As I believe I’ve said before on this blog, I’ve long been deeply skeptical of the so-called generational schism between “second wave” and “third wave” feminist thinkers and activists. A lot of ink (and maybe even a little blood!) has been spilled over the supposed age-based animosity between younger feminists and their elders. It’s a narrative that neatly fits into American conceptions of coming-of-age rebellion and feeds the media need for drama (preferably drama with the possibility of naked mud wrestling!)
Well, Katha Pollitt, over at The Nation deconstructs this story of parents, grandparents, and children intractably at odds, in her column Subject to Debate.
Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes? Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone! Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it’s not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women’s movement–angry prudes versus drunken sluts–has recently taken on new life, including among feminists. Writing on DoubleX .com, the new Slate spinoff for women, the redoubtable Linda Hirshman delivered a sweeping attack on younger feminists for irresponsible partying, as chronicled on Jezebel.com, a Gawker-family blog devoted to “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” Likewise, a silly “debate” over whether Sex and the Single Girl did more for women than The Feminine Mystique followed the release of Jennifer Scanlon’s Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown. As Naomi Wolf wrote in the Washington Post, “The stereotype of feminists as asexual, hirsute Amazons in Birkenstocks that has reigned on campus for the past two decades has been replaced by a breezy vision of hip, smart young women who will take a date to the right-on, woman-friendly sex shop Babeland.” Pick your caricature.
What’s wrong with parsing feminism along a mother/daughter divide? Everything.
She obviously can’t tackle in a single column all of the ways this “mother/daughter divide” is inaccurate — but I think she makes a great start. You can read the whole thing here.
via Courtney @ Feministing.