Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Funeral March.

Is Feminism Dead?

It's a question that gets asked every so often, usually on a slow news day, or when a problem comes up that no one has the answer to (I know, let's blame feminism!) or when someone releases a new book on the subject. It's the question that was asked in today's Weekend Australian and the subject debated at tonight's forum From Friedan to Feministas - as part of the Melbourne Writer's Festival.

Is Feminism Dead?

Well, I don't know. I've heard asked so many times over the last 10 years (it's been over 10 years now that the famous article in Time came out) that I have to wonder whether feminism truly has 9 lives? It's dead, then it's alive and kicking and responsible for all the world's ills and then remarkably it's dead again and then...uh oh someone brings up maternity leave in politics and suddenly there it is - feminism - pounding down single buildings with its gigantic (hairy, un-pedicured, lesbian, dirty man-hating - no doubt-) foot and causing all the trouble again. Either it's dead or alive, let's decide on one and leave it at that.

Indeed if we really do pronounce it dead - who the hell killed it?

Was it the Paris Hilton wannabe internet porn stars? Is it the misplaced Spice Girls fans? Is it the "I take pole dancing lessons because it's a great way to keep fit" darlings of the night club scene? Is it the women who don't want to call themselves a feminist because they're "not lesbians and don't hate men" as if asserting somehow that all feminists are this. Is it the deliberate media bashing that feminism garners? Is it single mothers? Happily married mothers who decide not to work? Politicians? Prostitutes? Male opinions on blogs? Is it life after university? Is it the new feminists? Are they too different from the old feminists? What is it that pulled the trigger?

If feminism is dead, what killed it?

At tonight's forum, five women (Emily Maguire, Monica Dux, Catharine Lumby and Susan Maushart) from diverse social, political backgrounds came together to discuss the topic of feminism: Namely - Where are we now? What does it mean for us today? And quite frankly five different and dizzying opinions were put forth. From the rarely discussed silent prejudice against single mothers in the workforce who not only find it difficult in the work force but have also given up their superannuation to look after their children. What happens to them at 65? To "feminism is everywhere" - it's all around us. It's anything but dead - it's alive and kicking. It's still inspiring. It's still happening and though it's more diverse, it's still strong. To an assertion that we should give up the name as it is meaningless and an antagonist for negative opinion. And funnily, though she is often cited as an unrealistic role model - Barbie circa 1963 is the epitome of the modern woman today - bleach blonde, fake tan, fake boobs, brazillian wax, too thin, single and working.

Is feminism dead. Is it too exclusive? Too academic? Too middle class?

One brave woman asked about the elephant in the room. What about the men? Is feminism relevant for them - and if so, how? It was an important question that unfortunately came right at the end. You'd think that yes - considering we're all inextricably engaged - men and women - with each other. Considering men father daughters, marry women, fall in love, care for in a platonic way and all are born from one (and too often, these days anyway - are solely raised by them). Well you think it would be relevant. But is it?

Is feminism dead and buried under the onslaught of differing opinions that never meet in the middle?

It was difficult to keep track of all the opinions and indeed while I was wary of some speakers (Catharine Lumby mostly) by and large there were many opinions from all women on the panel that I agreed with. It really brought home the diversity of the feminist opinion. Is there a unified goal or purpose? Perhaps, no. But does it make it an irrelevant movement that has reached it's end? Judging by the audience (yes there were men, only a few - but they were there) there are many who identify as one, even if we all don't quite agree with their opinions exactly. I think at the heart of it all - feminists are aware that all is not quite right and want to see change that drives our society forward into a more harmonious place. A more equal place. That's the way I read it anyway. Indeed, the way we humans live is not quite right for many people, many groups are marginalised by society - and indeed feminists fight not only for women but for pretty much all the groups that are maginalised because all of them are interconnected in some way with feminism. That's how broad it is.

Is feminism dead? What a hostile question! What a sensationalist question and example of lazy journalism. Like anything else, maybe it depends on who you ask, of course.
I'd like to see more bravery happening from women when it comes to feminism, but does that mean it's dead?

And if it is, what the hell does a girl with a blog and a voice and a job and a brain and who is not going to be duped by public opinion to the contrary about what a feminist is. Who believes that all things are not equal ...yet. Who feels there is room for change for both genders. Who understands that not all choices are created equal and the claim that "everyone has a choice" is one of the biggest myths that pervades our consciousness. If feminism is dead. What does that girl call herself?

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