You know, I would be completely, totally, utterly disgusted and disillusioned with the non-reaction of international, professional and academic ‘capital F’ Feminism, in the wake of Hamas’ rape, pillage and kidnapping spree of last October … except that I sussed several decades ago that the same international, ‘capital F’ professional and academic feminists didn’t really give a waffle-fried damn about the lives, ambitions, challenges and condition of ordinary women. I had no illusions to lose about the big-name capital F feminists, not after I came to a certain realization sometime around 1985 or so.
Until then, I had thought of myself as a mild sort of feminist – really wanting nothing more than equal access to education, employment, and consideration by society in general, given meeting the same standards/qualifications. While the situation for women in the early latter half of the 20th century wasn’t quite as limited as it had been a hundred or two hundred years earlier – there were restrictions, a few of them legal (such as military women not permitted to marry or have children and continue to serve) but most were societal expectations affecting middle- and upper-class women. (Working class women, married and unmarried, almost always had to have jobs. Even in the 19th Century.) Feminism in the 1970s meant to me personally that there were choices that individual women could make about choosing and balancing a career, a family and the domestic obligations involved, rather than having them made for us. (That many women have since been free to make unwise choices is a separate issue.)
What I came to realize after about a decade of subscription to MS Magazine (Yes, I had a subscription – to that and about half a dozen other progressive/liberal publications, in the pre-internet days) was that there was a definite bias therein when it came to defining a feminist. The message that I got from the MSlings and the rest was that it might all be very nice to be a woman employed in a fairly non-traditional profession, but you really weren’t a ‘real’ feminist and down with the cause unless you worked at some academic establishment or in the creative or publishing fields, earning an upper-middle-class salary, were a single parent, man-hating vegetarian, lesbian or at least bi, who celebrated one’s abortion/s and reliably voted progressive. There was, briefly, a ‘feminists for life’ action group, which, predictably, got read out of meetings when the Mainstream Capital F feminists decided to go all-in on abortion access.
Increasingly, it was obvious that mainstream, professional feminism had practically nothing to say to me – I was only one of those things (single parent through an unfortunate choice of potential life partner). I gathered that being working class was beneath consideration, and military was just too infra dig for the MSlings and the professional feminists: Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, and other influential voices. They were all notable, professional, capital ‘F’ feminists of the ‘Second Wave’ as writers, theoreticians, campaigners. They weren’t quite as far out on the man-hating whack-job fringe as Valerie Solanas, who tried to murder Andy Warhol in 1968. But over time it eventually became clear that they were desperately unhappy women; they hated men, despised family life, had no affection at all for children – and eventually didn’t have much to say to me. I liked men as friends and romantic partners, treasured a family life and held children to be precious. I did rather agree with Naomi Wolf, who briefly wandered off the mainline feminist plantation with publication of her 1993 book, Fire with Fire. She argued that mainstream feminism had to basically grow up, make common cause with women across the political spectrum, stop glorying in victimhood, and stop wasting time and energy in man-hating and abortion; work to benefit all women, not just the doctrinaire hard-core Feminists. I rather think she was chased back onto the plantation after that – she only totally rebelled recently.
My second disillusion regarding the Feminist Establishment came about two decades after the first, watching an able politician like Sarah Palin monstered and denigrated by the mainstream establishment Feminist voices in the media, mostly, but also in academia and among the surviving intellectual Feminists. It was an absolutely disgusting display of snobbery. Here was an able, attractive, and intelligent state-level politician, happily married with mostly well-adjusted children until the glare of the establishment media put them under the unbearably white-hot spotlight. She was neither spawn or spouse of an established male politician, who made a career in politics entirely on her own merits, previously well-respected as a state governor … and she got treated like something nasty, tracked in on someone’s shoe after the 2008 election. There was an awful kind of bitchiness about the aftermath of that campaign – as if a hundred thousand doctrinaire Feminist mean girl snobs piled on to the chosen victim.
These observations all left me less than impressed with the current crop of ostentatious feminists, out there protesting, cosplaying the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale or wearing pink knitted hats and bleating about microaggressions and the patriarchy or the male gaze, or because their feelings were hurt because someone somewhere wore a shirt they didn’t like or said something they found offensive. Meanwhile women in certain African cultures are mutilated genitally, South American women are sex-trafficked … and Israeli women were gang-raped, mutilated, murdered or kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. The professional capital F feminists are mostly silent, especially about this last. I’d like to think it’s an embarrassed silence, but I know better. The professional feminists are first and foremost progressives – and they really don’t care for the lives and fortunes of women not in their own little circle.
Comment as you wish.
(PS – my latest historical, That Fateful Lightning, is released into the wild! In both e-book and print, here at Amazon!)