It's the New Year and time to Go Fourth for Feminism! You'll be relieved to know that I did take a day or two off of campaigning over the winter break to gorge myself on cheese and crackers, but now I'm back and fitter for the fight than ever. And what better way to shift a couple of Christmas pounds than grabbing a hammer and smashing patriarchy? Lift, and smash! Lift, and smash!
So it's a new year and so much is still to be done for Feminism before we leave the noughties altogether and I hit (whisper!) 38.
100 years since Joan of Arc was beatified in Rome, 100 years since Alice Huyer Ramsey became the first woman to drive across America, 2009 is hardly a big centenary year for Women. But we can make this year our own by making it the year that Fourth Wave Feminism was launched in the UK and spread across the globe like a tsunami. Have you seen Akira? Imagine the blob Tetsuo expanding to engulf Tokyo. Now imagine me doing the same with patriarchy. Pretty impressive, n'est pas?
But a brave new ideology needs some intellectual wrangling. What's more, it needs RULES. At a drinks party last weekend, glowing from the convivial atmosphere and one too many Gin Fizzes, I found myself trying to describe the four waves of Feminism to an Homme Non Partisan (that's one-off from a chauvinist, the kind who says "I think women should be equal with men but there's no need for Feminism anymore". Well, I say there's no need for you anymore. Now leave existence, petit homme!) .
Explaining Waves One to Three was a doddle, but when I came to Wave Four, I found myself a little lost for words. For the solitary architect of Wave Four to be so at a loss in describing her own revolutionary movement was a far from acceptable predicament. I've now sought to right this on the blog, having provided him with a link to follow at his own leisure.
So, Barry, this is for you.
Fourth Wave Feminism is not merely a rebranding of the Third Wave. This is no Pasta Hut gimick. Fourth Wave Feminism aims to resolve the empty soul-searching of Third Wave Feminism and return us to a juicy state akin to the passionate militancy, de jure inequality-bashing and sharp-tailoring of the First Wave. This is What a Suffragette Looks Like is our motto. The Second Wave was all well and good and the Third Wave had it's moments, but I say we are now in a stage akin to a Late-Third Wave, where even Feminists have lost the plot.
For educated and 'experimental' sex-positive practitioners, developing ideas such as gender queer, womanism, transgender and that-sort-of-thing, life couldn't be better. But outside of educated and bohemian circles, women who are encouraged to be sex-positive are being pushed into cycles of self-denigrating oppression no more fulfilling than the submissive existence of a Playboy Bunny.
Sex-Positivity only works when you're doing something terribly unusual and if you've read an awful lot of Judith Butler. For everyone else, it's a massive mixed message that leads to twelve year olds in G-strings and teenage girls who want nothing more than to be dishonoured on a dance floor by a stranger.
The Third Wave was about personality politics and individual choice, under the auspices of consumer capitalism. It began innocently enough. "Yes, I can be a Feminist and buy lipstick", women cried. Indeed, I personally swear by Dior #999. Then came the likes of "I can be a Feminist and get breast implants." Serious? I'd say that's less easy to call. Why do you need those breast implants? Do you feel as strongly about the breast implants as you do about Feminism? Didn't think so.
By the time we reached, "I can be a Feminist and be masturbated by robots on the bonnet of a pink Chevy for cash and on film," we knew things had gone too far. Why? Because Feminism isn't the same thing as doing exactly what you like. Feminism is about asking why it is you like the things you do and then deciding whether those likes are truly original to yourself, as far as is possible in any society. Feminism is as much a critique of individual desires as it is of the societies in which they flourish. Treating each degrading and vain desire as if they are equal to noble or uplifting wishes is cynical, damaging and idiotic. What's worse, it's making someone a lot of money somewhere, probably in the head office of Ann Summers where you buy your candy handcuffs and cherry scented lubes, foolish woman!
Finally, fundamentally, Feminism is about improving the quality of life of WOMEN. Anything that conflicts with that is not Feminism. That is being a hedonist, an egotist, a sadist and a pornocrat. Feminism can't be all those things, silly!
So, this is not a manifesto. It's a reconnaissance mission. The Femifesto will follow, once I've really worked out what I'm up against. Watch this space!
autumn readings around the UK, magazines & 'transfeminine brokenness, radical transfeminism' - hi all, huge thanks to the folks who came to the I Write, I Rise reading, with Eli Clare (!) on Saturday at the Scottish Poetry Library. If you missed it, ...
6 days ago