New York Magazine, which is never afraid to wrap up the lowbrow and sell it as art and vice versa (not that this article applies to that synopsis), has a long, but very thought-provoking article by Amanda Fortini about whether Clinton’s candidacy in the US represents, or has uncovered, the fourth wave of feminism.
I haven’t written much about the presidential campaign here, since this is a site about romance novels and there are few things less romantic in my opinion than the current election campaigns, but since we often deal with women’s issues, and the changing and difficult-to-pin-down definition of “feminism,” I know there are a few folks here who might find it interesting. Feel free to skip this one if such discussions turn you off.
Partially a political analysis and partially an examination of where feminism is, if it’s anywhere, the article made me sit and stare into space for a good few minutes in ponderous thought:
Who wanted to be the statistic-wielding shrew outing every instance of prejudice and injustice? Most women prefer to think of themselves as what Caroline Bird, author of Born Female, has called “the loophole woman”—as the exception. The success of those women is frequently cited as evidence that feminism has met its goals. But too often, the exceptional woman is also the exception that proves the rule.
Indeed, it might be said that the postfeminist outlook was a means of avoiding an unpleasant topic. “They don’t want to have the discussion,” a management consultant who worked at a top firm for nearly a decade told me, referring to her female colleagues. “It’s like, ‘I’m trying to have a level playing field here.’ ” Who wanted to think of gender as a divisive force, as the root of discrimination? Perhaps more relevant, who wanted to view oneself as a victim? Postfeminism was also a form of solipsism: If it’s not happening to me, it’s not happening at all. To those women succeeding in a man’s world, the problems wrought by sexism often seemed to belong to other women. But as our first serious female presidential candidate came under attack, there was a collective revelation: Even if we couldn’t see the proverbial glass ceiling from where we sat, it still existed—and it was not retractable….
It is perhaps cold comfort to say that if she loses the nomination, her candidacy leaves behind a legacy of reawakened feminism—the fourth wave, if you will. But this is in fact what is happening.
The past few months have been like an extended consciousness-raising session, to use a retro phrase that would have once made most of us cringe. We’ve parsed the gender politics of the campaign with other women in the office, at parties, over e-mail, and now we’re starting to parse the gender politics of our lives. This is, admittedly, depressing: How can we be confronting the same issues, all these years later? But it’s also exciting. It feels as if a window has been opened in a stuffy, long-sealed room. There is a thrill at the collective realization. Now the question is, what next?
In my more ambitious moments in writing on this site, I ponder whether romance and the online community of women who read and write it are a microcosm that mimics the larger state of women in the US, one that is representative of the political polarity and diversity of women in this country, only in much, much smaller numbers, which when making sweeping generalizations are easier to approach. The pressure to be nice, the forces that storm the tower to demand change, the number of women-owned and -operated small businesses in competition with established, largely male-run corporation conglomerates, the part where we’re a majority shareholder of the nation’s fiction dollars spent yet sometimes act like a minority afraid of criticism from within our own community, even if that criticism creates needed change, the idea that loyalty is more important than appropriate business conduct… yeah, all of that. So often the deeper thoughts I have on romance novels and the community here online link so neatly and seamlessly into thoughts of the State of Feminism and women in general that I have a hard time separating one from the other.
Political opinions aside, the idea that Clinton’s campaign has uncovered a latent and refueling effort on behalf of women is fascinating. But the best part, for me, was this comment, which stopped a lot of the pounding of “women haters!” drum set and robbed the trolls of their sticks. This comment, it’s like ice cream once you’ve had to eat something good for you that you hate the taste of. Reader SJL33 wrote:
Feminism does not suggest that men are evil or that they hate women. It only suggests, particularly in the 3rd wave (Michel Foucault), that femininity and masculinity are false concepts. They are nothing more than roles created by culture to define and divide, roles we have allowed and perpetuated endlessly.
I do not suggest that men act more like women or that women act more like men. I suggest that there is not any such thing. Just as there is no such thing as a Black person acting White or a White person acting Black. These roles do not exist!
They only injure and shame, and I am tired of it.
As a Black woman in college, I see the racial and gender dynamics at work all around me. As a feminist at a time when it is very unpopular I only wish to build up all of the wonderful, beautiful men AND women around me, including myself. We all want the same things, regardless of race or gender. I hope that has not been completely forgotten.
Word. To. That. Person. Like. Merde and Mon Dieu (TM Nathalie Grey)
So – back to romance:
Sexism and RomanceLandia have a long dance-card full of history – are romance novels sexist? the opposite? both? neither? a duck with sheep’s clothing? a pocketful of kryptonite? – but conversely, racism and/in RomanceLandia is debated with shouting or whispers. Debates about romance novels written by or perhaps about black women and where they are shelved in comparison to white romance novels usually end up with much hollering online or use of capslock, or devolve into a complete lack of solution and much offense. The racial and sexual/gendered dynamics of the romance community online (OnRomCom? romcomon? Rom Cum-on? *snerk* sorry.) are vast and deep and twisty as all hell, and I don’t think I can do them justice in one entry.
But I’m curious about what you think. Are we an accurate microcosm, or am I navel gazing to previously uncharted heights of self-indulgence? Which is more of a present and pressing issue, out there or in here, sexism or racism? And has the Unfeasibly Tall Greek Billionaire met his match? Only the shadow knows.