Although it seems to be addressing cis women, not trans women, there’s a nevertheless interesting piece in the Life & Style/Women section of the Sunday Times today, The new feminists: lipstick and pageants. The journalist, Gemma Soames, seems to be arguing that the recent Miss University London beauty pageant is a microcosmic example of a change in the focus of feminist activism by cis women away from a ‘retro’ (and, by implication, outmoded and irrelevant) feminism:
Take heart, sisters, for there is a new breed of feminist out there that is reinventing the ideology. Subscribing to the original feminist theories of equality (equal pay, equal rights and the importance of a right to choose), they pick the fights that mean something to them, ignoring the elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant.
My reading of the piece is that the “elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant” derive generally from the more problematic areas of second wave feminism and particularly, in this context, the protest against the 1968 Miss America Pageant. Instead, Ms Soames seems to be describing a sort of post-feminism.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with feminism and I make no secret that I’m still very much a n00b to gender theory and politics so, dipping into Wikipedia while writing this, it’s been interesting to learn a little more about the concepts of gender feminism and equity feminism within post-feminism. I’m by no means convinced that post-feminism offers the ideal home for my still-developing ‘politics of being trans’, but superficially at least, it seems a little more open-minded than certain other feminisms it’s been my misfortune to have been slapped about the face with.
At first glance, equity feminism – “an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality” – certainly seems to offer a solid foundation from which I might be able to start a reconciliation with feminism; although I’d need to know more about the ‘target equality’ – as I said in my earlier post, “I’m really not comfortable with an equality which takes cis men’s point of view as its benchmark“. It occurs to me, and I don’t suppose this is a new or original thought, that the pursuit of equality for all must surely also imply an end to oppression – especially in the context of living openly as a trans woman – but I see no mention of anti-oppression work in the Wikipedia piece. And that subject – ending oppression as a means to achieving equality for all – may well, I think, open up an avenue of exploration all of its own. (Note to self: See also Michelle O’Brien’s essays Whose ally?, Gender Skirmishes on the Edges and Trans Liberation and Feminism)
Gender feminism, on the other hand, is immediately problematic for me. Apparently, the term was first coined by Christina Hoff Sommers in her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? to describe a feminism which criticizes contemporary gender roles and aims to eliminate them altogether. And it is that aim of eliminating gender roles that I don’t understand. Why would you want to eliminate them? Could you eliminate them? What would you replace them with – a form of androgynous gender neutrality for all? How would you enforce that? And why is it more preferable to abolish gender roles rather than allowing people to find the gender roles that are right for them, that chime harmoniously with their own sense of gender identity?
I begin to wonder if I’ll ever find a solution that works for me; a solution that the world and her sister don’t feel threatened by (and hostile towards).
Previous related posts:
- If that’s what a feminist looks like… (December 17, 2008)
- Will the last trans person to leave feminist Blogdonia please turn off the lights? (September 11, 2008)
- You can be active with the activists… (September 10, 2008)
- What if? – What then? (August 20, 2008)
- When is a safe space not a safe space? (August 6, 2008)