Is feminism a zombie rising from its cold grave to suck the fun from a society that has moved past the need for humorless, hairy-legged lesbians to champion equal rights for the sexes? We’ve already achieved equality, right? Womyn hold powerful political positions and can enter any job market and be successful. Is it time to finally lay feminism to rest?
Communications Professor and author Dr. Susan Douglas answered these questions and countered the myths of the uselessness of feminism in her discussion of “Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done.” U-M’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center (SAPAC) sponsored this event as a part of U-M’s MLK Symposium last night.
Dr. Douglas identified “enlightened sexism” as an amorphous propagator of seemingly harmless anti-feminist propaganda that subdues a feminist consciousness. She emphasized that it is necessary to critique and challenge social structures that create unequal gender realities.
One of Dr. Douglas’ most interesting examples of the enlightened sexism phenomenon was her description of how capitalism is a powerful tool to suppress and subvert feminist ideology into market production that not only counteracts feminist thought but creates apathy amongst social activists. Many sex-positive thinkers emerged from the 1960s and second wave feminism with the belief that womyn should be allowed just as much sexual agency as men without a double standard. These desires for equal agency in displays of sexuality among womyn fell prey to producers of Girls Gone Wild and other similar productions. The enlightened sexist message hinges on the idea that womyn want an avenue for sexual expression; it is provided out of demand from womyn, therefore it is intrinsically feminist. Feminist activism and criticism becomes confused or apathetic when confronted with these types of arguments.
Douglas says this is part of the strategic shift in sexism that creates false consciousnesses about womyn in the US. The US ranks 41st (as of 2007) in maternal mortality. Womyn rarely receive maternity or paternity leave, and if they do, it is rarely paid- a norm that would shock many European countries. Womyn receive lower wages than men, and despite popular representations, and the top jobs held by womyn are secretary, nurse, teacher–with high paying jobs like doctor, lawyer or CEO no where in sight.
The question of whether or not feminism is dead should not be a part of our mental purview. We ought to be wondering how to revive feminism. One way I think to do this is by that representations of powerful female figures do not directly translate into localized social realities. disseminating the information that the US is not a land of equality for womyn, which would require overcoming media biases and understanding
(Photo by gettimages.com)