Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way To Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Last week I wrote about the Melbourne Writers’ Festival event, entitled A Long, Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism, presented by Sophie Cunningham and Monica Dux.

On the whole, Cunningham’s presentation was thought-provoking, if a little small-minded, but my main point of contention is as follows.

Cunningham brought up third/fourth wave feminism (the feminism we’re experiencing now, by most accounts), saying that while she applauds the grassroots feminist movements such as SlutWalk, she wasn’t sure 25-year-old women could fully understand the concept of feminism because they still have men fawning all over them at that age.

Now that’s just a whole lot of wrong.

First of all, I am soon-to-be-24 and I don’t have men falling at my feet (well, except when it’s unwanted), and nor do my similarly-aged friends.

Secondly, who’s to say that even if we did, we wouldn’t recognise that, unless they had had some kind of interaction with us other than staring at our boobs, they were interested in us purely for our looks, and that’s anti-feminist. (Then again, I know girls who do have men fawning all over them purely for their looks and couldn’t care less.)

And thirdly, this kind of feminism in fighting is exactly what has been undoing the feminist movement in recent years. As I wrote:

“… Cunningham saw a sort of ‘bottleneck’ in modern feminism, where white, privileged feminists like myself don’t understand the problems facing feminists of colour, feminists with sexual orientation other than straight, feminists with gender other than cis, and feminists with disabilities…”

This is not to mention conflict between the ages, or waves, of feminism.

In Susan Faludi’s attempted takedown of young feminists in her article, “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide”, last year, she writes:

“… 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.”

I can’t think of a better example than, oddly enough, an episode of Gossip Girl from its most recent season, in which it addresses the clash between young and old feminists after Serena van der Woodsen is accused of having an STD. Her dean at Columbia University tells her:

“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.”

I wrote in response at the time, in reference to Faludi’s article:

“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.

“… 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, ‘declaring themselves sick to death of being swept into the dustbin of history.’

“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.”

Exhibit A: SlutWalk as an anti-testament to Faludi’s assertion.

Could it be jealousy these second-wavers are suffering from? I’d like to think feminism is above that, but it is one of the seven deadly sins and can get the better of us. Contrary to what Cunningham said, I don’t think it’s because of the way we look. Everyone knows age is not a precursor to looking hot. I think second-wavers might long for their glory days of making things happen, being invigorated and excited by feminism, instead of seeing their options shrivel up and die the older they get. Again, please see exhibit A. While I don’t know the ages of those who were critical of the SlutWalk, but if they were older it might be easy to see why they were a bit miffed by the anti-slut-shaming and -victim-blaming movement that they felt left them behind.

There needs to be something done to rectify this. Not only the gap between the ages, but the gap between the races, the abilities, the genders and the sexual orientations.

I don’t pretend to know how we’re going to do this, but it will have to start with listening and understanding, empathy, perhaps some mentoring and—what feminism is all about, not just between the sexes, but between all those I mention above—equality.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: A Long, Long Way to Go—Why We Still Need Feminism.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second-Wave VS. Third-Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Elsewhere: [Harper’s Magazine] American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide.

TV: Surfing the Third Wave—Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

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 ‘motherdaughter’ 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.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“A Guide to Eating Food Off the Floor.”

Feminist Themes’ regular “Wait… What?” column features The View co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and her take on the pro-choice versus pro-life debate.

In The Atlantic’s thought provoking piece on “The End of White America?”, Hua Hsu “discuss[es] Obama, football, hip-hop, and the elusive notion of a ‘post-racial’ society.”

Pandagon responds to Susan Faludi’s piece on third-wave feminism (which I haven’t read yet, but expect it to be included in an upcoming On the [Rest of the] Net), in which “she puts out evidence that younger feminists are sometimes unfair and ungrateful to older feminists, and that older feminists are sometimes so afraid of younger women that they go out of their way to exclude them… complaining that younger women don’t care.” Furthermore:

“… she reinforces a jumble of often conflicting stereotypes on younger feminists to discredit us: that we’re obsessed with navel-gazing over activism, that our obsession with technology comes at the expense of actual work, that we don’t know our history and don’t care about systemic issues, that we’re materialist[ic] and unwilling to challenge sexual exploitation for fear of pissing off men, that we’re so busy cultivating our graduate degrees writing about Lady Gaga… that we can’t be bothered to worry about real world issues.”

I do agree with some of this summary of Faludi’s piece, but Lady Gaga’s meat dress drew attention to vegetarianism, animal welfare and gay rights. They’re, like, real world issues, aren’t they?

Liz Greene delivers some particularly poignant points on parental relationships and “the family triangle” in “The Eternal Triangle”.

Buffy is “The Third Wave’s Final Girl”.

Jezebel reasons “Why Glee Still Needs to Work on Diversity”, while Brittany and Santana are “Queer Idols”:

“It wasn’t even until halfway through Glee’s first season that the first hint of queerness was even mentioned… Maybe you’d call it bisexual, maybe you’d call it heteroflexible, maybe you’d call it bicurious: whatever they are, it’s definitely a bit queer… Brittany is, if you will, an equal opportunity slut: one who’s willing to make out with whatever hotness crosses her path, regardless of gender… And among fellow fans of the show, my designation of Brittany and Santana as queer icons has met with some derision: their relationship is played for laughs, I’ve been told. They’re just straight girls making out for male attention… [But]… with the exception of their joint date with Finn, Brittany and Santana have hardly been shown using their relationship to win over boys… For me, Brittany and Santana represent a new mode of queer figure… : fluidly sexual, comfortable with same sex contacts, and more interested in finding happiness than finding the right label. They may not fit into the rigid structures of traditional sexual identities, but they’re comfortable enough with themselves not to care.”

More Jezebel: They’ve really been getting on the “slut-shaming bandwagon”, especially with their endorsement of Easy A. Now, they give their take on the “Ancient Slut-Shaming” of Cleopatra, as well as the “sexual double standards” on Jersey Shore. About the latter, they say:

“… The slut-shaming of Angelina… revealed their thoughts on sexual double standards. (The ‘thoughts’ being that sexual double standards exist, and that’s just the way it is.)… Pauly said about Angelina: ‘She brought all these random people home. She’s a girl. You don’t do that. That’s a guy thing. Guy’s do that, no girls.’… Shouldn’t Pauly and The Situation be grateful for sluts? If there were no sluts then they would never be able to have sex. Do they think for one minute that they would even want to live in a world in which all girls acted the way they’re ‘supposed’ to?”

“Who Stole Feminism?”, asks The Nation. Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and all those right-wing extremists, that’s who!

“Sarah Palin opposes abortion and comprehensive sex education. While mayor of Wasilla she made sexual assault victims pay for their own rape kits. She also calls herself a feminist. Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell has said that allowing women to attend military academies ‘cripples the readiness of our defence’ and that wives should ‘graciously submit’ to their husbandsbut her website touts her ‘commitment to the women’s movement. Pundits who once mocked women’s rights activists as ugly bra burners are abuzz over the ‘new conservative feminism’, and the Tea Party is lauding itself as a women’s movement.

The right once disparaged feminism as man-hating and baby-killing, but now ‘feminist’ is the must-have label for women on the right.”

“Geeks Versus Hipsters” is the equivalent of the passionate versus the apathetic, respectively, according to Gizmodo. And from the hipsters I’ve come into contact with, I’m inclined to agree.

Can Newsanchor Barbie be both hot and a feminist?

Jessica Rudd (yes, Kevin’s daughter) discusses the differences between chick-lit and (the nonexistent) dick-lit in a guest post on MamaMia.

Beneath the “campy sensationalism” of True Blood lies “the weird, seemingly reactionary politics” of “the right’s worst nightmare about post-gay-liberation America come to life.”