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June 12th, 2007


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12:34 am - Abuses of Feminism
Reading this excellent post by lupagreenwolf, which I completely agree with, reminded me of a recent incident, which was both completely different and annoyingly similar.

Recently, teaotter & I had the great misfortune to witness a group of women reading The Female of the Species by Rudyard Kipling ( a poem I generally find to be devoid of any worth except historical interest) as an ode to female empowerment, where they loudly encouraged all the women present to join in with the chorus. In addition to the obvious (to both Becca and I at least) dubiousness of encouraging a girls vs. boys attitude most commonly found in grade schools, I was shocked and annoyed, and Becca was made quite angry by a group of adult women using a poem that so filled with both Victorian misogyny and truly massive amounts of sexism as the basis any sort of allegedly positive statement about women.

I've sadly seen this exact sort of feminism fairly frequently - it seemed most common in the Ren Fair/SCA community in Los Angeles, but I've seen it not infrequently on various cultural fringes where women took a very active role. In most such communities the female leaders did their best to support all manner of vile female stereotypes and attempt to use them as evidence for female superiority.

I'm a feminist and rather ardent about it, and I do not see any place in feminism for either the puritanical sexual repression found among many radical feminists or the pseudo-feminism of women who strongly (both consciously and unconsciously) buy into all manner of negative gender stereotypes and attempt to use these stereotypes to support an equally negative view of female power.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:kinkyturtle
Date:June 12th, 2007 08:29 am (UTC)
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Hear, hear!
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From:used_songs
Date:June 12th, 2007 11:03 am (UTC)
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Ugh- I hate that poem. That notion of "empowerment" reminds me of that movie "The Women" (which I believe is being remade)- women scheming and stabbing each other in the back and manipulating in order to get what they want. I don't see what the women you observed were trying to accomplish. Like you said, boys vs. girls is pointless.

This is a tangent, but after reading the post from lupagreenwolf that you linked I thought you might find this essay (http://cupidsbow.livejournal.com/245122.html) by cupidsbow interesting. It's mainly written with regard to fanfiction, but I liked how she tried to bring together both sides of the debate over the representation of sex.
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From:pyat
Date:June 12th, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)
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Didn't you get the memo? Real women are supposed to be bitchy and irritable, and always "tell it like it is." Proper men, in turn, are supposed to be willfully ignorant, loud, and heavy drinkers.

Surely The Man Show didn't lie to me about that?
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From:dancinglights
Date:June 12th, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
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I heard the title mentioned and noticed everyone nearby from our tribe turn tail quickly while the really awesome energy that had existed with the drums faded into any poetry at all. I'm rather appalled to hear that people really got into it in a positive way, and glad that the instinct to run saved me from that. ew.

amen to your entire rant about the surrounding context. sexist bitchiness is not useful feminism and totally not okay.
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From:heron61
Date:June 12th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
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I was very pleased to see the mass exodus when that poem was read. I stuck around because Becca hoped that dancing would start back up and didn't want to end her first night (ever) of dancing in a drumming circle on that note, and so we stayed for a bit. Thankfully, dancing did start back up (and continued until after we left), but the energy was also notably diminished.
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From:helen99
Date:June 13th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
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I was one of the people who booked. I really can't stand that poem since it's not true by any means and promotes false animosities. Either gender can be a jerk to the other or enter into fruitless competition with the other, and it's a tossup who can be more 'deadly'. It's more rewarding to build comraderie. It wasn't our idea to read that poem (I think the farm staff kind of took over the campfire up there - I guess they built it so they felt responsible for keeping things going).
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From:queerbychoice
Date:June 12th, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC)
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There certainly can be a strain of puritanism in radical feminists, but I think their statements are also frequently mistaken by some as being motivated by puritanism at times when what they're expressing disturbedness or disgust about is not sex itself but rather the specific (sexist) way in which some (many) people go about having or thinking about sex. I find that many "sex-positive" people seem to interpret any action as being automatically rendered un-critiqueable merely by the fact of sex being involved. This version of sex-positivity seems to me obviously incompatible with the very existence of feminism in any form, and I wish people would speak out against that trend more often.
(Deleted comment)
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From:heron61
Date:June 12th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
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See my response to queerbychoice immediately below for further thoughts on radical feminism.
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From:heron61
Date:June 12th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
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I agree that not all radical feminists share these veiws, but I have most definitely run into a large (but thankfully not majority) contingent of radical feminists who are without question rigidly puritanical, as well as vehemently anti-trans and deeply essentialist (which ultimately seems to boil down to the same issue). As I stated here, I see little practical difference between such people and fundys when it comes to their views about sexuality. These people are not an anomaly and I think the fact that a not insignificant number of radical feminists share their views is highly problematic and needs to be addressed within the radical feminist community. OTOH, I also recognize that most radical feminists do not share these views.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:June 12th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Barf. Some of the radical "feminists" and Dominionists got together back in the 1980's to craft a series of anti-porn laws,. Luckily, the thing did not fly at all.
(Deleted comment)
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From:teaotter
Date:June 12th, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I'm looking for performance pieces to drag out in return if it ever happens again. Poems, speeches -- anything with at least a hint of literary merit (or total obscurity) so that it would be a fitting entry to a poetry reading.

Suggestions are gratefully accepted!
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:June 12th, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
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*facepalm*

I was one of the people chanting the chorus with everyone else. I was not paying attention to anything except the chorus. I was also giggling the whole time and too high on fairy energy to notice anything else - until the bit that stated that women should never be allowed to govern. I wanted to gag at that line, but quickly forgot it until you mentioned it, Heron.

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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:June 12th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I am feminist in that I regard the female of the species to be equal to the male of the species is all things (except childbirth). In this regard I also prefer to call myself egalitarian.

I do not equate feminism with junior highish cliques and behavior, never mind preconceived social attitudes regarding how females are supposed to act, including male vs female as if this is some sort of law innate to nature itself. Nature is far more varied, as a cursory look at genetics will show, that mere male and female "duality".
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From:foxgrrl
Date:June 13th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
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I was heading back up to camp, when I became uncertain about the path in the dark; So I took the other route that went by the drum circle, arrived just as the drumming ended, and someone called out for all the women to get together. So I walked up, and they said that they were going to read The Female of the Species, and that all the women were to recite: For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Now, I was only vaguely knowledgeable about the poem, so I though it was short, just three verses long or something; and some kind of adoration of female power, or something. So I participated; And the poem just went on and on, and I stopped paying attention, because it was really hard to follow the way that it was read. And there was some stuff about Jesuits, and God of Abstract Justice, and I'm like uh… Is it over yet? I'd much rather be dancing ecstatically around a bonfire, than having flashbacks of High School English class. (Public School English classes are the reason why I have a mental block against poetry, which I am just barely starting to heal from.)
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From:foxgrrl
Date:June 13th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Sorry, got distracted while writing this.

Anyway, I wasn't following the words of the poem at all, and picking up bit here and there about Jesuits and their God of Abstract Justice, and I was like uh… I don't know if I agree with this. This poem doesn't seem to be very feminine or pagany. But now that I had started participating, I was going to follow along; It would be over soon, right?
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From:goldronin
Date:June 15th, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
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Erk. Yeah... I headed for the lower camp at that point. >_< I realised afterwards that my stalking off at that point could have been considered a statement. Mostly, I was just annoyed at the tone.

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