You Don’t Get to be Grand Marshall of Every Parade

I’ve been mostly ignoring the FemFuture because I feel like I get to be old enough now that I can ignore things that annoy me.

But I have learned of this and I have to take a moment to laugh. You want to come to Texas, in the middle of an ongoing Texas movement, declare the movement over, and tell people in Texas, some of whom are still participating in the ongoing protests, how to keep up momentum now that things have died down?

I just have this mental image of a huge crowd of Texas women doing their thing while so many of us cheer them on and they get 3/4 of the way down their particular parade route and here come the Big Name Feminists rushing to the head of the parade, trying to get their uniforms in order, declaring the march just about over and begging for someone, anyone, to tell them where the crowd wants them to lead them.

Feminism as a philosophy will continue to be popular. Women want equality. But third-wave feminism, as a movement, is stalling out. And it is exactly because of that old change/exchange problem. The Big Name Feminists just want to be the ones setting the cultural agenda for a while. They don’t actually see how changing said agenda would involve not leading the parade, but just marching in it.

6 thoughts on “You Don’t Get to be Grand Marshall of Every Parade

  1. Not to miss the worthwhile larger point and pick on a smaller point, but isn’t this 2nd wave feminism still stalling out – for reasons you say and because the 3rd wave is still growing and building but also doesn’t want to be large and unified?

  2. FemFuture is all women younger than us trying to codify 3rd wave feminism into something that can work with more traditional frameworks–like academic folks and the media and more established social justice movements.

    My argument is that this kind of “we either have or are on the verge of figuring out how to make 3rd wave feminism into an establishment that benefits us, as its leaders” is killing it.

  3. ah. Yep. Okay.
    Are the FemFuture participants mostly white too? And thus not actually heeding much of what distinguishes the 3rd from the 2nd, and what is permitting them to think they can unify at the top?

  4. There is a huge groundswell of anger and dissent among women of color about feminism..not as a philosophy, but in the way it is still dominated by white women. I wish all these “media-savvy” feminists were hanging out with me in the (not hard to find even for me, a middle-aged white lady!) Twitter and Tumblr spaces where these arguments are taking place, but I never see much evidence that they are. Or that they want to engage.

    Re Texas I felt some of that too with the Wendy Davis thing; the mainstream Democratic party and some of the establishment groups are trying to whip us all into hero-worship with her, and she is definitely heroic. However, they have NOT been good about paying attention to the women like Letitia Van De Putte, who was JUST as heroic during the filibuster. The fact that Ms. Davis is a white blonde woman and Ms. Van De Putte is Hispanic has not gone unnoticed. Especially in this increasingly diverse state.

  5. Well, you know I agree with you. And I second what emjb said. It isn’t hard to find great people out there on twitter and tumblr who are hashing all of this out and getting it told.

    The comments on that SXSW link are hilarious, BTW.

  6. The Professor, it’s weird, because they seem to have some women of color involved judging by the names on the initial report. But then they keep making these huge missteps which are leading me to wonder just how involved those women actually are. This was not even the only weird one this week. On Twitter, I also learned that they had an editorial in the New York Times that is, shall we say, amazing:

    I’m in emjb’s camp. I’m older. I don’t think I read or even know the most lively young feminist minds. I would never claim to read an adequately diverse group of feminists and women for equality.

    And yet, the overwhelming feminist consensus (as much as there can be said to be one) among the people I read is that twerking is a legitimate art form which Cyrus sucked at, both in terms of being a shitty dancer and appropriating black bodies and moves and selling them to a mostly white audience as something new.

    And that there’s something really fucked up about acting like moving like that or wanting to move like that makes a girl obviously messed up.

    And yet, there goes Martin dismissing twerking and using it as evidence that something’s wrong with Cyrus. WTF? Has she not been reading any of the women of color who’ve been talking about this? I mean, the discussion has been happening on huge sites. How do you call yourself a feminist leader and not know that a lot of black women are feeling like this whole conversation has turned to making fun of twerking and acting like doing it is evidence of some kind of breakdown–moving from smearing Cyrus (which is bad enough) but smearing all women (who are predominately women of color) who like to dance like this?

    But my god, even if Martin is somehow not up on the most interesting conversations going on about this, I thought it was just standard all-wave feminist theory that setting up a dichotomy between the madonna and the whore was, in fact, just reenacting the same old bullshit tropes we always get fed. And yet, here she is, framing Cyrus as the bad girl doing useless things vs. the women she’s writing about who are good girls, doing useful things. As if these young women might not also like to dance? That’s just bad Feminism 101 right there.

    So, it’s really weird. They have women of color involved, at least on paper, but they do these things that make it seem like they don’t consult with them or learn from them. They’ve given great lip service to the importance of involving feminists from all over the country, but their stuff is really east-coast heavy and out-of-sync when they’ve tried to talk about the parts of the country that have had these kinds of protests this summer.

    I’m kind of beginning to suspect that a bunch of them moved to New York and/or began to position themselves as prominent third-wave feminists from New York because, being in New York, you can get a crowd together easily and have access to big media outlets and publishing companies.

    And I think that, maybe, they knew, at first, that they were lucky, having opportunities most women weren’t going to get and they imagined themselves just as the conduits through which other women “like them” (and in this case I mean grassroots, regular people, feminist bloggers, not professional advocates) could be heard in the mainstream.

    But there’s no way, I don’t think, psychologically to do that. You can’t be a bridge and be someone’s equal. You position yourself as the bridge, you eventually come to believe you’re the necessary support for everyone. And i think that, even when they hear criticism of how their ideas about who is “like them” are raced and gendered, some of them, at least, get it. But the bigger criticism of how declaring yourself to be the public face of 3rd wave feminist is built on racial and gender-norm bullshit that necessarily excludes people who should be being heard from?

    That’s still an open, sore wound left mostly unacknowledged.

    emjb, you bring up something that was kind of amazing to watch play out on Twitter and then in the mainstream media. The accounts on Twitter made it seem like the protesters were working with Van De Putte–like they came to her and were like “What can we do to be heard? How can we help you and your colleagues push back against this?” (I’m hoping I’m making that sound centered enough on the protestors) and the Van De Putte was central in identifying which other legislators could be counted on to speak up.

    I don’t want to downplay what Davis did, because it was amazing. But on Twitter, she was the lava coming out of a great volcano of activists and politicians–the most visible evidence of a lot going on. In the news, she was like a boxer, with a lot of fans, but it was all her own hard work and bravery getting her in the ring with her opponents.

    It was nearly exactly the opposite of the dynamic as it came across on Twitter. On Twitter, it was like “Okay, if we were going to do this, who has the physical capability to do it? Let’s get the athlete who has done it before!” In the media it was “Pretty white woman with cute shoes tries to single-handedly save the day.”

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