Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Double Puke

Today I received an email from Slate magazine announcing the good news that Slate isn't just for men anymore. I totally didn't get that it was only for men before, hence my mistake in actually reading it occasionally. But I guess I should have known this, given that the default assumption in our culture is that anything that isn't specifically branded for women (i.e. dumbed down and pinkified) is for men. So now Slate is also for women, but only their Double X site, not the regular site. Because their regular sections cover things like politics and the economy and new books and art and science. But women aren't interested in these things. No, women are obsessed with fashion and parenting and feminism-bashing, apparently. In fact, we need a flashier layout and more pictures than teh menz, based on the look of Double X.

So I foolishly clicked on the link in the email and proceeded to read a blog post entitled Whine, Womyn, and Thongs by Christina Rosen. According to Rosen, feminism has been an epic failure. This is because the goal of second-wave feminists was to bring about profound social change, but women today are shallow, unhappy, and obsessed with their piercings. In spite of the fact that they seem to have it all, they're discontented and whiny. Rosen attributes this to a major fact that feminists overlooked: choice is bad. Very bad:

In fact, for women today, the challenge is not a problem with no name that can be solved with a few simple changes in public policy. It is a paradox: the paradox of choice. The more options we have, the more anxiety we experience about the choices we eventually make, as economists who study choice theory have shown but as the feminist movement never acknowledged.
For one thing, this explains why all the men are so miserable. 'Cause choice itself is a terrible thing, and if second wave feminists had had more foresight, they would have realized this.

Second, the only thing that could possibly be causing the discontent and frivolity of today's women must be the increased range of choices available to them. It couldn't be the fact that women's lives have in fact changed while societal views and expectations of them have lagged behind shamefully. It couldn't be because having a career and children generally results in double the stress and workload for women but not men. It couldn't be because they experience reciprocal pressure to both work outside the home and be a model parent, to be healthy and energetic while starving themselves to fit into the ridiculous beauty standard, to be wise, mature, and self-sacrificing while looking like an 18 y/o. Could it perhaps have to do with the fact that, while many women desire to be taken seriously, our culture in general and media outlets like Slate continue to portray them as interested only in fashion, celebrity gossip, and parenting? Could it have anything to do with the disparate parenting burden and associated guilt and shame that's placed on women but not men, as evidenced by the fact that the default male version of Slate is largely uninterested in parenting articles?

The myopic view of feminism - both today and in the 60s - that Rosen takes is both puzzling and reveals that she is either out of touch or intellectually lazy. In any case, it seems clear that Rosen missed the part where feminism is not monolithic. It wasn't in the 60s and it certainly isn't now. Who are these Facebook feminists to whom she refers? I know a lot of women who identify as feminists on Facebook, and also organize, march, blog, aggitate, raise awareness, research, teach, write letters to Congressional representatives, and live feminist principles and values every day. We're not whining and we're not wearing thongs. At least I'm not, being opposed to torture in any form.

If Rosen had been interested in really analysing the situation of women today and how feminism has impacted their lives, she could have explored the fact that second wave thought pushed for a wider range of choices while largely overlooking the necessary changes in cultural attitudes that would need to accompany these choices. She could have looked at the underlying causes of the resentments that, according to her, women are always running around nurturing rather than shrugging it all off as a failure of feminism. But that would require a departure from intellectual laziness, which apparently is not required on a site like Double X. And that is profoundly depressing.


  1. It's strange how Rosen seemed to assume that all feminists still share second-wave goals and we've simply failed at meeting those goals. It seems more likely to me that the goals of any movement will change over time and will even be pretty diverse, since there are a lot of different people involved who are coming at it from different backgrounds.

  2. Meg'n5/13/2009

    Did you read the Hirschman article? Double, double puke.