New Voices

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

New voices are entering the discussion on feminism and girlism. Brave souls.

AKMA has joined the conversation, but carefully, aware that the discussion related to this topic has achieved a level of emotion and engagement that transcends previous topics:

One reason I haven’t joined in earlier lies in my fondness for everyone in the room, and my sense that I can see the admirable heart in what each one says, whether or not they’re on the same page as me. And it’s awfully hard to enter this sort of discussion without treading on some toes that already ache from others’ stomping.

As one who has participated in the tromping as well as being a trompee, I can understand AKMA’s caution. There is something about this topic that seems to touch the core of us, generating strong agreement or disagreement, but not indifference. Perhaps its because men and women remain men and women, with all the age-old complications, confusion, and concerns, regardless of socio-politico events.

I almost wrote David Weinberger to ask him, “Well, David. Here’s your pieces. Now where’s the glue?”

But AKMA does discuss the issue, albeit being careful to separate the message from the messenger (to quote one of the comments to my posts) and talks about the effects of girlism:

Effect One: it severs women who can and will use this tactic from those who don’t have access to that tactic. I get very edgy about strategies of resistance that engender division; we don’t have to look far, though, to see that girlism doesn’t only advance the cause of “girlists,” but distinguishes “girlist”-women from “non-girlist-women” (and that can pretty quickly be elided to “fun, cool” women versus “uptight, bitchy” women). Effect Two: girlism tends to reinforce men’s latent notions that women are there principally to titillate and delight them. Lots of fascinating women (whom no one has grounds to assume sexually inhibited, though I can’t claim empirical research on this point) don’t want to go anywhere near re-affirming the Playboy Bunny image that haunts men’s expectations of what women should be like.

As somewhat of a directly unrelated counter-point, the second person to join the debate today (that I know of ), Elizabeth Lawley, writes:

I spoke up in defense of Halley’s original post, and I stand by that. I consider myself a feminist. Unlike Halley, I don’t think feminism is dead. And I definitely don’t agree with her assessment that it only encompassed lesbian sexuality to begin with. But one of the reasons that I–and, I think, many other women–have become frustrated with feminism is its renouncement of…well…femininity.

In Shelley’s blog, she reposts and comments on comments by Suzanne, in which she expresses concerns with “girlism” because it’s limited to those with the physical attributes to use it. But all strengths, all power, is unbalanced. Some women aren’t beautiful, true. (Though far more are than realize it.) But some women aren’t smart. Some women aren’t hard-working. Some women aren’t charismatic. Life’s just not fair.

I respect Liz’s reaffirmation of feminism, and appreciate it. However, my opinion diverges from her’s when the discussion returns to ‘girlism’ (if I may continue to use the original term). To me, the argument against Elizabeth’s assertions is actually contained within her argument. How can we equate hard-working, a state a woman can control completely, with beauty, a state that is not only outside a woman’s control, but is also ephemeral and changeable based on society, culture, and era? In some ways this forms the basis of the feminism/girlism debate — control from within (feminism) versus control from without (girlism). I’ll bank on control from within, myself. It’ll last me when gravity finally wins all.

(As a side note, it is a puzzle to me where the confusion arose about feminists not being feminine; unless you equate femininity as being derived only from a male consumers point of view.)

I can respect that Elizabeth has worked hard to develop a body that she’s proud of. And she should be proud, it’s not easy maintaining the discipline to keep yourself in shape. I knew a quadraplegic at Boeing that worked equally hard with his body to be able to lift a finger to control a computer console we were designing for him. I can respect hard work.

But when Elizabeth writes:

The men who tended to view me as an object were flummoxed. And I was okay with that. More than okay–delighted. I loved watching people who had no problem ignoring me (or worse) when I felt like a shlump caught so suddenly off guard.

I am unsure how to respond, except that I know I would not experience delight if someone who previously treated me with disregard and disdain suddenly started noticing me because I had a body that they now found acceptable.

One last thing before closing today’s post, and this message is specifically aimed at Doc — but in the friendliest non aggressive, non-attacking, non-categorizing way I possibly can:

Doc, personally, I don’t care what you call either feminism or sexism, as long as we’re all agreed that something is about discrimination based on gender, and something else is based on the continuing effort to ensure equality, safety, and control of one’s body for all women. However, you might want to consider leaving the labels, because it’s a lot easier writing them out rather than the definitions each time we discuss the topics*.

Regardless, if the label seems too constricting, then we’ll change them and see if we can get the world to agree. Or we’ll continue to use the definitions, instead. As long as you agree that the important thing is what the labels represent, not the labels, themselves.

And one other note: I have said this before, more than once, but I will say it again. I respect Halley’s opinion and her courage in expressing this opinion. Because I don’t agree with the words, doesn’t mean I don’t value the speaker. If I am vehement on this topic, it’s because it impacts on my core beliefs about being a woman, not because I am ‘angry’ at Halley, or at anyone who agrees with her opinion. Halley should be proud that her words started what has become an incredible conversation.

Just a quick note, for what it’s worth.

Now, it’s been a long, long, long day, and this tired, unsexy, unfun, roughshod riding, unloving, toe-trodden, anti-male, non-girlist feminst (or whatever) is going to bed.

* This is my last posting on this topic for this go-around. I don’t think I would have anything new to contribute to the dialog that I haven’t already said — in excessive detail.

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