Thursday, November 19, 2009

Political Convictions of the New Generation, Part II

After yesterday's disappointment of hearing about the paultry and ultra-conservative political concerns of my female students, I was quite relieved to discover that my male students, at least, have a broader list of political interests. Not one of the male students even mentioned abortion. Their concerns in the realm of politics are the following: 1) the economic crisis; 2) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and 3) the access to higher education. Altogether, it seemed that male students found the topic a lot more fascinating than my female students. All of them had a lot to say, and their approach was interesting and insightful.

The question remains why the women in my class are only interested in politics inasmuch as it allows them to police other women's sexuality. In feminist circles, we still are inclined to talk exclusively about how patriarchal modes of thought and existence are promoted by men. We are often embarrassed to discuss just how much the patriarchy relies on enthusiastic and passionate support of many women.

I tried to point out some of the reasons behind women's support of the patriarchy in my book that is currently under review by one of the publishing houses in my field. I realize, however, that the "evil-men-oppress-good-saintly-women" mentality will find my research exceptionally disturbing. In my opinion, feminism will continue at its current dead-end until we summon enough intellectual and political honesty to recognize what is right in front of our eyes. Why does the younger generation of women seem so uninterested in feminism? has been a central question for many feminist critics. We have searched for an answer everywhere, except in the actual opinions of the representatives of this largely anti-feminist generation of women.


BroadSnark said...

I've never called myself a feminist because of my early experiences with feminists. They were all over privileged white women who cared more about making 150,000 a year (instead of 200,000 like their husbands) than they cared about real suffering in the world. They had little to no consciousness about racism or classism. And it always seemed that they just wanted to replace the powerful men. In other words, they didn't challenge the idea of hierarchy, they just wanted to be the ones on top.

I don't think I will ever refer to myself as a feminist. As an anarchist, I feel it is redundant. However I do think my gender critique has changed as I have aged. I suspect that, for many young women in the western world, the truth of the limitations imposed by sexism doesn't hit them until they begin to think about marriage and kids - only to discover how that effects their opportunities in life.

NancyP said...

Perhaps those women students are playing the "I'm going to graduate with a M.R.S. degree" bit, and acting in a stereotypically feminine fashion as the "guardians of morality" and leaving the money and politics issues to the men. A surprising number of young women believe that the stay-at-home lifestyle is readily achievable and that they maximize their chances for marrying a high earning man by acting as if they don't intend to have a career and will be 100% available to serve their husbands.

There's also the Bible Belt effect. A large percent of local churchgoers belong to denominations or churches that promote womanly submission to their fathers (who always know what is best) or husbands (who may be "unsaved" but still are to be obeyed and deferred to). Appearances are everything in such churches - one must speak in certain ways, and if caught out in some "transgression", must repent noisily and act piously thereafter.

Southern Illinois is Reagan, Bush, and now Sarah Palin country. The university towns and to a lesser extent the Illinois side St. Louis suburbs are small liberal or moderate patches in a conservative state. Most Southern Illinois counties had zero or 1 to 10 non-servant black residents during much of the last century.

There has been a long tradition of sociological and political studies of right wing women, with articles and books appearing in the mid-1970s if not earlier.