are among the acceptable compromises or even no problem at all, whereas the things -you- need and value are frivolous at best, oppressive of women, which is to say Me, at worst, and you really need to stop doing it or at least feel guilty about it or I can't treat you like a human being. Why must you be so divisive? You must not be a real feminist. No, really, you're not a feminist. ...Where have all the feminists gone?"
Kim has apparently been thinking along similar lines, again. Or rather: here is, perhaps, where that pesky "intersection" comes in:
In Ideal Feminism, all prostitutes are poverty-stricken addicts, bonus if they are under the thumb of an evil male pimp. These prostitutes are all miserable, broken shells of women who want desperately to be set free from sex slavery and addiction.
In Ideal Feminism, all women in domestic violence shelters are beaten and broken frail little husks of themselves, desperate to embrace a life free from the men who abused them.
In Ideal Feminism, homeless women are victims as well; victims of deadbeat dads who don't pay child support; unable to find employment due to sexism in the job market and unequipped with the necessary survival skills due to abuse they suffered at the hands of the patriarchy.
In Ideal Feminisms, all these women are the Linda Lovelace of homelessness, domestic violence, addiction and prostitution.
In the real world, many women just don't have the hatred for The Patriarchy that many of these educated, privileged, soaked-in-reading feminists have. In the dog-eat-dog world of crushing poverty, addiction and homelessness, many women could give a rat's ass for Dworkin or Frye. So much of feminism today seems limited to college campuses, quaint coffee shop discussion, hip little bars and of course, the internets. So much of it seems so marinated and basted in Idealisms, Theories and Ain't I Smart? that I damn near could vomit.
I want a working tool, not a fucking fairy tale.
In the real world, every woman is not Linda Lovelace, beaten, broken, repentant and begging to be rescued. The perfect damsel in distress for feminism to play its knight in shining armor role – and then to plaster the damsel's sad, sad story on poster boards as proof.
Too, these feminists who fill up their blogs with post after post of the plight of third world women and those feminists who apparently scour the internet for stories on violence against women.
You’re talking a real risk there, sister. Good for you for not leaving your house and congrats on your internet searching ability!
"But I am raising awareness," they pout. "I am letting THE WORLD know about these horrors, oh and here is a quote from a famous, published-for-real feminist to back me up!"
Bullshit you're raising awareness.
Who is reading your blog other than those just like you?
Additionally, I never trust an “activist” with clean fingernails.
...Feminism is a woman’s movement.
I do indeed believe women still battle for equal rights and therefore, I believe a woman’s movement is needed. Still, I’m calling it as I see it: today’s feminism, especially blogging feminism is a tainted, stinking, foul cesspool of rivalry.
White feminists v. WoC Feminists.
Anti-porn radical feminists v. “sex pos” feminists.
Born lesbian feminists (with a “clear-eyed gaze”) v. heterosexual feminists.
Non-trans feminists v. trans-feminists
Perfect Grammar Feminists v. Not-So-Perfect-Grammar-Feminists
Childfree by Choice Feminists v. Breeding Feminists
Daughter only breeding feminists v. Son-breeding feminists (I shit you not with this one.)
Anyone who claims feminism is some giant umbrella of sisterhood is sadly mistaken. Would that this were so. Rather, feminism is polluted with exclusionary tactics and Orwellian “more equal than others” philosophies.
Saddest of all, some of these feminist bloggers who claim to care so very much about women are the same women who have so polluted this movement for me.
I’m certainly not alone here. Many feminist bloggers show a trail of bodies behind them: women who all finally reached their personal saturation point with whatever exclusionary, sometimes cult-like dogma was slung their way once too often...
No, she's not alone.
There is also, again, the question of: so, is this mostly an online phenomenon. Certainly there are plenty of actual longtime activists who find this blog drama as bewildering and offputting as the next person. The Internets do have qualities of their own, yes.
But, no, at the same time, I think, it's not only that; the 'Net isn't in a completely separate sphere from the "real world," people being people, by and large. and frankly, this shit is, well? Not new.
Eh, rambling now: floor is open.