Rosemary McLeod and I aren’t peeps. I have many issues with most of her stances. But my main problem is not with her, it’s with her publishers.
There’s something about continually giving media platforms to a transphobic, whorephobic, sex negative, slut-shamer who’s still stuck on Betty Friedan and what she’d think of tongue piercings that irks me.
McLeod can be as proudly irrelevant as she wants. But when she’s currently one of the most widely published “feminist” commentators, when people could be mistaken for assuming she’s an authority on women’s opinions and goals, I feel obligated to take issue.
Stuff, The Press, The Dom Post and Sunday magazine (among others) could easily find a wider range of spokespeople for womenkind that focus on actual issues for the generations that have followed McLeod. Women who have more to write about than confused memoirs flavoured with a resentment of the new goals women have set for themselves.
I appreciate the mainstream media’s need to appeal to your casually racist aunt who wishes women’s lib stopped with Germaine Greer and votes for her local body elections based on how strong the candidate’s chins are.
I also appreciate that there are amazing, hard-working feminists who populate our newsrooms. But we’d all be kidding ourselves if we pretended their voices frequent the opinion sections as much as their (often older) far more conservative counterparts.
Recently McLeod attempted a broad synopsis and critique of the gains (and losses) the feminist movement has accrued in the 50 years since the publication of The Feminine Mystique. She ended her piece with a series of questions, which, as a stroppy slutty upstart ruining all the hard work of women in the 70’s, I can’t leave uncritiqued.
- What would Betty Friedan make of Madonna, Tracey Emin and Lady Gaga?
- Would she have enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill?
- If she were young today would she have a pierced nipple/clitoris/tongue?
- What would her tattoo be, and where would she have it?
- Where did suburban neurosis go?
- Why are twice as many women as men currently on antidepressants?
- Why do three times as many men as women commit suicide?
- How are university women’s studies courses faring?
Sure, they’re questions. Um, not all of them are weird as shit, I suppose. But are these the questions we should be asking in some ‘where are we now’ follow on from a ‘seminal feminist text?’
No. Not by my books. So here goes.
In the 50+ years since some, mostly white middle class feminist texts broke into mainstream discourse, some questions we could be asking are:
- How can we bridge the ideological generational gap and encourage older and younger women to work together on shared issues and resolve differences?
- How can feminists stop participating in varying systems of oppression and grow stronger from the inclusion of intersectionality as a core part of any analysis or action?
- How can we make feminism more accessible and less academic/classist?
- How can we improve movements like SlutWalk which, while powerful for some, ignored the realities for women of colour and trans women by overlooking the fact that “slut” is a label white cis women can often play with and reclaim, but other women can’t take off.
- How can efforts to critique sexist cultural practices stop silencing women of colour, selectively focusing on non-white people, and enabling benevolent white-knighting?
- How can we make feminist spaces accessible (in every sense of the word) for people with disabilities?
- How can we create change that enables genuine pay equity, not just in comparable roles but between workforces so that female-dominated industries are not consistently undervalued?
- How can we enact genuine support of parenting as a meaningful contribution to societal and economic growth?
- How can we begin to remedy the deep-seated harm that is created by a society which policies women’s bodies, expressions of gender, and lifestyle choices based on a homogenous and capitalist value system?
- How can we foster positive and empowering sexual expressions in order to decrease sexual violence and increase confidence and pleasure?
- How to we move past repeatedly trying to affirm or define men’s appropriate participation in feminism?
I dunno, just a few little things from my brain that aren’t about whether people have their clits pierced. Maybe someone should pay me to write opinion columns. I guarantee your racist aunt will hate-read it.