Sunday, February 15, 2009

After Feminism

People seem to like talk talk about being "post" (after) a movement. But what would post-feminism be? Can you be over, or after, liberation? Certainly not while sexism continues to be pervasive in most cultures and overt slavery in some. But I think Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues is quoted as saying:

"I don’t know about language. Feminism. Does the word get in our way or bring us together? If the word is not working for people, then maybe it’s time to find another word. On the other hand, women gave their life, time and energy for a word, and fought for our rights and dignity and our jobs — and fought for the rights of women to speak out. The women who are against feminism wouldn’t even have a platform today if there hadn’t been feminists."

And I think this is right. We cannot be "post-feminism" in the sense of feminism as a mission, goal or movement ceasing to existed. But I think it is being integrated into a wider mission of social justice which encompasses a greater and more inclusive, and less combative, sense of fairness.

Women cannot be a group treated in isolation because no person is just a woman and a perspective of fairness and equity embraces gender, nationality, disability, sexuality, race, species, environment and so much more. We do not have to choose which fight to fight because no one should have to wait in line for equal treatment.

And a fine balance needs to be maintained between being prescriptive about trivia versus persistent about injustice even in its implicit forms. There is a place for levity and a pace for solemnity--to give a trivial example when I do my shopping I find it funny as hell that someone would call their yogurt "Brown cow fruit on the bottom". Because what I want to see on the bottom of My yogurt sure as hell isn;lt "brown cow-fruit".

But I do think that calling a yogurt "Cultural Revolution" is part of a pervasive trivializing of the suffering of some groups we neither know nor care very much about. In the 60s many western nations were having an area of liberation and opening up of possibilities. In China The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a power struggle during which poor choice in government lead directly to the loss of over 20 million live to famine and as a response to that a new movement ruthlessly suppressed the intelligentsia (with torture and work camps) and lead to the widespread distraction of cultural and religious organisation and relics and undermining of human rights and deaths of another half million people. Naming a luxury food product on this way seems appallingly glib to me.

Feminism is a part of our present and a part of our past--a part of our history which we should never move back towards. So even if we move beyond the narrow confines of the term "feminism" is should not be treated as a joke or a derogatory term. The traditional tendency to take things serious is because even trival reflection of indifference to suffering can be very telling about the principles at the heart of our culture. And that is what needs to be opposed and changed, just as much now as ever.

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