(I know this post is quite long, but please do stay tuned for the end in which I make amusing conclusions! And hand out free candy!)
There’s a peculiar trend in my women’s studies class discussions this week. Primarily, it’s massive hypocrisy and double-speak among other students and even one of my professors. I suspect this has always occurred, but I’m just noticing it now due to my increased radicalization these days.
In a 300-level women’s studies course, we had a little refresher on what each ‘wave’ of feminism primarily worked against/for/etc. Notably, this was also the only class in which the ‘wave’ model has not been criticized, which I immediately found odd. Then came the real wackiness.
Question to class: “And what is the current, third wave of feminism about?”
I took notes on what students said so I could handily recall it all for you right now.
One woman who is notorious for her sex-pozzie, liberal feminist double-speak in other classes we’ve both taken: “Well, it’s about, like, more about individuality. Like, the individual woman, and what she does. . . and her individuality.” (Not an exact quote, but frighteningly close.)
Another woman who has shown in another class that she doesn’t seem to know what she’ll say until she’s saying it: “So, you know, like a woman can strip or whatever and it can be like a way for her to get by and make money. . . and get to the top.” (A more exact quote.)
While I understand that my fellow students, particularly these two, aren’t likely reading radical feminist books and blogs everyday like yours truly. . . have we not all been getting the same women’s studies curriculum for the last few years? While I may not have been as radical in the past, I have been anti-pornstitution and equipped with a highly-sensitive bullshit detector for quite a while. I don’t know where they are getting this from. As anti-radical-feminism as certain assigned readings have been in other classes, these kinds of mindless “feminist” talking points did not come from anything our instructors have said, nor the vast majority of what we have read. Are they all just repeating what Jezebel and Feministing have to say? (Hey, I’ve been there too.)
The professor for this class, well. . . I had high expectations. Then she got on that sisterhood/solidarity-shattering notion of “there’s no universal experience of all women”. Strangely, she then — right after saying that — said that the exceptions would be the threat of sexual violence “which is pretty universal” in women’s lives, and that women have diminished social and political power.
Sure, the 25+ percent of women who have been raped by men may not have been raped in the exact same way, and the other 75 percent hasn’t been kept in absolute fear in the exact same way, but isn’t that a BIG DAMN COMMONALITY in general?
“Diminished social and political power” seems like shorthand for “women are an oppressed class”. . . that also sounds pretty universal and wide-reaching as it affects women’s lives, yeah?
The word “oppression” wasn’t spoken once by anyone, even in the discussion (for the newbies and non-majors) about “how women are disadvantaged”. There was one reference, by the instructor, of women as a “group” so I’ll give her a half point for that.
Otherwise? It was downhill from there. We got on the topic of difference between second-wave feminists and third-wave feminists. You can probably tell what’s coming. Someone mentioned Dworkin, said how feminists have been at odds about porn/prostitution, but less so now, and then the instructor said something kind of dismissive in an “Oh, that silly Andrea Dworkin – how quaint” kind of way.
The professor then added that some feminists’ interests can be at odds with the interests of other feminists, and — get this — “they can sometimes oppress one another”. NO. NO THEY CAN’T. Women are incapable of oppressing other women as women. To oppress you need both privilege and power. Women do not have structural power or privilege as women, so that ain’t happening.
Finally, the most hilaritragic claim about feminist “differences” was repeated by five students, all of whom were white women sitting in a university classroom. They all said that second-wave feminism was more focused on the needs of “middle-class white women” whereas third-wave feminism is not.
I’ll be right back. . . I need to fix a drink.
Ok. *deep breath* I’m sorry, fellow white lady students, but have you looked at your skin color lately? Or your privilege that lets you sit in this room and say all this? And going on about how feminism these days approves of things like porn, prostitution, and stripping. . . do you know who is in prostitution? Do you think the majority of them — worldwide or in the U.S. — look like you or have your economic background? Do you think your brand of feminism helps a poor, non-white 14-year-old girl in prostitution, or do you think that your “it’s her choice” bullshit only serves to prop up her pimp?
White, (presumably) middle-class young women claiming that their feminism is just so different from that old lady feminism that focused on white, middle-class women. . . are you kidding me?
But then things actually got better. In another women’s studies course on gender and colonialism, the professor (who is not white) did not mess around with wishy-washy definitions or let this “choice” rhetoric pass for actual feminism.
We started the class with clear definitions of things like racism, colonialism, and violence. Then our professor asked us to define feminism, say what it is “about”.
Then came the broken record. “Choice, gender equality” *skip* “choice, gender equality” . . . but scant mentions of women at all. If I wasn’t so anxiety-ridden and not sure which feminism definition she was seeking, I would have said what I had written down: “the elimination of (white, hetero,) male supremacy; the abolishment of gender”.
To the woman spouting, “It’s about choice,” our professor did a fabulous omg-you’re-being-serious face. Seriously. . . “choice” doesn’t stop men from raping women, “choice” doesn’t end male supremacy. And I’m sure the instructor was wondering how choice has anything to do with colonized women.
Later, I snickered about one student (the first one quoted) getting a total comeuppance. She said — somewhat relevantly — how, at a club, she used a nongendered bathroom “and it was really cool”. Full stop. Again, awesome professor looked quizzically at her and asked, “‘Cool’? In what way was it ‘cool’? What do you mean by that?” I’m such a radfem geek. . . in my head I was like OH YEAH, hells YES she finally got called out.
So, things are looking up for that class. We’re talking about “structural” things, not interpersonal “women oppressing other women” crap. . . you know: feminism.
– Third-wave, “choice” feminism leads to dangerously high levels of illogical thought, diminished capacity for political syllogism.
– Prior and current experience indicates that my women’s studies professors who are white tend to have a myopic view of what women’s liberation looks like while my non-white women’s studies professors diligently hammer home the point that systems of oppression – OMG! – actually exist.
– It is going to be a long, stressful term dealing with anti-radicals. My alcohol usage is likely to increase by 15%.
– My class discussion experiences this term might cause me to say something “inflammatory” during my graduation speech later this year, which may or may not include me shouting sarcastically about “choosing my choice”, then dropping the mic and flouncing off. Look forward to the Youtube video captured on someone’s cell phone titled “chick studies harpy loses her shit”.