22 July 2006

36. Feminism

Dear feminism,

I have a lot to say to you, but the idea that got me to writing this particular letter, its point, is a pet peeve of mine: the incredibly stupid way in which people talk about you as if you're just one thing. For those parts of you with a bit of a background in linguistics or grammar-wonkery, I'll put it this way: feminism is a mass noun. There is no singular feminism, just like there's no singular weather. Just like there's lots of kinds of weather, changing day by day, place by place, just like there are lots of schools of thought but not so much just one thought, there are lots of different flavors of feminism. Duh.

You know this and I know this. And I wish to hell I had a clue-bat big enough and powerful enough to beat this idea into all the heads that need to learn it. Especially the idiots who talk about postfeminism without meaning it as an abbreviation of postmodern feminism, the latter phrase being shorthand for a cloud of ideas I actually often kind of dig (ooh, this weather analogy is useful!) Post-feminism. Hah. Post what feminism? Usually it's about the aftermath of the so-called second wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, wherein relatively privileged mostly upper and middle class white women decided they wanted the same privileges as upper and middle class white men instead of staying home as mom-bots. Never mind that the job of mom-bot was a relatively recent invention, historically speaking, and one that wasn't really a readily available option for minority women like the ones whose families couldn't afford to have a full-time mom-bot staying home, many of whom also happened to be not white. But I digress. I think if the second wave refers to that particular sociopolitical storm (and look at me again cleverly tying things back to that awesome weather analogy!) then suffragettes and suchforth were the first wave, but from when and where I'm sitting in the third wave or whatever, I have to say this numbering system is pretty stupid since I'm pretty sure as long as men and women have been different, people have generally been making more of a big deal about those differences than is really entirely necessary, and some people (some of them even the same people making the aforementioned big deal) have been complaining about it (in case it wasn't obvious, I'm personally of the "really not such a big deal" school of thought, but not all of the complainers, not even all the ones who describe themselves with the word "feminist" in some way, agree with me). All of which is to say, albeit run-on-sentence-style, that postfeminism, even just in the sense of whatever comes after feminism, has been around since, oh, maybe about a second after the first feminist thought was expressed. Again, duh.

I have a lot more to say to you and about you, feminism, but that idea, and in particular the clever mass noun phrasing/framing thereof, and also the weather metaphor I'm digging on so deeply, was suddenly so loud and clear in my brain that I had to write it down before I could forget it. But hey, we're always in touch, even if I don't always have time to write, so I hope we're cool. As always, sweet sisterhood to the fantabulous bell hooks.


Started and published 22 July 2006; last updated 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.