Feminism Will Eat Itself: Examining the New Backlash

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Feminism

Part One: Backlash Redux

My feminist heart is breaking.  That may sound hyperbolic, but it is true.

I was born from the belly of 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement. One of my earliest memories is of being pushed around in my pushchair at a Women’s Lib march. I grew up with the iconic image of the fist inside the women’s symbol, the way other kids grow up surrounded by Star Wars posters. If I cut myself I bleed red, feminist blood.

According to the liberal media, the current epoch is a new ‘golden age’ for feminism, not seen since the second wave’s heyday in the 70s, that I scrutinised not a little critically from my pushchair.

‘There has never been a better, more exciting time to be a feminist’  :  Zoe Margolis AKA Abby Lee, author of Girl With A One Track Mind.

‘There’s a resurgence of feminism happening now’ : Catherine Redfern,founder of the popular feminist blog The F Word and co-author of Reclaiming The F Word: The New Feminist Movement.

These are good times we are being told. The third wave of feminism is rolling and crashing onto the beach. So why is this life-long feminist crying into her beer? Why do the words that come to my mind when I think of the state of feminism today include ‘meltdown’ , ‘crisis’ and ‘self-destruction’?

I can’t stop thinking about Backlash. In 1991 Susan Faludi wrote this amazing book on ‘America’s undeclared war on women’.  She talked about how

‘the creators of commercial culture distort feminist concepts to sell products while selling women downstream, how the feminist ethic of economic independence is twisted into the consumer ethic of buying power, and how the feminist quest for self-determination is warped into a self-centered quest for self-improvement’.

Faludi told us that the concept that feminism had damaged women and men was a symptom of this ‘post-feminist’ backlash and a myth that needed to be challenged, and, back in 1991, was being challenged by feminist women.

‘Women themselves don’t single out the women’s movement as the source of their misery. To the contrary, in national surveys 75 to 95 percent of women credit the feminist campaign with improving their lives, and a similar proportion say that the women’s movement should keep pushing for change. Less than 8 percent think the women’s movement might have actually made their lot worse’.

But I am beginning to think that the backlash virus has infiltrated feminism itself, and we are attacking our own immune system.  So ‘feminism’ is not necessarily the solution to the problems caused worldwide by patriarchal power structures. Feminism has become part of those power structures itself.

Here I list four examples of this shift: they are only symptoms of the disease. To diagnose the cause I would need a lot more time and research.

1. Ghetto Women

2.Men and Masculinities

3. Dumbing down

4. Written on the body.

First section next up: ‘Ghetto Women’

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