Shame Day: 3rd Wave Feminism

While I said I was going to continue my discussion on religion, I feel there’s so much material there that it’s going to be easy for me to get sucked into it all. While plunging into the maelstrom of controversy is on my to-do list, before I get too sidetracked, I want to mark off something I’ve had on the back burner for a while now.

3rd Wave Feminism- and everything that’s wrong with it.

As always, here’s some background:

The 60s and 70s saw the advent of a kind of “revolutionary” feminism. Back then, feminism was all about smashing the machine of patriarchy and the male-domination of politics, business, art, media, you name it. Advancing alongside the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the same era, equality in practice, as well as on paper, became the name of the game- to the point where today, the whole “70s-lady-standing-in-opposition-to-‘The-Man'” has actually become a trope. See Mad Men, Anchorman, Life on Mars, and Made in Dagenham for just a few examples of the whole trend.

Now while the “2nd Wave” feminist movement really did advance the cause of equality (especially in the workplace), it wasn’t without some cost. The “we’re-not-gonna-take-it-anymore” attitude of the movement did, in part, spawn a very small but very vocal splinter group that some have rather uncharitably dubbed “Femi-Nazis.” These “man-hating feminists” generally held the less fair sex to be inherently brutish, craven, and base in our nature. While never really gaining a following, this group did wind up creating the stereotype of feminists as overweight, hairy-legged, rage-fueled misandrists howling at the tops of their lungs at anything remotely “masculine.”

Andrea Dworkin, major 2nd Wave feminist, who is suggested by some to be the basis for a lot of feminist caricatures…

While many in 2nd Wave feminism also advanced the concept that porn is inherently objectifying and degrading towards women, the same more extreme elements of the movement started make the case that anything sexual was the product of a male-dominated world (and therefore designed to keep women in subjugation). In response to that blanket-condemnation, feminism’s latest stage of evolution (“3rd Wave”) has swung wildly in the opposite direction, embracing sex and sexualization in the same way a python embraces a capybara.

Imagine a groundhog-pig hybrid that swims, and you’ve pretty much got a capybara.

Jump to 5:13, because it really hits home what I’m talking about (also why I included it, in spite of the lousy quality):

http://youtu.be/81pp13HwNf4?t=5m13s

Strip clubs, revealing clothes, pornography, heck, even brothels would all be considered “empowering.” While obviously it would be grossly simplistic to say that’s all 3rd Wave feminism is, the crux of the matter really does come down to the idea that the female body is something to be used for the benefit of the individual women. If 2nd Wave feminism was about “equality in practice,” 3rd wave feminism is about “equality in reception,” with attempts being made to dispel the idea that “a man who sleeps around is a stud, while a woman who sleeps around is a slut.” Evan actually covered this phenomenon in a post a while ago, citing Don’t Trust the B—- In Aparment 23‘s lead character Chloe as an example of a woman who’s pretty dang flippant about sex without being ever “demonized” for it (in other words, getting the same treatment a male character would in the same situation).

But jumping back to the issue of sexualization.

This right here, I think, is the fatal flaw of the movement- the idea that women aren’t debasing themselves but “empowering” themselves through choosing (more on choice in a minute) to objectify themselves for (you gotta admit it) no small payout.

But let’s run with that logic. If you can use your sexuality for your benefit, what about your race? Is “blackface” empowering?

“Nah, it’s ok ‘cuz he’s getting paid! It’s empowering!”

I think it’s going to be hard for even a dedicated 3rd Wave feminist to argue in favor of essentially selling your race or ethnicity (or rather, an image of your race or ethnicity). And could we address the whole issue of the idea of “weaponized” sexuality? If a fundamental part of you is being used largely, if not exclusively, for manipulation- what’s that say about the world we live in?

I mean, I’m not judging that mentality. I can’t. With the world the way it is, it’s tough for me to blame anyone for doing what they have to do, or using what they’ve got, to survive. I just think this has to be kept in mind- that kind of combativeness is the product of an ugly, twisted system where we’re pitted against each other- we can’t hail weaponized sex as being something natural and noble. A world where women don’t have to sell themselves ought to be the goal here, not a world where selling yourself is the goal. And speaking of that- could I point out the elephant in the room?

All 3rd Wave feminism’s applause for selling sex- it’s all kinda assuming that there’s somehow a choice in the matter. The very real issue of slavery, sex-trafficking, and poverty are simply not being acknowledged here. How exactly do you hail women selling themselves when it’s an option between that and being beaten or killed? Sure, you can try to cite that it’s all about “women’s individual ownership of their own bodies, so obviously slavery doesn’t count,” but that doesn’t deal with destitution. Plenty of women and girls around the world don’t want to do porn/strip/prostitute themselves, but are faced with a choice between that and starvation/homelessness/etc. How is that empowering? How is that advancing the feminist cause? With this kind of ignorance pervading the movement, I don’t think it’s unfair to call 3rd Wave feminism a philosophy of privilege.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of “women use themselves for themselves,” I gotta ask- who’s cutting all the checks here? All the strip clubs, the sleazy billboards, the “escort services”; it it weird that most of the supposed new avenues for female “empowerment” are owned and operated by men?

That said, there are a few arguments that get used against 3rd Wave feminism which I think need to be stopped. Most notably, we really can’t combat it by citing “it makes women prey to assault.” Nothing contributes to rape but rapists, as they say. In fact, credit where credit is due, the issue of rape is actually at the forefront of this latest incarnation of feminism.

So where does that leave us? Stuck with a choice between 2nd Wave repression and 3rd Wave oppression? And what about me as a man? Do I have to choose between being an enemy and being a sucker? Neither system is working, people.

That’s where the dialectic comes into play:

We need a new feminism that reconciles the basic human right for acknowledgement of one’s own body while still recognizing that objectification, commercialization, and ownership are all realities. A consolidated movement that recognizes the state women are in around the world, not just down the street. A movement that aims to change the world, rather than adapt to it.

Until then, however, 3rd Wave feminism…

C’mon. You guys know better.

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5 responses to “Shame Day: 3rd Wave Feminism

  1. I liked your comparison of 3rd Wave Feminism and their support of objectification of their sexuality to racial issues, but maybe blackface wasn’t the best example, if only because in that case it is not Black people who are directly involved, but people appearing to be Black. I’d say a better parallel would be First Peoples [Native Americans] being in support of racial caricatures or cultural misappropration or something along those lines.

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