I Blame the Patriarchy recently flew off the handle on burlesque, a form of loathed “fun feminism” about which Twisty writes:
How is fun-feminism different from regular feminism? Not at all, except that it’s antifeminist. It’s when you capitulate to, participate in, embrace, and openly promote rape culture in exchange for approval, claiming that it empowerfulizes you.
The real gold can be mined out of the comments (equaling the approximate word-count of The Brothers Karamazov), that followed this fairly curt post. Mostly cries of approval rang from the mountaintops, with but a few dissenters, who were conveniently dismissed as under educated or “not real feminists”.
I link to this primarily because I know many of my readers are involved in sex-positive feminism, and would find this all of interest. For my part, as someone who might qualify for these commenters as a foppish and ignorant fun-feminist in addition to being the daughter of a porn writer/businesswoman/personality, and sister of the ceaselessly insightful author of Porn Perspectives, not to mention a self-identified radical feminist, I have to express my disappointment in the spitting antagonism of this conversation.
I run my mouth about feminism roughly every waking hour, only half-believing what I say. I’ve dabbled in it all, from being a shaved-headed separatist Dworkin apostle (having the opportunity to lecture Naomi Wolf for her lack of commitment in her own apartment), to wearing stilettos and red lipstick as a production assistant for a porn movie, and virtually every shade between the two. By “dabble”, I mean I throw myself wildly from one disposition to the next; and yes, educating myself to the point of social alienation along the way.
My obsessive consumption of feminist literature and political ideology has left me tangled in many equally valid and contradictory schools of thought in the movement, the surface of which is but scraped! If I am therefore dismissed as “confused”, at least the label is just. Who isn’t?
The only way I can think to grope along the walls of this crude tunnel is by speaking and writing about feminism as much as I can stomach it, utilizing every platform available to refine my thoughts and hope to find truths forged in the fires of debate.
If the above sentiment reads as lofty, that’s because the goals of feminism are just that. To imagine that one form of feminism is the one pathway to a complete overhaul in gender-hierarchy and human injustice, you’re dreaming. The fact is: feminism, as it stands today, isn’t good enough.
It falls short on all counts: symbolism, theory, politics, aesthetics, inclusiveness, coherence, draw, and the list goes on.
This goes without saying. So it is with virtually all movements, though my sense of feminism’s inadequacy is piercing because it is the ideology with which I align. The underlying idea, which I define broadly as “the belief in women’s fulfillment as human fulfillment”, is the only thing I know for sure. Everything else is the process through which I can best live this belief and extend its reach.
Pop Feminist is one pose I strike with the all of the above in mind. The symbolic currency of popular culture is absolutely one of the best ways to make feminism wider, to give more people the authority to join in a discussion, to think difficult realities through with the mobilizing energy of humor.
The most destructive possible path feminists can walk is that which promotes silence, that which will not consider or converse, and that which allows itself to dismiss and hate.
The trivialization of “fun feminists”, which seeks to define these women (myself included) as not feminists at all, is a bizarre and unnecessary act of self-cannibalization. While I disagree with a lot of the anti-burlesque commenters, the only thing I truly object to is the clear desire to homogenize the feminist movement in their self-referencing image.
I can envision nothing more devastating to the aims of so ambitious an ideology as feminism than inversion.
One commenter observes,
the defining characteristic of feminism is that it’s not fun and it costs dearly in social acceptance. when guys approve, it’s a great guage of whether or not something is feminist at all
The idea that to be a feminist is to accept, in essence, a lifetime of masochism and isolation (within one’s gender) is profoundly self-limiting. Even on Pop Feminist, feminism is not a dance party all the time, but to deny the possibility of deriving joy or having “fun” in working toward the liberation of women (in every possible definition of both terms) is to admit the impossibility of the very goal.
How about this: more voices not less, open doors not closed, exchange not embargoes, and perseverance not despair. Feminism is dynamic enough to even make room for fun every now and then.
Or, in the superior words of Joni Mitchell:
“I want to be strong, I want to laugh along
I want to belong to the living
Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive
I want to wreck my stockings in some juke box dive”