Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Store Feminism

Anyone who knows me know that I love books. I mean I LOVE books. So for me, going to a good book store is akin to heading for Mecca (or other religious city of your choosing). Especially if I can sit with a stack of books and hide on the floor in a corner and read through the first several pages or chapters to decide if this is THE book to buy.

So I'm in the local book store with my boyfriend, enjoying the evening out together, enjoying our trip to Mecca, enjoying the wooden floors and oddly tiered wren of stairs and nooks. And lo, into the Women's studies section I wander. Now, under normal circumstances I shudder at the thought of entering this section of the book store. There isn't enough of me to give over to the anger reading these books tends to generate. I can't put that much of myself into the idea of feminist conspiracy, and men as the ultimate in oppressors and villains. I just can't. Plus I'd rather be a humanist than a feminist.

But here I am looking at a bright little book I could fit into my pocket with a pretty pink daisy and the word CUNT plastered on it in bright yellow letters. And i have to stop, I have to pause and look at this unassuming little book with such a charged word on it. As I reach for it, I notice that it's sitting on the shelf right next to a book on planning your ultimate wedding. I started laughing, couldn't help it. Here I am, surrounded by feminist and post-feminist books on giving up our oppressive self images, on what it is to be a woman in less enlightened places, on how we need to fight the oppressions of men and the double standards of sex. Here I am practically hearing the angry voices of a dozen women and right in the mix is how to have the best wedding.

Hooray for cognitive dissonance.

But this is illistrative of the issue of the beauty myth. Not that we can't be women of power. Not that we can't reclaim words like cunt or bitch or whore. Not that we can't disolve the word slut, or remove the double standard that keeps it on the lips and tongues of teenage girls. But that we are expected to do these things AND plan the perfect wedding. Or, and I noticed this sitting on the same shelf, be "alternative" brides who still want an amazing and perfect day just not like THOSE women. And it's the idea of my kind of women and those kind of women, the idea of us versus them that is so hard for me with feminism.

I have a girlfriend who has the ability to be a stay at home mom. She could choose to be otherwise, but her spouce makes enough to support her and their three kids without it. So she chooses not to work in an office and wear power suits. She chooses to stay home and homeschool the girls, and taxi them to their half dozen extra curriculars. She chooses to be an author and a mother rather than a power broker. But she's been told she is oppressed by her domaniering husband and she should make him get her a stitter so she can get out of the house and be more fulfilled. WTF!?!?!?!? She is one of THOSE women in the eyes of many feminists. And I don't get it.

Why do I have to choose between being a cunt and being a wife or mother. Aren't I supposed to be able to do both?

But then that's part of the oppessive issue too. This idea that I should be both. That I should try and be both. That I somehow need to be super mom and run a business or museum.

I read breifly through a handfull of those books, sitting on the wooden floor of that book store and found something profound. One of the authors wrote that the feminists of the 70s don't think that there are any young women wanting to fan the flames or carry on the torch of modern feminism. And I think there's a reason for that. Gender rolls have been torn appart by the upheavals of the 70s. And they needed to be. But in this ambiguous place where women and men can be anything, so long as they're not traditional, a vacume now exists. And we all know nature abhores a vacume. So we try to fill it, as best we can, with sex and beauty and money and youth. We starve ourselves to be beautiful and mutilate ourselves to be better, and make snide comments about women who don't. We scream about male oppression, without giving men any idea of what to be, and then wonder why young boys grow up to oppress women.

And now I feel as though I need to deffend myself for making these statements, lest I be thought of as one of THOSE women. And I shouldn't have to.

No comments: