Monday, December 7, 2009

Feminists and Facelifts

The mainstream media have created a wide arsenal of tactics aimed at making feminism sound ridiculous, pathetic, and silly. The New York Times has a long history of painting this picture both of feminism and of women in general. The latest effort in this direction belongs to Judith Warner, one of the NY Times' most reactionary columnists.

In her article "Bo-Tax Backlash," Warner explains that feminism has abandoned its loftier pursuits and has began concentrating on fair access to plastic surgery. According to Warner, feminism today has become "a matter of a tight face and a flat belly." This happens because, somehow, in Warner's world, the age of feminist political activism is long dead and gone: "And yet it says something true enough about the way many younger women understand feminism at a time when organized, real-world activism has hit wall after wall of political impossibility. Sneaker ads teach that feminism is all about taking control — of your figure." It never occurs to Warner that actual feminists might have very little - if any - input into the creation of sneaker ads. In her desire to promote the idea that feminism is irrelevant and obsolete, she pretends that it makes sense to look for feminist manifestos in advertisement.

Warner's solution to the lack of progress of today's feminism is to get rid of our high expectations and accept whatever crumbs we can get from our lords' and masters' table: "Maybe we should talk about having entered into the middle age of feminism — a moment when stock is taken, dreams are deferred and real life is faced in all its ugliness. Because to do otherwise is no longer youthfully idealistic, just foolhardy. Because you’ve got to hold onto what you’ve got, consolidate your gains and avoid potentially disastrous future losses." This sad and defeatist position may seem foolhardy to Warner, even though many feminist women in the past struggled against conditions that were a lot worse and still came out winning in the end. As for me, I prefer my "youthful idealism" to this washed out revisionism any time.

The funny thing about this kind of writing is that these journalists who seemingly support the ideas of feminism while working hard to present it as pathetic are a lot more dangerous than open, in-your-face supporters of patriarchy. Warner presents the death of feminism's relevance as a fact that saddens her but is still a fact we need to acknowledge and accept. Her fake sympathy towards feminist agenda is nothing a but a veil she uses to mask her discomfort with idea of feminists who are working hard to achieve important goals. She'd much rather see us as vain, ridiculous, and obsessed with out appearance.

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