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Race & Gender Through Generations of Feminism: My Response to Amanda Marcotte

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Amanda_Marcotte_at_WIS2_5-18- by By BDEngler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I recently became aware of a feminist blogger, Amanda Marcotte , who is seemingly all over the feminist blogosphere. She apparently feels that she has really mastered feminism by now, as she recently felt the need to write a "'quick blog post to clarify" for the rest of us feminists that radical feminism is now dead.

Perhaps I should allow that Amanda Marcotte and I have different definitions of "radical feminism." She adds the caveat that radical feminism once did exist, but she seems to be referring to the subjective response of "radical!" to a cluster of feminist ideas when (at least modern) feminism was relatively new. However, she distinguishes liberal from radical feminism as simply being concerned with " cultural issues, such as misogyny, objectification, rape, and domestic violence." She concludes that: "what was once 'radical' feminism is now mainstream feminism."

Frankly, I can't remember a time when feminists weren't concerned with issues such as misogyny, objectification, rape and domestic violence. From at least the beginning of the second wave of feminism, these issues were front and center with such icons as Gloria Steinem, Susan Brownmiller, and Catharine MacKinnon. Perhaps some called these women radical, but a cursory knowledge of the subject would show that there is a long history to the construct "radical feminism." While there are, of course, variations of nuance, the basic distinction between liberal and radical feminism has revolved around working to finding a place for women within the current patriarchal capitalist system, vs. changing the basic structure of that system.

I used to find it amusing when many conservative male politicians called Hillary Clinton a "radical feminist," back before she began making friends on the right as well as the left. No one would say that the former FLOTUS, Senator and Secretary of State was unconcerned with rape, or misogyny. But Hillary Clinton is perhaps the quintessential example of a liberal, vs. a radical feminist, in that she has fought for her place within a system that disadvantages women, minorities and the poor. Granted, she has worked to make some changes in that system, but she has not worked to change the basic way that the system is structured. In fact, by calling for more women to " participate " in the economy - rather than recognizing the many ways women participate whether or not they are paid - she invites others to follow her path.

Another long-time feminist also felt the need to offer a gentle history lesson to Marcotte. Anthea Butler reacted to a presentation by Amanda Marcotte at a recent Netroots convention, that gave short shrift to the role of black feminists. I recommend her piece; but I would add to it what Hester Eisenstein writes movingly about: the insensitivity of white feminists in the early women's movement, to the suffering of black women who were all too familiar with the world of work in white women's homes. Eisenstein points out how insulting it was to these women to center feminism squarely around the notion of work as a creative outlet. Such a view of work is a highly privileged one.

I saw some of that insensitivity in another Marcotte piece . She argues - understandably - against the hostile treatment by conservative members of Congress, of a law professor who objected to abstinence-only education programs that implied that girls should aspire to be stay-at-home-moms and homemakers. Of course, girls and women should be free to make that choice for themselves. But Marcotte's own condescending headline: " Radical Feminist Law Professor Believes Girls Can Want To Be More Than Housewives," harkens back to that myopic definition of liberation. Frankly, I had thought that the term "housewife" had been retired, except in the case of cringe-worthy reality shows. But Marcotte's condescension misses the fact that women's choices are neither black-and-white, nor are they strictly about ideology.

The most cursory look at our nation's child care structure, in combination with the lack of workplace flexibility , shows the agonizing choices that many American families have to make. Regardless of their position on feminism, the workforce is filled with women who work out of necessity, and the playgrounds are filled with women whose choice to stay home is more about the above failures than anything else. And of course, there are parents - both mothers and fathers - who actually prefer to do the very challenging job of raising children full time. Those parents don't need to be condescended to.

Marcotte brings a quality that's become de rigeur in the feminist blogosphere: snark. But the entertainment value that brings, should not lead us to oversimplification.


 

http://www.amazon.com/Amy-Fried-Ph.D./e/B004QOOD04/ref=ntt_d

Amy Fried is the author of "Escaping Dick Cheney's Stomach." She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has been an advocate for church-state separation and other civil liberties issues. She writes on women's issues, media, veganism (more...)
 

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Haven't you noticed, Amy  that serious busine... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 6:53:33 AM
Yeah, it's true about the blogosphere.Yes, there i... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 9:57:30 AM
You said: "Yes, there is oppression everywhere, bu... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 10:13:51 AM
If there are individual divorce cases that you fee... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 10:41:14 AM
Apparently you don't get it because you have gende... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 12:41:04 PM
Methinks you live there Bill. You're very angry ab... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 9:39:27 PM
thanks!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 1:53:17 PM
There is no need for "feminism" if there is no abu... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 2:04:32 PM
Today we have extremely abusive feminism.Federal s... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 6:06:40 PM
I too have to take issue with "Hillary and Cheney ... by Maxwell on Monday, Aug 5, 2013 at 12:39:29 PM
I'm reminded of a quotation I used to have hanging... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:27:59 AM
Thanks! It's so great to hear from people who unde... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:50:36 AM
can only be defined through the value of a family.... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 3:36:33 PM
Presently the "value" of mother is being re-evalua... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 6:12:41 PM
You spew claims all over the place, with nary a li... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 9:48:14 PM
Rob, I do not consider it misogyny to dislike what... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:26:01 PM
mark, statistics prove that mothers are the worst ... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 6:15:07 PM
what you call rabid feminism is in fact a surrogat... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 6:48:02 PM
Very interesting and good points! I agree that the... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 7:14:18 PM
Here are the statistics on fatherless children acr... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 7:01:17 PM
It's clear that you are very scarred by a personal... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 7:27:47 PM
There's only one link in that whole comment. But t... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 10:00:29 PM
Thanks, Rob! Well said!... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:08:37 PM
a situation with an absent father is far better fo... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:46:18 PM
It's hard to separate absent fathers from poverty.... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 7:31:58 PM
Which is NOT to say that kids don't need their fat... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Saturday, Aug 3, 2013 at 11:10:31 PM
Having a caring, nurturing and available father is... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Aug 4, 2013 at 12:03:35 AM
I'm so thrilled to see these Tide commercials that... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Sunday, Aug 4, 2013 at 12:15:01 AM
because I don't have a TV (by choice)...but I am g... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Aug 4, 2013 at 12:22:28 AM
An individual woman  as far as I see it ... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Aug 4, 2013 at 8:58:21 AM
A few points:Nature endowed women with the respons... by Maxwell on Monday, Aug 5, 2013 at 9:01:26 AM
I agree with your first paragraph. But your 2nd pa... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Monday, Aug 5, 2013 at 10:16:56 AM
I wrote the first paragraph mainly for the benefit... by Maxwell on Monday, Aug 5, 2013 at 12:36:25 PM
Nothing I said contradicts the idea that HRC broke... by Amy Fried, Ph.D. on Monday, Aug 5, 2013 at 4:51:48 PM