A debate at two blogs, among them Irene‘s wonderful blogeous ode to inebration, has centered on outrage against prescriptive modern feminists. What they, especially Sybarite (post one, post two), think of strident feminists is well described by the slur “Feminazi” that neither of them uses, but that people who take the exact same line, do use. And yes, it is no accident that their positions, especially Sybarite’s, can be summed up as using a slur coined by Rush Limbaugh. I started to write a comment at Sybarite’s blog but it became too convoluted so I thought I’d take it to my home turf.

Rereading their posts, I think they fail to see a major problem: what some feminists are saying is that you only THINK you are choosing for yourself, that your choice is, in fact, made for you, once you learn language, behavior and manners. The cultural imprint is so strong that it is an illusion to be able to chose for one’s self. And yes, it is a very dangerous balance, between liberating women and rhetorically restricting their behavior. A good case in point is judith butler’s work on feminist matters, which vacillates between severely pessimistic accounts and accounts of freedom. You can’t disprove Butler’s argument easily, especially not by saying: how can I not know myself and my own decisions? which makes it all a tightrope act. Where do you cross into tyranny, into paternalism? I especially feel extremely uncomfortable writing this because my kind have been silencing female voices for centuries, and am I not now engaging in a similar undertaking? That creeps me out, to be honest.

So I’ll keep things brief. One thing, neither of the two mentioned, is the sexualization of little girls, the Bratz dolls are a case in point (also, related, remember the recent scandal over the Sasha and Malia dolls?). The things some feminists are complaining about hurt our children first, there are issues such as bodily self-image, sexualization, plus, most recently, the American culture which has experienced a rollback in sexual morals (will post the study once I dig it out); to cut to pop culture: look at how girls describe their love and admiration for Stephenie Meyer’s inane Twilight books? To brush all this aside by a coquettish moue, saying: But I like it that way! is appalling, to me. The direction our societies are taking is clear, unmistakeable, and ugly.

To reiterate: your own decisions may not be your own decisions, especially since they reinforce cultural stereotypes, which are shown to be culturally specific, most certainly not biological, so if feminists point that out, i.e. the fact that you dress in what amounts to a garb of capitulation to the prevailing cultural misogyny, they may not be “replac[ing] a patriarchy with a matriarchy” (a misogynistic term if I ever saw one) but, on the contrary, point out the mire we’re all still in. still the same stereotypes, only this time we like ’em. the wide acceptance by the so-called “new feminism” of essentialist, hurtful images and ideas is frightening.

All this is rather vapid, empty blather, since I am reluctant to dish out. It is not my place to speak up here, it just isn’t. My position is best described by Katha Pollitt, an old-fashioned feminist, and an invigorating writer. IN her 2006 collection Virginity or Death! she writes the following:

Women have learned to describe everything they do, no matter how apparently conformist, submissive, self-destructive or humiliating, as a personal choice that cannot be criticized because personal choice is what feminism is all about.”

The bitterness of her words and the trap that she sees there, are both important and noteworthy.

Feminism is a complex issue, not easily resolved. There are very smart feminists as well as utter idiots (Camilla Paglia, anyone?). Arguments such as Sybarite’s, which miss several important points, succeed, because they attack a position by attacking the dimwits among the supporters of such a position. That’s too easy. Take it up with the smart ones.

4 thoughts on “"Feminazi"

  1. Thank you for pointing out that you chose the term “feminazi,” not me and not Syb.

    Also, we were not talking about sexualizing children. For the record, my child does not and never has owned a Bratz doll.

    Yes, we all, men and women, have to be aware of the choices we make and what’s influencing them, including those societal “norms” we may have internalized. Also, there are choices made for us. Go to a clothing store and you can only select from what is available in your size and appropriate for your needs. Even so, we are able to make choices within what’s available to us, be it clothes or career or something else.

    My problem isn’t with the idea that we need more choices, more options, and more opportunities. I think we need to be careful that we aren’t trading one master for another. There are always going to be people around to tell you what to think if you don’t want to think for yourself, I’d rather think for myself and make my own mistakes than have yet another self-appointed arbitrar telling me what to think, or worse, legislating what we should all think.

    P.S. Laughing my ass off that this subject has now spread to a third blog.


  2. I know you’re not talking about sexualizing children. But you should! It is part of the problem! It’s not just about grown-up women anymore, if it ever was. That’s part of my point!

    hugs back.

  3. I concur wholeheartedly in regard to the remarks about the sexualization of little girls. For example, at ridiculously young ages, little girls are being entered in beauty contests in which they are encouraged to perform or model in provocative and/or sexually suggestive ways. Fifteen or twenty years ago, things had not yet reached the point that they are at now. And Hollywood has gotten in on the act. High-profile actresses like the twelve-year-old Dakota Fanning are given tons of publicity when they accept parts in in films in which they must take part in graphically depicted sex scenes. What message is this sending out to girls all over the world who idolize Dakota and others like her? It isn’t any wonder that seven-year-old and eight-year-old girls are becoming so obsessed with their body images that many of them are developing anorexia and bulimia. Our society is indeed deteriorating. And, sadly, the future does not look promising.


  4. Shigs – think you mean, how is it possible to assert and defend the claims of postmodern collectivities – without yourself being guilty of the kind of ventriloquism or regressive and ostensible neutrality that you’re trying to counteract? You cant, necessarily.. you just have to trust that the best and most good hearted thinkers are doing their best and avoid the self dramatizing excess of tenure seeking wannabe victims.. so yes…it refuses of tidy solutiion and you risk becoming mired in that which you seek to question, but the mess/intractibilities/pickles are unavoidable because that’s what engaged thinking is, in the end you makee your choices, abide by them alwayswith the proviso that you’re prepared to second guess and undermine them, but yes..you’re right to say so because the alternative is any case, what? abdication to some brutish libertarian free for all?


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