Monday, May 24, 2010

The central tension of feminism

Many roles, traits, qualities, and tasks are commonly seen as "female"/"feminine" and are also perceived as bad -- or at least are seen as inferior to corresponding male/masculine roles, traits, qualities, and tasks.

For a given item on this list, it may be better to stop seeing the item as bad/inferior. For another, it may be better to stop seeing that item as particularly female or feminine.

Women who have (and like) a given item tend to think it's more "feminist" to break the first link. Stop saying this beautiful female thing is bad! Women who don't have (or don't like) a given item tend to think it's more "feminist" to break the second link. Stop saying this limiting/insulting thing is female!

Women, as a group, are so diverse that for practically any item that's (supposedly) bad/inferior and (supposedly) female/feminine, you find women on both sides of the above equation. And it's not always clear that one of the two sides is wrong, even if their positions naturally come into conflict. (Of course it's also possible that sometimes one of the two sides really is wrong.)

This is just something I always like to keep in the back of my mind when discussing and analyzing women's issues.


Nathaniel said...

Clear and cognizant commentary on the complicating politics of the personal. Someone could wear frilly dresses with lace underneath everyday and be a radical feminist. There isn't conflict between these two habits. At least there shouldn't be.

Offtopic, but when are we going to get the last part of your book online. I know that it's kind of entitled to expect to put a published book of yours online in total, but I realllllyyyy want it. Please!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Nathaniel!!!

Yes, that's part of what inspired this line of thinking. Obviously a lot of women hate being expected to do themselves up in frilly dresses. OTOH, for some transgender folks, dressing up feminine is the radical act that they desperately want to be able to do. And there exist women who genuinely enjoy fashion and don't want to be trashed for it as though it means that they can't possibly be intelligent and independent.

I'm glad you like the book! This final edition is what I was waiting for to finish up the serialization. The last chapter will be posted online on June 22. :D

JentheHumanist said...

I think how females are viewed depends entirely on the culture. I studied linquistics in college. One of our books was titled "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things" because the female gender in the particular culture and language being studied also connoted fire and dangerous things. Not soft and cuddly and weak things. So, gender perspective is really a cultural and linguistic thing.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jen!!!

That's true -- so much of what we perceive as "feminine" (including traits and roles) is culturally constructed. And feminism is naturally concerned with analyzing (and questioning) those constructs.