Monday, January 10, 2011

Feminism in the year ahead

January is named for the Roman god Janus who has two heads. He is looking backward to the past and forward to the future simultaneously. There he is on the Janus Funds logo.

It's that kind of time in my personal life. I've just finished my long-neglected education and I'm now transitioning to freelance journalism all while keeping my home life in balance.

It's that kind of time for feminism too. Where does it belong in the political and social scene? Does it still have an identity or its own, or is it being absorbed into other movement? Do we still need feminism? Do we still call it feminism?

This is an exam essay I wrote pondering the question, "Where do I go from here with the knowledge I've been given?"

I tried to answer that question, and asked more questions. And sometimes, asking the question is more important than having the answer.

WGS 364

Final exam essay #5

Gender makes the world go around. Whether positive or negative, the effects of the roles men and women play on the international stage affect everything from the tourist industry, to the military, to social adjustment policies, to language, to consumption. It’s all connected and even our personal actions such as where we decide to take a vacation, or if we decide whether or not to eat meat have an impact on the lives of women around the world. We have also explored how governments and big business have twisted feminist principles to exploit women.

So, what am I supposed to do with all of this? As I leave Oakland University and embark on my media career, I take with me something that every journalist does not have -- a feminist perspective on world events. I look at world events and people differently with an understanding of how difference contributes to international, domestic, and personal relationships. And, I have the ability to recognize, respect, and accept difference. I can see the connections between oppressions of sexism, ageism, racism, and naturism that I did not see previously.

This is why I now say, “ I advocate feminism,” because it opens up the way for discussions to other oppression and difference.

As a journalist and media professional, I am a guardian of language and a conduit of knowledge to the general public. This is a weighty responsibility. Through writing --- through language -- I have the ability to educate the public and further make known the things I have learned. This feminist knowledge is so essential and yet is not part of the mainstream education curriculum – nor is it a topic for the mainstream media. For example, the only way people would know about different kinds of feminism is by taking a feminist theory class – which the vast majority of the public does not. So there is a need to make this information accessible.

I was most influenced by the postmodern analysis of Carol Adams in “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and the Marxist analysis of Hester Eisenstein in “Feminism Seduced.” Although their schools of thought are different, I believe both are useful.

While Adams uses the postmodern micro analysis of postmodernism to examine how language perpetuates patriarchy and the oppression of women, Eisenstein uses the macro analysis of broader social and political systems to examine how governments and big business have used feminist principles to achieve their neoliberal capitalist goals.

Eisenstein insists that feminist research needs to move away from the micro analysis of postmodernism that focuses on a few individuals. She says the feminist agenda must be broadened to bring more results to the working class women of the U.S. and women of the third world.

In my mind, I can utilize both. As an agent of language I can affect change by rooting out old stereotypes and patriarchal language that has become the norm. I can also do my part to see that new ones don’t come along to replace them.

The question in my mind going forward is – given the negative connotations surrounding mainstream feminism, do we try to salvage and redefine the word – or do we create new language? If we create something new, what would it be called? What issues would be at the center of the movement? What approach is best – radical or subtle? Should we try to “rewind” and include things that early feminists missed in the beginning – like including men in the movement?

The point of intellectual inquiry is to perpetually ask questions and be in pursuit of better and better answers.

My plan for the immediate future is to grow my blog into a formidable online publication that raises questions. The idea is not necessarily to get people to agree with me – but to plant seeds of knowledge that make them to think – and in turn ask more questions. And so on, and so on, and so on …

No comments:

Post a Comment