Noughtie Girls

Monday, 3 August 2009

I haven't read Ellie Levenson's The Noughtie Girl's Guide To Feminism, the recently-published tome which has caused so much debate across the blogosphere and the press. To be honest, reading about it before it was published put me off and having read through subsequent posts and discussions I don't feel any more inclined to. So what I'm about to say is informed entirely by reviews, interviews and articles. It's ok though, I've been following it all with great interest and am not going to make anything up. It's not so long since I posted about infighting in the feminist blogsphere and got quite cross about the fact that 'people are still arguing over what a 'feminist wedding' looks like or whether a woman who considers herself a feminist should wear makeup' when feminism should be focused on real change and helping women. I've seen so much written this year about the dilemma of being a feminist who wants to get married that I don't think I can take it any more (conclusion: it's ok to get married if you're a feminist, just make sure you make a point of telling everyone just how feminist your wedding was and just how feminist your marriage now is, using detailed examples. No really, I think some sort of points system for feminist weddings could be devised - this could be a whole new blog post). Anyway, it's a point I've seen echoed by others in their response to the book - over in the comments at Levenson's CiF piece, 'Barbie can be a feminist too':

'What's that you say? Women in Northern Ireland can't get abortions? Well I don't care honey, all I want is the right to buy Chanel suits and still call myself a feminist!'

And again at the Subtext blog:

'This obsession with the appearance of feminists - that is so endlessly touted by the mainstream media in their re-imagining of a feminist now deviating from their original construct of the hairy pitted, man-hater, to their fresh “noughties” construct of girls gone wild, fragrant and fashion friendly - is a distraction from the movement, and a distraction from the real point of being a feminist.

It disables feminist activists by reducing them once again to eye candy, to hot or not, for their worth to be counted on their looks in relation to their willingness to conform to social norms of beauty.

This in particular highlights the way certain values still manage to creep back into opinions on feminism - that if a woman is not considered conventionally attractive, her worth is automatically diminished. By trotting out all the old stereotypes about feminists being 'man haters' and 'bra burners', making feminism more about 'choice' than anything else and repeatedly bringing feminism back to discussions about high heels and shopping, it seems that the book is promoting 'feminism' to just a small percentage of women, those who have the privilege of being able to make their lives all about 'choice' because they have degrees and jobs and plenty of disposable income and far less oppression to face than the majority. And that's before you get to the outrageous statements on rape. It's ok girls, you can believe in women's rights AND conform to 21st century Western beauty standards at the same time! Who knew, right?!

Debate about the book has taken the form of some really interesting articles and reviews (in addition to those linked above):

Time for a good scrap about what our feminism really is
One of two reviews up at The F Word
The second F Word review

If anyone reading this has seen any other interesting discussions about this happening I would appreciate links! I know a lot of people who, while agreeing wholeheartedly with many of my opinions on women's issues, would never call themseleves feminist and when asked why, come up with reasons involving stereotypes about bra-burning and hairy legs. I wonder if the book would have any impact or be of interest, what impression it would make on someone who's new to feminism...

This brings me back to an (old but good) post over at I Blame The Patriarchy which has a lot to say about 'The New Feminism' we've heard so much about from the 'Lifestyle' sections of the papers in recent months. Read and enjoy.


Leeann said...

I laughed out loud at the feminist marriage points system. This is actually the first I've heard of this book. I'm imagining it's a UK thing? Off to see if Google can tell me what "noughtie" means...

Hannah said...

Yes, it's by a UK journalist. Do you not sue the term 'Noughties' to refer to the years 2000-2010? Maybe that's just a UK thing, which i didn't realise!

So anyway, my Feminist Marriage Points System - i seem to have an equal amount of good and bad in there. For example:

- Married in church (-10 points)
- Didn't wear *white* dress (+5 points) - in actual fact the colour was termed 'champagne'. Ha!
- Took husband's surname (-50 points)
- Husband does housework (+20 points)

etc etc

Stephanie said...

good post. thoroughly intelligent read.

by the way, can you link my blog? i am going to be doing some feminist posts soon!

Hannah said...

Linked you! :)


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