fudge off even farther

Note to self: don’t read the comments. Don’t ever read the comments. You will want to take your embroidery scissors and jam them deep into your eye sockets. You like having functional eyeballs, don’t you?

I think this, then respond with a Homer Simpson-esque “shut up, brain,” and I do anyway, and I instantly regret it. BEHOLD:

Dear Ms. Power,

bell hooks has covered the “if feminism is everything it means nothing” arguement already and her answer is “feminism is the end to sexist oppression.” And she doesn’t bitch about which-ending-of-the-oppression is the best.

Now, if you read some feminist theory, you’d know that.


I’ve read some feminist theory. Quite a bit of it, in fact, including a fair amount of bell hooks’ work. I’m guessing Nina Power has too, seeing as she’s, you know, an academic who kind of needs to keep up with the scholarship on these things. And if you think that bell hooks is totally all about feminism marketed as self-actualization to privileged little white girls who don’t want to think too hard, you need to fucking re-read.

And again, more people insisting that making feminism “accessible” (read: talking to people about it like they’re idiots) should be a goal. I’ll reiterate: saying this is actually incredibly condescending to poor people, teenage girls, or whatever group you’re talking about that supposedly needs to be talked down to. It would be silly of me to name-drop Judith Butler in front of someone who’s never been to college and expect them to instantly be familiar with her work; however, you can explain the concept of gender performativity without just handing someone a copy of Gender Trouble. I remember in one of Mimi (Threadbared) Nguyen’s long-ago Punk Planet columns, she talked about teaching this using makeover-themed talk shows (“don’t you want to look like a real woman?“). The language used in academic feminist texts can sometimes be challenging, but I don’t think the concepts necessarily are.

And anyway, you want to talk about accessibility? Valenti’s writing, or at least her book aimed at reaching young feminists, is written with what seems to me to be a specific audience in mind (white, hetero, middle-class or thereabouts). And, hey, write what you know, I guess. But don’t pretend that’s going to speak to everyone, or I’ll have to go over how that was a major stumbling block of the second wave, and the thought of still having to do so here in 2010 will just bum me the fuck out.

~ by Smellen on January 26, 2010.

3 Responses to “fudge off even farther”

  1. This is something I gripe about too. The language is sometimes specialized, yes –although there is no profession or field that doesn’t have it’s own specialized language– but the concepts are new, and sometimes difficult, but that’s not a bad thing nor an “elitist” phenomenon. Their “accessibility” often has more to do with how deeply embedded you might be in the governing structures of commonsense (i.e., “Capitalism loves me!”), than with being too “hard” or otherwise made “easier.”

  2. Erm, Valenti has written about all kinds of feminist theoretical concepts (including Butler’s gender non-essentialism) in several of her books. She has always written about them in vernacular, which is commendable, imo, for exactly the reasons you’ve already mentioned. People who haven’t been to grad school need to understand these things, too.

    Could I get a specific reference from *someone* that points out exactly where Valenti says that anything’s ok and “feminist” as long as x person finds it personally empowering? I see a lot of fist pumping and “I’m a badass, Valenti isn’t” posturing when I read Valenti critiques, but I rarely see anyone do a close textual reading of her work that supports their outrageous claims about it.

    If you’d ever actually read Valenti’s books (which, yes, represent a white, educated, middle class POV, just like Power’s book does, but with fewer references to Old Dead Whitey as beacons of intellectual authority), you’d know that. Sounds like you’re just jumping on a bandwagon and creating strawmen because that’s the latest in-fighting trend.

    • FUCK YES! More dismissal of intra-feminist critique as “infighting”! THAT RULES! By which I mean it’s incredibly tiresome.

      Anyway: my reading of Valenti’s work as promoting feminism as self-actualization comes from a piece she did for the Guardian where she wrote things like this:

      “Trust me on this one – when you’re a feminist, day-to-day life is better. You make better decisions. You have better sex. I have a job that I love that I owe to feminism (as a writer and one of the founders of feministing.com). I have an amazing group of women friends who spend their days speaking out against sexist idiocy – and who also happily dance their asses off with me when we’re out clubbing. ”

      And if I’m not mistaken, she includes similar material in Full Frontal Feminism. Which, okay, is aimed at young women who might be a little apprehensive about the label of “feminist” but I’m not really into the “you can be a feminist AND sexy and fun and stuff!” nonsense. As I said in my initial post about Valenti, I think it props up offensive myths about feminism in the name of dismantling them.

      And I guess my day-to-day life is better in some ways because of how I negotiate my politics, but “feminism makes your day better” weirds me out as a selling point. I mean, it’s not all about me. The personal is political, of course, but politics aren’t only personal.

      And I know she’s up on her feminist theory, and we probably would agree on a lot of theoretical concepts. I, personally, do not like the way she writes about it. I don’t think she adds anything new and I find her analyses (is that the actual plural, maybe?) to be on the simplistic side.

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