Tags: poster girls

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.