Feminist Wars

At first I was supportive of Jessica Valenti when she voiced her disapproval of Anne E. Kornblut‘s comments about younger feminists and their voting habits. Kornblut wrote in The Washington Post on December 27, 2009 that younger feminists voted for Obama rather than for Clinton because they would rather see the first African-American as President than the first woman:

Mothers and grandmothers who saw themselves in Clinton and formed the core of her support faced a confounding phenomenon: Their daughters did not much care whether a woman won or lost. There was nothing, in their view, all that special about electing a woman — particularly this woman — president. Not when the milestone of electing an African American president was at hand.

Valenti took issue with that statement: “Like women who voted for Clinton,women who voted for Obama had their own nuanced, thought-out, intellectual, political reasons to do so.” [Bold type Valenti’s]

However, I applauded Valenti for sticking up for her generation before I read her entire essay. This is how she ended it:

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New Year Resolutions: Make a Vision Board

It’s that time of year again. Time to assess the past and envision the future. Not everyone writes New Year Resolutions (my friend SuZen comes up with hers at each Solstice), but even when we do, it’s often hard to feel inspired about them. Who wants to write the same resolutions over and over again, especially when we weren’t successful in achieving them the last time we wrote them? And yet, this does help us to make a commitment to our goals. Statistics show that we retain 75% of what we write down. If the first step to achieving a goal is to remember it, then that’s obviously a very important step.

However, learning consultants say that most of us are more likely to retain ideas if we visualize them. Now, you could draw little pictures next to each resolution. Or you could make a Vision Board. I ran across this idea on Beliefnet. It wasn’t exactly a new idea to me: years ago I pasted my picture on the cover of a Writer’s Digest magazine as a way to visualize my success as a writer. I felt a little foolish doing it, but I have to admit that each time I look at that cover, I feel a little burst of self-esteem. The act of making that cover was an investment I made in myself. And every time I look at it, it has a positive effect on my psyche.

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Why Do Women Let Themselves Go?

Here’s a great post from Super Kawaii Mama about why women let themselves go. SKM, or Candice DeVille, is an Australian stay-at-home mom of two who refuses to fade into the mediocrity of suburbia.

She is a fan of fashion, particularly of the vintage variety, but I see her a fashion feminist, even if she wouldn’t describe herself that way. What is a “fashion feminist”? It’s a term I just made up but I think that a lot of younger feminists could relate to it. It’s a woman who makes up her own mind about what she wants to wear. She’s not afraid to go retro or vintage or sock-it-to-ya colorful, or anything else that makes her feel good.

I’ve told you before about mSKMy passion for TLC’s  “What Not to Wear” on which women are taught to  make over their looks through fashion, hairdos and makeup. But that’s not exactly what I mean by “fashion feminism.” WNTW tends to steer its clients toward the latest in fashion. That certainly makes one look up-to-date, but it doesn’t leave room for much self-expression. I’ve seen a few episodes where the makeover wasn’t happy with the results; she just wants to go back to her old ways because they feel like “her.” Even in those instances, Stacey and Clinton manage to convey a few fashion rules–accentuate your assets, don’t be afraid of prints or color, etc.–but it’s always interesting to see them butt up against women who know their own minds.

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The Politics of Menopause

Older womanAbstract of “What Do These Women Want?” Feminist Responses to Feminine Forever, 1963-1980, by Judith Anne Houck. Bulletin of the History of Medicine – Volume 77, Number 1, Spring 2003, pp. 103-132

In 1963, Brooklyn gynecologist Robert A. Wilson and his wife, Thelma, published a paper in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society arguing that untreated menopause robbed women of their femininity and ruined the quality of their lives. Three years later, Robert Wilson published a best-selling book, Feminine Forever, in which he maintained that menopause was an estrogen-deficiency disease that should be treated with estrogen replacement therapy to prevent the otherwise inevitable “living decay.”

Between 1963 and 1980, feminists did not respond with one voice to Wilson’s ideas: at first, some embraced them as a boon for aging women, while others resisted regarding female aging as pathological. In 1975, studies linking ERT and endometrial cancer challenged the wisdom of routine hormone therapy; this shifted the tenor of the feminist discussion, but it did not create a consensus about the meaning of menopause or its treatment.

Nevertheless, the feminist discussion of menopause revealed a larger women’s health agenda—namely, the unyielding belief that women should retain control of their bodies and participate fully in the decision-making efforts regarding their health. By controlling their bodies, all women, whether feminist or not, could ultimately control their lives.

See also:

Beauty Standards As Backlash

Naomi Wolf wrote The Beauty Myth in 1991 about “how images of beauty are used against women.” Almost 20 years later, Michelle Goldberg wonders if anything has changed. In her December 22nd article on The American Prospect website, she asks the question: “Are impossible beauty standards a subconscious cultural reaction against women’s growing political power?”

I’ve heard this argument before. In the 1960s, the most iconic female in the world was the supermodel, Twiggy. twiggyHer name described her looks: long, skinny limbs, no breasts to speak of, pixie haircut and large, childlike eyes. She looked like a little girl more than a woman. Her popularity coincided with the rise of the Women’s Liberation Movement and feminists saw a conspiracy of sorts in the way the media publicized her looks. To them it seemed that the patriarchy was feeling threatened by these women who were calling for change and trying to liberate women from their “God-given” roles as wives and mothers. And it responded by trying to get women to think of themselves as powerless children.

You have to wonder if something similar is going on today. Only now the stakes are even higher–and consequently so are the standards. With the rise to power of women like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin plus the last five decades of women’s advancements, it may be that the list of things that women must do to be “real” women has been lengthened on purpose. Nowadays women have to look great in a bikini (the skimpier the better) which means great breasts on an impossibly fit body on which all body hair has been removed. Women are made to feel that if they don’t fit the ideal, they’re of no consequence in the world.

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