Monday, 14 March 2016

Eh? Is that really the best feminist list you can come up with?

In  recent article, I reluctantly linked to an article in Harper Bazaar. I'd heard that The Harp is well into intersectionality and that, even supporting Anita Sarkeesian's latest project.  But I don't like their attitude towards writers. And I was totally wrong about Sarkeesian, as it goes. It got it confused with The Huffington Post, which totally takes the piss out of writers. However, I didn't think they could go wrong with an article entitled...


But they did. I have nothing against the women whom they chose, although collectively, they make a very odd selection of 'great feminists...'

Then again, what did I expect from a magazine that has this advert getting in the way of the article.

Yay, feminism.

But let's get this over with, before I bang on like those MRAs on YouTube, getting upset at anything they think is feminism.

My point isn't that feminist is bad, but that this list presents feminism as something that it isn't... or worse...

Let's see... no scientists on the list. No visual artists (unless you count Yoko Ono, but I'd call her a musician), two women from outside of Europe. The boss of Facebook, two clothes designers - meaning that for author Lauren Fisher, the contribution of the rest of the world to feminism is the same as that made by the fashion industry. The majority of the women are still alive - suggesting a rather short term view of 'history' - and the suffragettes (all of them) get a single entry. Oh, and the odd use of the past tense for bell hooks' entry suggests that she's dead. 

The end of the list is mostly entertainers. I'm not saying Angelina Jolie isn't a good person, or a feminist, or that Oprah is some kind of monster, just that their contributions aren't necessarily the game changers. Beyonce is problematic (her songs praise independence, or a very subservient role to her husband, depending). I'm not saying she isn't a feminist, but... Aretha Franklin? 

Just to be clear: this isn't about the individual women. It's about an ahistorical mentality that confuses contemporary celebrities for long-term campaigners. Rosa Parks isn't mentioned. Difficult thinkers like Angela Carter or Angela Davis get the bum's rush. Three of the women are contextualised by reference to their husbands. And Eva Person... was very dubious.

This is feminism as 'successful corporate identity'. Mala Yousafazi is a rare example of an activist here, while Sheryl Sandberg (off Facebook) is obviously a dynamic person but she has adapted feminism as a capitalist strategy. Not against it, although in this selection, it's as likely that her success is as important as her feminism. 

Actually, giving the suffragettes one listing is pretty anti-feminist, now I think of it. You know, like giving them names and personalities would be a thing...

Here's the rest of the list, anyway. I think I've said enough. 

Emma Watson
Olivia Wilde
Lena Dunham

Angelina Jolie
Ashley Jude
Oprah Winfrey
Maya Angelou
Coretta Scott King
Yoko Ono
Barbara Waters
Bell Hooks
Gloria Steinem
Betty Freidan
Eva Peron
Rosie the Riveter
Coco Chanel
Marlene Dietrich
The Suffragettes

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