16 Sep 2008, Comments (28)

Book giveaway: It’s got hoydens in it!

Author: Helen

The Great Feminist Denial by Zora Simic and Monica Dux - Melbourne University Press

MUP have generously sent me two copies of The Great Feminist Denial by Monica Dux and Zora Simic, so I’m giving one away to the first commenter to tell us who wrote this and supply the missing words: “When I’m good, I’m very good. When I’m bad…”

This is an expanded version of a review I did for the Big Issue, thanks to Jo for the opportunity.

When I read in the AGE op-ed page that a book would be coming out in 2008, to be called The Great Feminist Denial, the title led me to expect another (as the authors call it) “feminism-gone-wrong story”. If we’re to believe the media, feminism is responsible for everything from low birthrates to the women in Sex And the City.

If post feminism implied that we could move on from feminism because it had already succeeded, the new millennium version… invites us to abandon feminism as a failure that has actually made womens’ lives worse.

But Dux and Simic ask: how accurate is the popular image of feminism that’s held up for constant criticism? The answer is, not very. “(B)efore feminism can make sense, we need to get past a huge wall of bullshit. So, let’s unpack a bit of that bullshit.”

This book is equally readable for the self-identified feminist and those who don’t know much about it. (Who was Andrea Dworkin really? was she as scary as people make out?) It also has a great time demolishing lots of strawfeminists: “[The] poster girls for feminism-gone-wrong: the deluded pole dancer, a victim of false feminist ’empowerment’; the thirty-something career woman who will miss out on babies because feminism told her she could have it all; …the heiress without panties; the actress with an eating disorder; the pop star with a shaved head; the oppressed Muslim woman whom feminism ignored and abandoned…” and many more.

But also, look – Hoydens!

Hoyden About Town [is] one of our favourite blogs…

The Hoyden About Town community started off with just one person- ‘tigtog’, who started blogging in 2005. Since then she’s blogged extensively at Larvatus Prodeo, one of Australia’s more lively left-wing blogs, and helped launch Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, a one-stop shop for all your feminist queries. Click under “Stop the Strawfeminist”, for instance, and you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions such as “aren’t feminist just hairy legged makeup haters?” and “Don’t women have ‘female’ privilege?” In March 2007, tigtog invited Lauredhel to share Hoyden duties with her. With tigtog in New South Wales, and Lauredhel in Western Australia, the Hoydens have only met face to face once. But in cyberspace geography is no obstacle.
…To those who caricature blogging as “slacktivism”, Lauredhel is dismissive: “I have a strong belief in the power of words as well as in the power of non-verbal actions. I don’t think talking is the only answer, the only type of activism; but I think it’s under-rated.”
…tigtog: “Keeping track of and exposing the bullshit, that is essential. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The crucial tool in keeping the backlash contained (and shrinking it) is to debunk it and make it more and more ridiculous.”

The book’s failing, as Lauredhel and many others point out, is that in their haste to disasssociate from “cliches” of the textbook Radical Hairy Feminist, they place too much emphasis on “we’re all quite feminine, really”. In doing so, they do marginalise women who are “ugly” and “fat” (I think the authors, being young, might not quite have internalised the sad fact that most of us have been consigned to this patriarchal dustbin once we reach a certain age.) In the op-ed article which are came out today, this argument is placed too much to the front and caricatured into “Oh, no, we wouldn’t dream of looking ugly or fat or hairy or any of those things, We’re normal and nice, please love us.” In their eagerness to throw off balance what they know is an essentially hostile audience (see chapter 1), they make the mistake of coming over all submissive. As a much loved radfem points out, most women perform femininity as a necessary survival skill, but it’s disappointing that that should be the central point of an op-ed article on this book, which really has so much more to offer. (Note, Lauredhel has pointed out that it was largely the AGE op-ed by Monica which she herself is referring to, also, my remark about “submissive” is about the article too – the book is much more robust).

If you’re “not a feminist, but…” you need it. If you’re an antifeminist, I dare you to read it.

Comments (28)

  • lauredhel says:

    Cheers for that being a selling point for you. *waves*

    If I can have a somewhat minor clarification, I haven’t reviewed the book, having not had time yet to give it a close reading. I’ve only commented on the Age article, as a standalone.

  • Helen says:

    I changed my mind about the quotation, so anyone sending me the answer to the former one is OK too.

  • Helen says:

    L, I have a jaundiced view of op eds in the AGE lately – oh so you noticed!?

    The op ed didn’t really reflect the book, which does a great job of such things as Feminism Stole My Babies, Working Women who will Never Meet a Man, Empowerfulled Pole Dancers, the Muslims who Need Rescuing by Pamela Bone…you get the idea, ther’s a lot of good stuff. I do agree with you, though, about disowning older and plainer women.

    I think the central premise of the book is really the strawfeminist, not really a common word outside the feminist blogs at the moment, but a hugely useful concept. I think it will be a good pick-me-up for a lot of women who are beginning to feel beleagured as they identify with feminism.

  • Gillian says:

    Mae West? “…I’m better”? There are rewards for staying up late reading blogs?

  • Meself says:

    “…I’m better.”

    From “the come up and see me sometime” gal.

    Freddie Mac’s girlfriend, Fanny Mae West.

  • Helen says:

    Both correct – but once I fished Gillian out of the moderation queue she was frist.

    Sorry, GG – But you’re really in it for the terrible puns anyway 🙂

  • tigtog says:

    Echoing Lauredhel’s cheers – ta!

    I haven’t read the book yet either – it’s waiting for me at the post office – but I will be interested to see how it varies from Dux’s op-eds, and what difference Simic’s voice makes to the book.

  • Helen says:

    And, staying up late reading blogs is its own reward.

  • M-H says:

    Sounds like a great read. I do get tired of young woman blaming ‘feminists’ and ‘feminism’ for the woes of their lives.

  • Laura says:

    But do they really M-H? Outside the bizarro world of the opinion pages? I don’t believe they do.

  • Bene says:

    drive-by from the Hoyden post…

    My experience is only in the US and UK, but Laura, I’d say that as a generalized group, young women are less about blaming feminism and more about thinking it’s redundant. The sense is that they have their rights and equity already, and that feminism, like other civil rights causes, is history, not current events.

    I’ve never heard ‘feminism ruined my life’ from anywhere outside of the neo-con circle. It’s just seen as irrelevant. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.

  • Laura says:

    Bene there is at least one notable local exponent – Virginia Hausegger – wouldn’t surprise me if she has Northern hemispherean analogues.

  • Meself says:

    “she was frist.”



    Well then, she wasn’t first but frist obviously one of those sneaky feminist weasel words.

    However, as gentleman that I have never been, I’ll bow to my younger, girlier and betters’ judgment.

    Slinks away miffed but wiser. (Unlike Brendan.)

  • Helen says:

    Scratch Tyranny’s ears for me G-G.

    Bene: Here’s a rough guide to Australian strawfeminist bashers.

    Virginia Hausegger = “Feminism stole my babies!”
    Joanne Murray-Smith = “Yes babies but one must give up all idea of excellence in other things. Except for me. I can continue to be famous and successful, but I’m different.”
    Miranda Devine = “Women are stupid and irrational, except for me.”
    Bettina Arndt – “Oh dear god what about the poor men!”
    Jim Schembri = “Feminism would be all very well but they Doin it Rong. Let me explain to you ladies how you should be doing it…”

    That’s a few, anyway.

  • Bene says:

    Hrm, lemme see if I can come up with a list of US-side critics. I just don’t see it coming from young women–say, anyone GenX or younger–unless they’re a part of the big neo-con machine. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Helen says:

    I had morphed away from the book thing. We’re talking about two different things – op ed writers and people in general. Dux & Simic discuss both. From my own experience I do think people have stupid ideas of what a feminist is and are reluctant to identify with it, yes. I posted earlier in the year about bringing up the subject of my blogging with a group of family (as feminist blogging) and the atmosphere going all frosty. And the comments from random people in the MSM “blogs” comments aren’t encouraging.

  • Troll (Well, it is the full moon) says:

    [Come back when you find something more substantial than the Daily Telegraph or blogs which even you admit are written by nutters. Ed]

  • M-H says:

    Yes, Laura, they do, More than once, in my company. And in the letters column of the Sydney Morning Herald. Some young women associate feminism with their mothers’ generation, and thus reject it unexamined. Having said I am a feminist I have been asked quite seriously in tutorials why I hate men. I have been asked why I want to destroy marriage. I have been blamed for the shortage of childcare (apparently we didn’t work hard enough to create more of it).

    I knew that the feminism of women younger than I am would be different from the feminism I believe in and fought for. I do appreciate the new insights into feminism I get from young women. But I didn’t expect that my feminism would be reviled quite as much as it has been by young women. I’m not sure whether to be sad or angry,

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    But I didn’t expect that my feminism would be reviled quite as much as it has been by young women. I’m not sure whether to be sad or angry

    I usually go with angry, but I think the ideal response is ‘philosophical’. You hit the nail on the head when you said ‘Some young women associate feminism with their mothers’ generation, and thus reject it unexamined.’ It’s inevitable.

    All the same, I often wish that, overnight and just for a week or so, every single material right and social attitude that second-wave feminists fought to change would be whisked away, just so young women could experience for themselves what life was like pre-1968 or so.

    One hopeful thing I have noticed is that young women still in their 20s seem to have a different attitude again, so perhaps it’s all just going in waves.

  • brownie says:

    I would pay good money to see
    The Giggling Idiot Arndt v. St.Mae of West, the Mother Superior of Hoydens everywhere. A Monument.

    “Why don’t you … com’up ‘n … seee me” was The Line.

    and with it, St.Mae Created Cary’s Career.

  • brownie says:

    and now I’m back from the link.
    A book that “puts to rest the ailing feminist past” would HAVE to be GIVEN away.

    ditto what Pavlov said:
    “I often wish that, overnight and just for a week or so, every single material right and social attitude that second-wave feminists fought to change would be whisked away, just so young women could experience for themselves what life was like pre-1968 or so.”
    A girl could not enter a pub, just for starters.
    Air hostesses had to resign if they got married, and so did many women in other jobs. Just for starters.

  • Helen says:

    Why do you keep getting stuck in the spaminator?!?
    I agree, but that is the stchoopid blurb that somebody wrote.

  • Helen says:

    The marriage ban applied to the entire public service.
    For the benefit of non-Australians and gen Ys here, one of the features of old-fashioned pubs was the “ladies’ lounge”, a separate seraglio where Teh Ladies could drink their shandies and Barossa Pearl white wine.

  • […] Zoe at crazybrave, Helen on the Cast Iron Balcony, and Clem at the Dawn Chorus all have different ideas about the Great Feminist Denial and Dux’s opinion piece. […]

  • M-H says:

    Into the 1970s nurses (at least in NSW and possibly other states) needed their matron’s permission to get married. This was excused on the grounds that their absence would affect shiftwork rosters, but really it was an excuse to maintain control of nurses, who were virtually all women.

    Yes, PC, I’d love to see that too! My mother ‘had’ to find a job when we were at primary school (my father had had surgery for cancer and couldn’t work for a while) and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone at school, not even the nuns. The only person who knew was the woman down the road who looked after us in emergencies.

  • blue milk says:

    I’ve read both your reviews now, nice work.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks Blue milk! I’ve only done one review – for the Big Issue. Unless you’re counting this post.

  • blue milk says:

    Yeah, I was counting this one. Hahaha.

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