Not only was last week’s Gossip Girl one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen, with one of the most gorgeous dresses I’ve ever seen (see above), but it also addressed some feminist issues that have been rotating around the blogosphere of late: second wave versus third wave feminism and slut-shaming.
*Spoiler alert* The episode dealt with a Gossip Girl blast suggesting that Serena might have an STI, and the turmoil the rumour created amongst the group. Of course, Little Miss Juliet was the one who tipped Gossip Girl off, in the hopes of taking Serena down and getting her kicked out of Columbia. After all, the episode is titled “Goodbye, Columbia”…
Without giving too much away (What’s that you say? I already have? Whoops!), Serena comes face to face with the dean, who says of Serena’s (alleged) wayward behaviour:
“Women of my generation had to fight for every opportunity. And to be taken seriously, and your attitude, Miss van der Woodsen, makes a mockery of that.”
Now if that isn’t the second wave looking down upon the third wave for our apparent flippancy about “activism”, our “obsession with technology” (Gossip Girl’s blasts are a prime example of this), our “unwilling[ness] to challenge sexual exploitation for fear of pissing off men” (hello, Serena), and our infatuation with Lady Gaga (well, Gossip Girl did feature the Lady herself in an episode…), I don’t know what is.
Susan Faludi recently wrote about this phenomenon in “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide”, Amanda Marcotte responded to the article on Pandagon (from which the above quotes were taken), and I featured a link to the latter in last week’s “On the (Rest of the) Net”.
In the article, Faludi asserts that
“despite its [feminism’s] many victories, it seems to falter along a ‘mother–daughter’ divide. A generational breakdown underlies so many of the pathologies that have long disturbed American [or, rather, Western] feminism—… its bitter divisions over sex… [and] alongside the battle of the sexes rages the battle of the ages.”
Faludi feels that second wavers ask questions and make comments such as “Why does it feel like we’re sliding backwards?”, “Young women are narcissists who don’t care about politics”, and “We’re really furious with these young women, aren’t we?”
Indeed, this seems to be the attitude of Dean Reuther towards Serena who, granted, isn’t the best feminist role model, but perhaps doesn’t deserve to have such comments hurled at her. Vanessa Abrams is probably the most feminist-y of all the characters on Gossip Girl, and I could almost take her seriously, if she wasn’t so damn annoying. Even Blair could be seen as a third-waver; she refuses to be held down by Chuck, rolls with the boys, strives for academic excellence by conniving her way into becoming Miss Chamberlain’s student assistant, and dumped Chuck for using her sexuality as a bargaining chip. Plus, she’s feisty and rocks a headband.
Of course, I’m not sure Gossip Girl consciously chose to comment on the debate, and no doubt this will be the last we hear of it, but it would be interesting to see Serena fight back and declare herself “sick to death of hearing about the glory days of Seventies feminism”, whilst older women, like Dean Reuther, “decalring themselves sick to death of being swept into the dustbin of history.” However, being the dean at an Ivy League university is hardly being “swept into the dustbin”.
On a final note, Faludi spends a lot of time criticising (via her second wave subjects) the technology third wavers use, specifically blogging: “All they want to do is sit at their computers and blog.” Ouch.
I’m sure Gossip Girl would have something to say about that.