Feminism is resurging, says Ellie Mae O’Hagan at Comment is Free. It’s resurging because there is still so god damn much sexist shit going on. In that sense it would be nice if feminism could drop dead because it’s no longer needed.
O’Hagan recently read The Feminine Mystique for the first time.
To my mind, the most amazing and miserable aspect of The Feminine Mystique is how relevant it still is. Women of my generation are still being sold lies to keep us obedient. We are told that we are valued, until we accuse a revered man of rape. We are told we are equal, and yet we still do most of the low-paid and unpaid work. We are told we are respected, and yet we are harassed in the street, objectified and ridiculed in the media, and haunted by words like nag, harridan and hysteric in our personal relationships.
And not just those. Also bitch, cunt, twat, pussy, slut, whore, ho…
And then there’s the new, more friendly, more accommodating kind of feminism.
For every campaign against objectification, we have the Sex and the City brand of feminism, as personified by a burgeoning movement in America calling itself “sexy feminists“, which reassures us that one can believe in gender equality and still pay hefty sums of money to have pubic hair ripped out at the root.
In my mind, if being sexy and funny are the two cornerstones of a new feminist movement, we may as well all pack up and go home now. At its core, feminism should be angry. It should be angry because women are still being taken for a ride. Like the women in The Feminine Mystique, we are being sold a lie of equality in a society where the odds are politically, socially and economically stacked against us.
Feminism’s most basic function should be to emphasise that sexism is not an accident, but an inevitable consequence of a society structured to favour men. Jokes about vaginas and reassurances that we won’t have to give up lipstick are not enough. To put it bluntly, a new feminism should not be afraid to piss people off.
Yes but you see the thing is…feminism is about equal rights for women, and women are women. The first duty of women, because they are women, is to be sexy and funny. That’s because they’re women, you see. Women have to be pleasing in some way. They just do. I’m sorry, I know it seems unfair, but they just do. Because they’re women. Men don’t have to be pleasing in some way, because they’re men, and they can do other things. They have other things to offer – success, or strength, or talent. Men can give us things like Microsoft, or coal, so we don’t care so much if they’re sexy and funny. Women can’t give us anything like that, so they have to make up for it by being pleasing. That’s why we hate older women so much: they can’t be pleasing, so they’re violating this important rule that they have to be pleasing. We wish they would just fuck off and die already.
So if feminism is angry, we’re all going to hate it and attack it, because if there’s anything we don’t want, it’s unpleasing angry women all over the place, telling us not to call them cunts.
Sexy, funny feminism is inspired by the fear that feminism will never get anywhere unless it is likeable. For a long time now, feminists have been told that their message will never spread to the masses if the messenger appears to be an angry man-hating lesbian shouting the odds from a gender studies seminar room. But we need to realise that popular, non-threatening feminism is destined for failure as well. In a patriarchy – and if you are a feminist, you accept that we are living in one – what is popular and non-threatening is what men deem to be acceptable.
Can’t be helped. It’s be pleasing or get out.