Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Choking Over the "Feminist" Label

Maybe it's just me, but this interview with Katty Kay of the BBC left a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Katty Kay
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First of all, why is it so hard for her to own the "feminist" label? Maybe she's afraid her work will be pigeonholed and dismissed if she does? I don't know, but when the message you're conveying is clearly feminist, it seems odd to be so reluctant to accept the label.

Second, what's with all the pandering and assuring teh menz that we really do love them and value them and intend to keep them around? If nothing else, it strikes me as a bit overdone. Why isn't the message that women are valuable in the workplace sufficient to stand on its own without all the pandering? And would it kill us to acknowledge that, while women are very well educated and competent, they still earn less than teh menz? I mean, Colbert got it right when he suggested that women save corporations a lot of money by earning less.

Finally, this still amounts to mommy-tracking, from an economic perspective. Arguing that women should be allowed flexibility in their career paths in order to fulfill parenting and family obligations still amounts to leaving women at a lower-paid and less-valued status. And it ignores the fact that many fathers would like to be really engaged parents as well, but don't see that as an option, given our cultural attitudes. And arguing that women "have different priorities" than men while not questioning why we have different priorities (we were socialized to have different priorities, we're shamed if we're not visibly self-sacrificing mothers and wives...) suggests that the ol' biological differences are at play here. And maybe it's not her job to differentiate these two causes, but given the fact that biological essentialism is the default explanation, I think we should all be very clear about this distinction when we're publicly discussing traits that are socialized into women.

Your thoughts on this?


  1. Yeah, this interview kind of rubbed me the wrong way too, but I couldn't really articulate why. I think you nailed it.

  2. I also failed to identify as a feminist for a long time, mostly because of the stigma that feminists are men-hating "feminazis" who want more than their share of equal rights. It took one class on women's studies for me to get over this, but for many women out there who are clearly feminist and yet don't feel comfortable identifying as such, I think all indicators point to stereotypes as the reason.

  3. Tori,

    I think you're right about that. I guess I just expect someone who's had a career like Ms Kay has had, and who's writing books on the topic, to have given this a little more thought.