glosswitch on Snow White vs The Evil Queen: Some thoughts on feminism’s “generation gap”. It starts with a movie, Snow White and the Huntsman.
It’s everything that’s terrible about how mainstream feminism is marketed and it’s a bloody fairy tale. Just what is wrong with the world?
Charleze Theron’s Ravenna, the villain of the piece, is a cross between Tampax Pearl’s Mother Nature and Valerie Solanas. She is pitched against Kristen Stewart’s Snow White, who is young, beautiful and feisty, all set to overthrow a patriarchal regime that demands all women be young, beautiful but not particularly feisty. Snow White rebels by remaining young and beautiful while also having agency™ and being empowered™ – go her! Meanwhile Ravenna, the Evil Queen, can only maintain her youth and beauty by being evil. Deep down she’s an ageing minger and therefore not worthy of exerting any power or influence. So Snow White kills her. Yay feminism! Kill that stupid, youth-addicted, power-hungry, post-menopausal waste of space!
It’s interesting how familiar that sounds.
It’s obvious that Ravenna ought to just get old and lump it rather than try to beat the system. The camera lingers over ancient (late thirties) Theron’s face, comparing it unfavourably with Stewart’s pure, unlined visage. It’s not clear whether “the system” here is fairyland or Hollywood – perhaps there’s no real difference. Anyhow, the message is this: if you’re going to be a rebellious woman, be a very young, pretty one who only rebels against other women, preferably the older, less pretty ones. That way you can put on a sexy show of beating the system while the system remains firmly intact.
I can’t help thinking this is the perfect metaphor for the so-called generational model of feminism, one that sees women proceeding in successive waves, each one trashing the one that came before it plus the one that follows. Ravenna is to Snow White what second wavers are to younger feminists today, and what first wavers were to second wavers. She’s demonic, extreme, deluded. She doesn’t “get it” in the way Snow White does. She’s a misogynist caricature whereas Snow White, once you strip away the agency bullshit, is a patriarchal fantasy woman, a cool girl feminist par excellence. And that’s the story of feminism. Either you’re an evil witch – a racist-transphobe-frigid harpy who doesn’t know her time is up – or you’re an ineffectual sexy faux-rebel, storming the castle and swishing your hair with no clue that actually, you’ll get old too. One day you’ll be the past-it minger to whom no one wants to listen. Queer gender all you like but one day you’ll be placed on the same old scrapheap of womanhood as the rest of us.
No. That won’t happen. There’s a new system in place now – for the first time in history, all the women who are young and pretty now will stay that way forever. They will also continue to “get it” forever; no one will come along in five years rolling her eyes and getting it better.
Misogyny is clever these days. Women are so empowered we’re allowed to project manage our own women-hating via the medium of feminist discourse. I’ve noticed this recently in response to the New Statesman’s series of essays on second-wave feminism. The belief that older women’s work is of no value – that they are indeed evil witches – is very much to the fore in the knee-jerk responses from people who (I’ll hazard a guess) have not read the work of the thinkers they deride:
Plus also sexy and not ugly.