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Feminism on the Outs?

It was over one year ago (January 26, 2008, to be specific) that The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, featured an article by Karen Von Hahn, reporting that feminists were a “breed” on the verge of extinction.

Essentially, the article referenced the notions that today’s young women are more likely to relate with Victoria Beckham than Gloria Steinem (that is, if they even know who Ms. Steinem is), that the possibility of a female president is undershadowed by a Britney Spears comeback, and that the feminists of yesteryear have failed to make their daughters and granddaughters well-versed on the historical struggles of women and those of the present and future.

The article (which I have pasted below) is indeed thought-provoking, raising many important questions about the direction in which the feminist movement is heading and whether it serves a function in contemporary societies.

Von Hahn, who writes “we are living in a new era of post-feminism…the young women I know see no great victory in Hillary Clinton's run for the U.S. presidency…” makes it seem as though this younger generation is wholly uninformed on the women’s movement (and its personalities) and the significance of its triumphs.

At 23, I beg to differ. I don’t know what social circles Von Hahn runs in, but I am constantly being introduced to incredibly inspiring and passionate young women who are making a difference in their worlds at all different levels.

With that said, I ask the following: Is feminism a fad that it is now past its expiration date? Was it once "en vogue" but should now be put on the sale racks along with all of yesterday's trends?

I, for one, do not concede with the argument that today’s feminism equates with a "candy-coated world of Spice Girls tunes, pink-feathered purses, and Sex and the City".

What do you think?

..........

It’s Official: Feminism is Out of Style (Karen Von Hahn)

-- The death this week of Suzanne Pleshette - that sassy, sexy comedienne who, along with playing Bob Newhart's better half, starred in the kind of swinging seventies, Love, American Style romps that comprised my inappropriate after-school TV viewing schedule - has me feeling like I should be stuffed and put on display in some sort of museum of women's liberation.

That, and the revelation that came to me while playing a board game over the holidays with my 26-year-old niece and 18-year-old daughter. The game is called Hoopla: You pick a card and act out the person, place or thing named on it for the group to guess. After drawing her card, my hip and literate niece asked whether she could choose another. "I don't have any idea who this is," she said, passing the card to my daughter. "Me neither," shrugged my well-informed Sophie. They passed it to me. The woman on the card was Gloria Steinem.

Whether it's because we've all fallen asleep at our tasks like Snow White, or whether we've been outplayed in a subtle and long-standing culture war, what is clear is that we are living in a new era of post-feminism. That the young women I know see no great victory in Hillary Clinton's run for the U.S. presidency is proof enough. That they also see Barack Obama as the one candidate who represents "change" is nothing less than astounding.

Ever since Clinton and her contemporaries crammed their way into law and business schools, we've been told by everyone from the cheerleading women's business networks to Virginia Slims that we've made it. Turning our backs on conventional feminism and its grinding focus on women's oppression, we empowered our daughters to embrace the more upbeat Girl Power movement. Candy-coating the world in Spice Girls tunes, pink-feathered purses and Sex and the City, we sold them a bill of goods: that women are as free and unencumbered as men, that they can achieve any goal they might dream of - even that the odds are in their favour.

As a result, the girls of this generation, who consider it "lame" to align themselves with a woman candidate on the sole ground of sisterhood, are more likely to tune in to the new CosmoTV digital channel (sample program, Dirty Cows: "Take 10 stylin' British babes, add one cold and lofty barn and a young, rich, handsome farmer looking for love, and you've got a recipe for mayhem, because to win his heart they're going to have to fight like dirty cows") than flip open the 35th-anniversary issue of Ms. Magazine.

Talk about old school: The issue featured Superwoman on its cover. (That's how tired the movement is looking: They had to resort to a comic-book heroine who appeared more than half a century ago to illustrate it.) The hard truth is that we have failed to impress upon our own daughters that women's issues still matter.

As Steinem herself (yes, she is still alive) observed of the Clinton/Obama challenge in The New York Times, gender - not race - is still "probably the most restricting force in American life," adding that "black men were given the vote a half-century before women" and have ascended the ranks of power in greater numbers in advance of women.

With our hands in the air begging to answer, we have outperformed our male colleagues at school only to be slapped hard in the real world. According to an April, 2007, study by the American Association of University Women, despite pulling in higher grade point averages across all majors, women earn 80 per cent of what their male counterparts take home one year after graduation. Ten years later, the figure drops to 69 per cent.

In 2007, just 12 of the Fortune 500 companies boasted female chief executive officers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 14.6 per cent of board seats are held by women, and a scant 6.7 per cent of us qualify among the top five wage earners. The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada are even worse: In our country, women make a measly 64 per cent of what men earn. Which means that pay equity day - the date by which women will reach the amount that men earned by the end of last year - won't happen till May 10 of this year.

At the same time, according to numerous recent global studies, women - even those part of the growing ranks of double-income families - still shoulder the brunt of both housework and child care. And the right to choose, a key rallying cry for traditional feminists, is so taken for granted by today's young women that they giggle along with the hipster protagonists in Knocked Up who aren't mature enough to say the word "abortion" and the wisecracking teenager in Juno who opts to carry her baby to term because the abortion clinic gives her the creeps.

But worst of all is feminism's failure to create true sisterhood. Like mean girls in the playground, we started feeling all warm and fuzzy toward Clinton only after our claws and barbs drew tears. Which, given the current "race versus feminism" question, might help explain why Clinton is doing just about as well with black voters as Obama is doing with women. Because if there is one thing that blacks and women share, apart from their oppression from the white male corridors of power, it is their enduring lack of faith in their own community. --

Comments

OjibwayMigisi's picture

We are not living in an era

We are not living in an era of post-feminism. I feel there are more movements for women and girls around the globe than ever before.

The definition of feminism varies from person to person, culture, to race and to class. Some identify as womanist and some want to decolonize their culture to bring back more of a matriarchal society that once existed. Feminism exists and women are empowered to take action. If anything feminism is on the rise. The definitions are different and not all feminists fit into one box.

Cultural Correspondent's picture

Living Proof...

Cecelia,

By way of your response, this entire forum, and others like it, you are living proof that the women's/feminist movement is alive and thriving, and that there are still many issues (such as whether feminism is "valid") that need to be addressed.

I do believe that technology has granted us several important mediums, such as the Internet, that have made it possible for us to speak up and out, and connect our thoughts and voices. As a result of global media, many new issues are brought to light, while others remain perennial. There is no denying that developments are occurring within feminist circles, but I do not believe they are negative, as Von Hahn suggests. They are merely a reflection of our changing world and needs. What may have been pertinent or possible in 1969 is not necessarily so in 2009.

Nonetheless, as modern-day feminists (however you identify or define this term), we cannot overlook the significant contributions made by our first, second, and third wave sisters. Our approach and platforms may be different, but our dedication and passion can be observed and experienced on a local, national, and international stage.

-- Jackie

OjibwayMigisi's picture

Yes, that is why I love World

Yes, that is why I love World Pulse. There are so many amazing women doing the work worldwide. This is so inspirational at it seems like this is a global movement to create gender equality in our world.

We are all moving together taking the same steps - even if we are in several different countries.

Peace

I consider myself a VERY YOUNG, ACTIVE, EDUCATED, FEMINIST. And though I do not know half the things I wish to know, I am on my way to knowing as much. I take great offence by Ms. Von Hahn's article.

For Ms. Von Hahn to say that "it's official: feminism is out of sytle" is to completely undermine the power of young feminists. Young feminists have been working as older feminists have.

It is evident that Ms. Von Hahn has a problem but it is not with feminists. She mentioned that feminists have not been transfering valuable information to their daughters, which is probaly the case for some, but am sure is not for all. A great feminist friend of mine, S. Correa, has a feminist daughter who does wonderful work. A friend Marianella, a grand young feminist, is also the daughter of a feminists. Now the real problem is that maybe Ms. Von Hahn has failed to inform and educate her own daughter. My own mother knew nothing of feminism, am teaching her as I learn, but I am being guided beautifully in all aspect by wonderful elder mother like feminist sisters.

Anyway, why force your daughter to be feminists if they do not wish to? You can tell your daughters all there is about feminism but if they do not wish to value or use the information, then that's just how it is. Imagine a world where all women are feminists. I really wonder how entertaining/ineteresting that would be.

Ms. Von Hahn speaks of Clinton running for presidency and how as women "we' refused to support her. I think we would be foolish to give a person power just because they are women. Imagine the hypocrisy there. Why vote for my friend to be secretay of the committte when she is so disorganized and has no typing skills? Someone on this site once asked if as feminist our taks was to reverse gender bias, I think if Ms. Von Hahn asks us to support Clinton simply because she's woman then we would be moving in that direction.

Discrimation is also what feminists fight against and Ms. Von Hahn even with all her experience still discriminates. We all discriminate whether we believe it or not. But the only way we'll end this is if we think thoroughly before we speak on anything. Ms Von Hahn speaks of the commonality between blacks and women, now people that's double discrimination against me. Am black and am a woman. People, no matter their colour, gender, religion, or whatever, will support whatever they wish whenever they wish and though we can try to educate and convince them to take our side, sometimes that's just what it will be a "trial".

Finally sisters, if feminism was out of date so would be our struggles as women. So, since as women we still struggle; since in Jamaica a girl is more likely to be expelled from school for fighting and a boy put on suspension; since in Guinea Conakry Girls still struggle to be educated; since in the Phillippinnes a woman must first prove that her husband is incompetent and was before they got married to get a divorce; since female genital mutilation still exists; since girls must still babysit their younger siblings while the boy, who is older by so many years, goes out to play with friends; since promiscuous females are called protitues and promiscuous males praised; since my body is still considered (by some, even women) only a house keeping, man pleasing, baby machine; since there is breath in me and I"M A WOMAN, Feminism is not out dated nor does it need to be placed on the sale racks.

Young femists sisters lets keep on keeping on. There's much work to be done and with the help and guidance of our older feminist sisters we will be able to do it.

Kemone

Cultural Correspondent's picture

Beautifully said!

Wow, Kemone! What a beautiful and well thought out response.

I am going to keep this short, as I just want to acknowledge how inspiring it was for me to read your words -- puts Von Hahn's theories to shame, that's for sure!

Keep questioning and keep writing...I will look forward to reading.

Jackie

efe's picture

who is Gloria ?

I for one do not know Gloria and i am not apologetic about that fact.How many people know about Funmi Ransome-Kuti (she was a Formidable Nigerian woman) so knowing or not knowing established names do not make for being feminist.A feminist is someone who is comfortable in being who she is and allows others express their fundamental human rights in the way they deem fit.

World Citizen's picture

CRAB-IN-THE-BARREL SYNDROME.

I found Karan Von Hahn's article very insigtful. I like how she honed in on the substantive issue of CRAB-IN-THE-BARREL SYNDROME, that is so effectively keeping so-called "today's" Woman, emotionally and intellectually estranged from their proud-to-be-called-Feminist counterparts of bygone days.

For unlike "today's" woman who - sadly, sees her cultural-indoctrination in the light of cultural-assimilation, the true Feminist were (...and THANKFULLY STILL ARE...!) persons who would have either seen firsthand, or had the ability to recognise thereafter, the FIRST STAGES of MEN'S CALLOUS, SELFISH, and RELENTLESS DIS-ASSEMBLING of WOMEN'S HUMANITY thru' CALCULATED SEIZURE OF HER BIOLOGICAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC - and as such ESSENTIALLY-HUMAN RIGHTS. Such women therefore - and then as now, are goaded on by an almost desperate resolution to halt this GENDER-HOLOCAUST, and will as such do ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, SAY ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID in the name, and under the banner of WOMEN'S RE-EMPOWERMENT. Women SHARING IN, and VESTED IN DE-CONSTRUCTING an archetypal LEGACY OF DIS-ESTABLISHMENT, that serves today to inhere within them an EFFORTLESSLY wholehearted commitment to, and unshakeable belief in, the VITAL NEED for SUSTAINING THE BATTLE that is - STILL - The Woman's RE-EMPOWERMENT Movement.

Hence, when I cite the phenomenon of CRABS-IN-A-BARREL in terms of the almost disembowelling bemusement I never cease to feel, when I hear "today's" Woman blithely maintain her allegiance to a MALE-CRAFTED STATUS-QUO THAT WAS DELIBERATELY SET IN MOTION TO DE-HUMANISE AND DIS-EMPOWER HER AS A HUMAN BEING, I seek to draw attention to a PECULIAR TRAIT, amounting as it so UNCHANGINGLY does to the CULTURAL MODUS-OPERANDI of these JOINTLY-TRAPPED CREATURES. Namely: that when ONE of these JOINTLY-TRAPPED CRABS seeks to slowly clamber UP-AND-OUT of their CONFINES...inexorably...THE REMAINING TRAPPED CRABS WILL EXERT MAIN FORCE...TO DRAG THE ESCAPING-CRAB BACK DOWN...AND BACK INTO THEIR JOINTLY-TRAPPED MIDST.

I am certain that the picture painted, and hopefully also - the analogy being drawn thereby, is clear. If perchance it isn't, allow me to spell it out:

The so-called "Today's" Woman, is NOT as clueless as her VERBALISED rants, and her ATTITUDINAL scorn against Feminsm would lead one to believe. What this woman is, however, is DEATHLY AFRAID! She is AFRAID of the future that looms ahead of her, since having SEEN/KNOWN/PSYCHICALLY-FELT...THE COMPARATIVE FAILURE BY-WOMEN, AT RE-CLAIMING THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS TO-DATE. She is AFRAID that, for such a PITCHED-BATTLE, one fought over such HISTORICAL-AEONS, waged amongst such GLOBALLY-DISPARATE RACES OF HUMANKIND, the fact of EXTANT NON-RESTITUTION OF WOMEN'S MEN-STOLEN RIGHTS appears to be an ominous harbinger - a SYMBOL almost, of what she stands to face in the UKNOWN FUTURE.

What this so-called "Today's" woman chooses NOT to be aware of, however, is the COMPLICIT ROLE PLAYED BY SOME WOMEN, TO VARIOUS DEGREES, ACROSS DIFFERENCE GLOBAL CULTURES...IN NEATLY TYING, AND RE-TYING THE ORIGINALLY MAN-TIED CORDS AND CHAINS THAT KEEPS HER SHACKLED AS SEXUAL-NONENTITY, SUB-HUMAN POSSESSION...BUT NEVER FULLY-VESTED HUMAN!

So that when, for example, in "today's" equally "modern" AMERICA, as is the case with ALL other so-called "DEVELOPED" NATIONS....we nonetheless ...MEN-VIEWERS and WOMEN-VIEWERS both....INCESSANTLY WITNESS UPON THE "CULTURAL-BAROMETER" THAT TELEVISION REPRESENTS, the SYMBOLIC-ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN WITH "HOUSE," "SEX" and "ENTERTAINMENT," (...and MOST IMPORTANTLY- ALL DONE WITH WOMEN'S FULL COMPLICITY!,,,) ...we realise that the WOMEN-CRABS, lying prone and hopeless at the depths of the RAPED, BEATEN, ECONOMICALL-DEPRIVED & HUMANLY-NULLIFIED "BOTTOMLESS-BARREL" that such a so-called LIFE affords them, are DRAGGING-BACK "WOMEN'S-MISERY" to SHARE THEIR OWN MISERABLE-WOMEN'S COMPANY."

For surely when such determinedly "modern" Women witness minutely, hourly and daily within such aggressively "modern" times, the NONETHELESS DELIBERATE placement of "DOMESTICALLY THINGI-FIED" WOMEN (..happily Singin' and Hoppin' alongside MOPS & BROOMS & BUCKETS...!) the INCESSANT alignment of "SEXUALLY THINGI-FIED" WOMEN (...half-dressed and wholly-sexualised atop CARS & CARTON-BOXES & GARBAGE CANS...!) ....the RELENTLESS apportioning of "SOCIALLY THINGI-FIED" WOMEN (...valiantly mouthing RAH-RAH-RAH AS FIGHTING-MAD SOCCER-MOMS AND CHEERLEADERS OFFERING PLUMP POM-POMS AND WIDE V-SPLIT LEGS AT THE BOYS' GAMES WHOSE VICTORY EVER ELUDES THEM...!)...surely - surely, She has a Right to her DEATHLY, SOUL-SEARING FEAR!?! A REAL, ABIDING FEAR THAT WOMEN'S LIVES WHEN LIVED AS FIGHTING-WOMEN, HAVE NOT "REALLY" CHANGED! THAT HER LIFE THEREFORE, IF LIVED AS A FIGHTING-WOMAN (..i.e, ever crawling UPWARDS-and-ONWARDS UNTIL THE DAY OF HER ESCAPE...!) instead of LAID-DOWN, AND LAID-BACK AS A SUPINE, SPINELESS, WOMAN'S-BODY (i.e, exerting herself ONLY TO CLAW AN ESCAPING-WOMEN BACK DOWN TO HER LEVEL, AND BACK INTO THE MORASS THAT SHE FEARFULLY ACCEPTS HER LIFE TO BE/REMAIN!) WILL BE LIVED IN VAIN.

Think about it. Think about this so-called "today's" Woman SEEING...IN TODAY'S "MODERN, CIVILIZED WORLD"....yet such ARCHAIC, MAN-MADE MODES of arbitraily de-constructing and re-constructing "Women's- Sexual and Biological Lives," such PRIMITIVE, MAN-SUSTAINED IMPETUS for co-opting "Women's social and economic Dues," such PRIMITIVE, GRIMLY-MAN-BATTLED-FOR DETERMINATION to further degenerate "Women's Future Aspirations of FINALLY LIVING as Human Beings, through continued and continuously-ceded strategies...with and without women's complciity to Sexually-De-humanise! Biological-Disempower! HUMANLY-INVALIDATE!!

Does NOT "today's Woman, whether CLAWING-CRAB or not, have good - very good REASON, to Fear?

In other words: what is that ONE ESCAPING "FEMINIST" CRAB-WOMAN, really doing to breach the BARREL-RIM...amidst such sobering odds? Does this LONE WOMAN - which the Feminist Movement symbolises, even KNOW how much depends upon her SUCCESS?

olakitike's picture

Culture?

I think that Miss Karen in declaring feminism dead is somewhat narrow in her view. I live in Nigeria, and I would say that in a way women are becoming more vocal about issues that concern them now than before. They may not call themselves feminists or even any name at all, but the voices are rising here. Here, it is not dead, it is beginning and growing slowly in some areas more vibrant in some areas. There so much generalization in the article and I think she makes her statements and assumptions based on a single cultural perspective. However, the world is bigger, more. . .

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