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Contemplating Issues of Gender/Sexual Identity: Postfeminism Has Been Indefinitely Postponed

March 23, 2011

I hit puberty in the late 1980s, and came of age in the 1990s. I grew up in a politically liberal and intellectually elite part of the US. The issue of religion was totally ignored in our household; my mother had left the Catholic Church over their stances on women’s issues and never looked for a replacement, and my father simply never expressed an opinion. I have one sister, no brothers. What kind of clothes I wanted to wear or what toys I played with were up to me. (I do remember that my family thought it was strange when a boyfriend of my sister’s expressed incredulity that I asked for a model backhoe as a gift. There’d been recent construction on our street I found interesting – duh!)

I went off to college in a place that was even more intellectually advantaged and culturally progressive than the area I’d grown up in; “10 square miles surrounded by reality” has become a popular city slogan. My parents and I first came to visit on Columbus Day weekend of my senior year of high school, and the local buzz was all about how the city made national news for having had people wandering around the commons offering all and sundry chocolate cake to celebrate Size Acceptance Day a week or so earlier. I thought that was pretty awesome; I was sorry to have missed out on the cake.

Yes, in hindsight I realize I was incredibly lucky and privileged. I’m not one bit sorry for that; what I regret is that it is strange and unusual rather than a universal experience!

When the topic of feminism came up in sociology, history or literature classes, my general impression was that it was a once-useful but now outdated and quaint idea. Sure, there was more work to be done, but the tide had definitely turned, and we’re just in the clean-up phase, right?

I certainly didn’t consider myself a feminist. At this point, it seemed like it would be raising the concerns of women higher than those of men, and that’s not the goal, is it? The point is to come to equality and move on, not to swing the pendulum the other way into male persecution.

Can we move beyond gender dualism and get into the universal nature of human potential on all spectrums now please?



Apparently not.

Under the administration of Bush II, I used to “joke” that I was concerned the day might come when my ATM card would suddenly stop working, a la Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Frighteningly, there seem to be even more instances of misogynistic legislature proposed under the Obama administration, which I hoped would at least provide a bulwark against further insane political policies and opportunity to retrench for future corrective measures, if not actual progress.

It’s surreal and terrifying and astonishing and enraging and unbelievable.

Not to be immodest here. . . but I am not a stupid person. I’m really quite intelligent. And I keep looking at various arguments for revoking properly established recognition of long-denied women’s reproductive rights, and I do not understand them. I just don’t.

I was born with a body, and as a competent adult I have complete sovereignty over it. End of statement. No deviation of the myriad individual features of said body changes that.

Oh, so your body has a book? Good for it. It contains thoughts on bodies written by people with bodies a really long time ago, and you find them meaningful to you as suggestions to what you do with your body today? That sounds like it could be a positive thing. You think those same suggestions should impact what I do with mine, whether or not I find them meaningful? That is not okay.

I know I can’t afford the luxury of being a postfeminist in today’s American society; it would be delusional at best, and quite possibly destructive. I suppose what really gets to me about being dragged back into the fray re-contesting previously conquered territory of female autonomy is this: it’s boring! I was raised to believe this stuff was settled already. I had set my sights on whole list of other societal issues where I would have liked to have dedicated my efforts, but no! Back to the gender wars we go. It doesn’t seem to matter how cogent or time-tested or persuasive our arguments are – our opponents have stuffed wax in their ears to avoid being subjected to the influence of insidiously seductive information that doesn’t agree with the conclusions they were given and apparently embraced without any kind of logical analysis.

I’m back on the barricades because I have no choice in the matter. I don’t belong here, but my papers were confiscated and I find myself in hostile territory with no clear way to get back home. I truly, deeply resent the necessity, and the wastefulness, of having to fight to get back what was mine.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Soli permalink
    March 28, 2011 9:12 AM

    I never understood the whole idea of “post-feminism.” I just always kept using the term feminist to be an object lesson of what it could be. Then I get reminded of how much it’s still needed when hearing about stories like this of a woman who claimed to be gang raped in Libya.

    • March 30, 2011 9:17 PM

      I never thought that feminism was passe worldwide – it’s very clearly not, as you point out – nor has it ever been. I did think that American women would be able to fight patriarchal oppression more globally from a position of strength as being from one of the most equal societies in the world, though. I thought that by example the US could make a positive impact on places women aren’t respected, rather than the attitudes from where women aren’t respected resurrecting our own demons here. It’s very disturbing to me.

      (Incidentally, this post is largely background for a future post, regarding some unexpected consequences of my inherent lack of feeling gender is a core part of my intellectual/spiritual identity.)

  2. Crystal permalink
    April 11, 2011 10:14 AM

    Exactly. It’s so ridiculous and disheartening to be fighting the same war over and over again. What is that quote from Alice in Wonderland? Something to the effect of, “It takes all the running we can do just to stay in place.”

    • April 12, 2011 10:27 AM

      The wonderful oracles of Google and Wikipedia tell me the quote is from Through the Looking Glass, and in full says: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

      The second part just makes me think of the idea that a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good. . .

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