So today at work I was listening to the NPR program “Politics and Trump in the Age of #MeToo” of the podcast Freak Out and Carry On. I agreed with much of the podcast, including that disclosure of sexual harrassment/assault/abuse is not enough to fix the economic, social, and political disparities between the sexes, much of what enables men to so effectively abuse women.
Yet I take great offense to the term “post-feminist generation” used by one of the guest speakers when talking about my generation – and this is certainly NOT the first time I have heard this term, or similar terms, used in discussions of women’s issues. She MAY mean simply that we are the generation to live after “second-wave” feminism, that we are the generation to benefit from progress of our feminist sisters in the 1960s and 1970s. But this term is a dangerous term because it makes it sound as though there aren’t any feminists in my generation, that we are completely separate and distanced from “second-wave” feminism. The problem is that – and this is the same problem with labeling feminism a “waves” – progress made by feminists in the 1960s and 1970s is now being reversed. And these reversals are occurring without a truly powerful fight from feminism because so many feminists of my generation have bought into the idea that there is a distinct line between “second wave” and what is referred to as “third wave” feminism – and that “second wave” feminism is basically useless because it is nothing but “cis white feminism.” And the term “post-feminist generation” simply emphasizes this false divide.
In fact, it is this idea that we are a “post-feminist generation” separate from feminism of the past that has allowed feminism to be remade in the vocabulary and ideas of neo-liberal individual empowerment and queer theory. It is amazing that libfems who accuse feminists who critique queer theory of “white feminism” have no idea that queer theory, and the resulting extreme trans activism, was in actuality created by mainly white men in academia, then pounced upon by misguided white feminists such as Judith Butler. So now we have Janet Mock, who believes he is a female because of his childhood love of lipsmackers and fear of riding down a hill, as an actual leader in the feminist movement – despite the fact that he embraces beauty pageants and shaming women’s bodies by using the word “fish.” Janet seems to be completely unaware that not being allowed to present as “feminine” is not the same as women’s oppression. The stereotypes he so readily embraces have historically been used against women to prevent them from working, voting, bodily freedom, etc. They have been forced upon women to keep them as the submissive gender. And that when his father was demanding he ride down the hill, his father was basically saying “you can do anything” – Janet not wanting to do this and being mocked by his father doesn’t negate the privilege of the male socialization with which she was raised, as historically many girls weren’t even encouraged to TAKE a bike ride down a hill. And many girls still aren’t raised with such freedom. Many girls are still taught that they can do nothing but be pretty and submissive, something Janet never experienced growing up as a boy. Experiencing the disapproval of males for not acting a stereotypical male is not the same as being socialized into the female gender, a process in which the whole of society takes part (which is why I experienced such socialization despite having gender-neutral parents). It is the same with Julia Serano calling himself an “infertile woman” – an insult to actual infertile women and the pain they suffer from being unable to conceive. He furthers the insult by complaining about feminism focusing on contraception, completely unaware that this statement comes out of the privilege of having a male reproductive system – the ultimate privilege in a social oppression based upon women’s reproductive capabilities.
This complete lack of awareness on the part of certain trans individuals (because there are trans women who get this and get why they cannot call themselves women and thus appropriate our oppression) is echoed by mainstream feminists that believe women have some sort of “cis privilege” – another concept made up in white academia that trickled down to the masses. These same liberal feminists demonize “second wave” feminism, and all those who participated, as “cis white feminism/ feminists,” ignoring that their queer foundation for feminism is the real “white” feminism as it was created by the white academic elite (not that originating from white people automatically invalidates a theory or philosophy, as that would be doing that same thing as libfems who skewer everything about “second wave” feminism – the issue is that the accusation that being against the term “cis” and against queer theory is “elite white feminism” is a contradiction to the fact that it was all invented by elite white people. That literally makes no sense).
And it makes it easy to disconnect oneself from “second wave” feminism and hold such a belief that everything in the past was “cis white feminism” when terms such as “post-feminist generation” are utilized as if valid.
It is the same with mainstream feminism’s insane defense of prostitution and pornography. There was a time in feminism, specifically “second wave” feminism, when these two institutions of patriarchy were critiqued for what they are – harmful to women and obstacles to women’s liberation. But as social sciences continue to work to sever the ties between my generation and “second wave” feminism, all of this important critique is lost, and we are left with neo-liberal identity politics revolving mainly around queer theory. And I cannot emphasize enough that queer theory was created as part of post-structuralist academia and has not benefited women in any way.
If it did, we wouldn’t be losing our reproductive rights.
Violent porn, prostitution, and sex trafficking of women wouldn’t be proliferating at a disturbing global scale. Teen boys wouldn’t be demanding girls perform the violent sex acts they witness in porn.
Poverty wouldn’t be feminized in literally every society in the world – including the richest country in the world.
And yet, having been disconnected from the movement that actually got things done, mainstream feminism is woefully inadequate to deal with such backlashes and regression. Instead we must unionize sex workers for the sake of individual empowerment (an illusion) and welcome men as women – men who are not redefining what it means to be a woman, as only women can do that. In this case, among many other women, women like Abby Wombach (unfeminine lesbian athlete) and Serena Williams – whose pregnancy photo shoot was important as it melded raw physical power, which in this case belongs to a woman often racially accused of being “manly,” with pregnancy and motherhood, two things once thought (still thought) to be unable to co-exist. These are just two examples of actual women ACTUALLY “redefining realness” for women. Individuals such as Janet Mock and Laverne Cox who use stereotyped tropes such as stripper heals and beauty pageants and physical weakness to claim womanhood are doing nothing for women’s empowerment. ANYONE who believes in legalizing prostitution, thus legalizing women as sexual objects, is doing the complete OPPOSITE of empowering women. And anyone who refuses to name women as a class based on sex, anyone who believes sex is a social construct, is ignoring the thousands of women dying of childbirth becuse female health is not considered important and the millions of women trapped in a lopsided global poverty – disenfranchising women economically and politically at a global scale.
I became a feminist when I was ten and realized what gender roles had in store for me. And what influenced my feminism from an early age was the feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. Of course there were issues of race and class, issues which still persist today – including with libfems who believe they are the racially woke generation of feminists despite ignoring the racism and classism in the sex industry they so vociferously defend. But those issues of race and class were addressed by “second wave” feminism itself – bell hooks, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, and Audre Lorde being the most well-known examples. Without “second-wave” feminism, literally nothing we as feminists take for granted, including the idea of intersectionality, would exist.
So we must get rid of terms such as “post-feminist generation” because it has made it very easy to disconnect an entire generation from the very foundations of feminist theory and activism. Along with supposed distinct boundaries between “second wave” and “third wave” feminism, the idea of a “post-feminist generation” has completely disenfranchised an entire social movement.
I do not live in the “post-feminist” world. I am not part of a “post-feminist” generation. I am continuing and IMPROVING UPON the “second-wave” feminism so integral to the rights I hold today.
And I feel as though I am losing.
For as every other oppressed group is allowed to define their oppression, their members, and the goals of their movements, women are being told that we have no class identity, no right to a class identity as females defined by a material reality from birth, and that the most important part of feminism is not the liberation of the female sex from the male sex (while taking into consideration important race and class distinctions), but the inclusion of literally everyone and everyone’s belief system – thus rendering feminism meaningless and useless. We are not allowed to question identity or someone’s personal view of feminism, even it is counter to female liberation.
Woman are being told that we have no right to control the narrative of womanhood, that we have no right to declare who is a woman and who is not – despite the fact that control of narratives is of the utmost importance in creating effective social change, and that the current trans ideology often completely erases lesbian narratives while leaving untouched the narratives of gay men.
And if you can’t question and constructively critique a movement, if you can’t give that movement a specific set of goals, if you can’t imbue that movement with consistent beliefs, if you can’t limit the focus of that movement to a specific population class and their relevant issues, if you have no exclusive but unifying narrative (every movement is exclusive) – just what do you expect to achieve?
But that is what becomes of living as the isolated “post-feminist generation.”