This has been nagging me for days. I guess because it’s come up. Are we going to be the way we want the world to be?
I think this is a tough, tough question for feminists to answer, in part because those of us in the third wave have felt the women of the second wave answer that question, often seemingly, at our expense, “no.”
We’ll talk about equality and sisterhood and treating each other with respect and creating that “good ole girls” network and bringing about a world of equality and social justice for all and to all a good night, but have we ever been worked in more ridiculous ways for longer hours for less pay all while cleaning up their dogs’ poop than at the hands of certain second wavers?
And our excuses, I think, have always been two-fold: 1. that the damage done by the Patriarchy is so great that, even when women start to “come to consciousness,” they are bound to be so fucked up by their experiences that we can’t expect them to always match their personal treatment of others to the big ideas they’re trotting out for the rest of us to live by and 2. that whatever we’re doing at this moment is so fragile that, even if what we’re doing is arguing for greater freedoms in some specific ways, we must be willing to curtail our own freedoms in those same ways in order ensure the survival of that fragile thing.
In other words, we must be willing to sacrifice our own happiness and well-being for the sake of “women everywhere.”
It’s not hard to see how this is the same old bullshit we’re always asked to take on, but wrapped in feminist wrapping paper. Women are always asked to put the well-being of the group ahead of our own well-being, to put the appearance of propriety above our own health and welfare, to leave it to future generations to have it better than we do.
I’ve talked before about how Maya Angelou says that most people don’t want change; they want exchange. They don’t want to dismantle power structures; they just want to be the ones on top for a while.
Even though we know those power structures hurt the folks on the bottom. Even though we know those power structures help destroy everyone stuck in them. And so on and so on. Just let us get our digs in first, before we’re all destroyed.
I honestly don’t think that’s what we’re trying to do. I don’t think that feminists want to be the ones in charge, the ones lording over men, for once. I don’t think we consciously want exchange.
I think, though, that we don’t commit to change. Not all the way.
And I get why. It’s hard to imagine what change would look like. Really implementing change leads to confusion and it’s hard to get widespread support for confusing things. And it’s hard to commit to something when you don’t know what the outcome might be.
But I keep thinking about the emails I get from my favorite critics, who are all the time teasing me about how men have to do very little to keep women down, when women are so willing to undermine each other. To paraphrase–sucks to find you’ve traded the jackboot on your neck for a Birkenstock.
I think that most people actually support women’s rights. I think if you sat down even the most curmudgeonly among us here and got them a little drunk and started asking them if they believe that women are equal to men, if there are ways the deck seems unfairly stacked against women, etc., they would all say, sure.
Why, then, don’t they identify as feminist?
I think it’s because they sense the change/exchange problem, even if they wouldn’t put it in those words.
We talk like we want one kind of world; we act like we believe we’re stuck with this one.
I don’t know how to overcome that. I’m sure I’m as guilty of it as anyone else.
But I just don’t think we can keep putting off real change. Nor should we. Feminism is supposed to benefit us. It’s supposed to make our lives better and us happier, in ways that are good for us.
Why would we put that off? Or give it up for ourselves hoping that maybe, just maybe, the next generation of women can have it?
Not all second-wavers are assholes. We wouldn’t have become feminists if most of the second-wavers didn’t make it look like important and fulfilling work (and fun! Sorry, Shannon, but pleasurable, pleasurable work, too).
If anything, we owe it to the next generation of women to be living important, daring, fulfilling, and pleasurable lives. We owe it to them to be honest with our struggles and our failures as well as our successes. We don’t know what we’re doing. True enough.
But we know that how we have been doing things doesn’t work. We can point to that and say for sure.
I don’t know. I’m just mulling over crap*.
*Ha, my brain is like a giant compost heap and I’m just churning away, hoping to turn all this trash into fertilizer.
That makes me happy to realize.