I’ll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy

September 30, 2011

I’m a child of the ’80’s. This means I grew up not only with My Little Pony and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but also with the recent memory of the feminist movement. As a teenager I read my Alice Walker and Naomi Woolf along with magazines like Bust and Sassy; during my undergraduate years I reached for the classic writings of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir, and then went back even further to the writings of early English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (mother to Mary Shelley, famed writer of Frankenstein).  For me, the definition of feminism was simple and uncontroversial: the simple idea that women are human beings whose basic dignity and worth are equal to that of men.
The milieu in which we currently find ourselves in 2011 is very different from that of the 80’s, the 90’s, or even the early 2000’s. Suddenly, the media inform us that we are in a “post-feminist” era, that all bridges have been crossed, that complete equality has been achieved, that there is nothing to do but pursue our careers and have our children and bop along to Lady Gaga on the radio. The feminist movement – along with the Civil Rights and anti-war movements – have been relegated to the top shelf among so many other crumpled papers of our history. It’s not what the world needs right now, they say; or at least, it’s not what the world needs most.
Sorry, but I’m not convinced.
As The Feminist Breeder points out in her recent article on feminism in the 21st century, we are living in an age when “the f-word” has become something of a dirty word, wrongly interpreted as implying a man-bashing attitude or a separatist stance. The Feminist Breeder informs us that this definition is totally inaccurate and has been put forth by the Rush Limbaughs of the world in order to undermine women, who are still struggling to maintain the gains achieved in the 70’s and push for true equality.
Just remember,” the feminist breeder tells us,  “when you say you hate feminists, or simply deny being a feminist, you’re telling the world you don’t think women deserve full humanity. Is that the message you want to send?”
That is certainly not the message that I want to send. And for this reason I can’t help but cringe whenever I hear that dreaded word “post-feminist.”
I’ll be a post-feminist when it’s no longer true that women, despite performing 66% of the world’s work and producing 50% of the world’s food, only earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property.
I’ll be a post-feminist when it’s not longer the case that only 25 CEOs of the Fortune 1000 companies are women.
I’ll be a post-feminist when sexual assault and domestic violence are universally viewed and treated as a heinous crime, not an unfortunate shame.
I’ll be a post-feminist when the media and advertising industries stop telling us that only young and beautiful women have any social worth (and that to maintain our worth we must do whatever we can to maintain our youth and beauty at all costs).
I’ll be a post-feminist when I no longer have to shout for my voice to be heard.
I’ll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy.
And I’m afraid, my dear friends, that we are still a long way away from that.

One Response to “I’ll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy”

  1. Scout said

    Unfortunately, I think you are right – right in the context of our own Western society, and even more right in the context of most of the world outside it. Yes, “feminist” is a taboo word. If we’re honest, to some extent it always has been…but what I find surprising is that even women who strongly support gender equality and go against traditional gender norms in aspects of their lives (eg. having a career, raising a child outside marriage, whatever) still are not comfortable with describing themselves as feminist.

    Another question: can a man be a feminist? I hope so, and I believe so…but not many of my gender would readily say that they are!

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