The F word

10 May


So I’m reading The Beauty Myth (Naomi Wolf) at the moment, and feminism is weighing pretty heavily on the old bean. The basic premise of the book is that there is a relationship between female liberation and female beauty, and I mean relationship in the Streetcar Named Desire sense – Beauty’s bullying, bloodying, and beating of Liberation reads like an ode to Stanley vs. Blanche Dubois.

I could try to explain Wolf’s work; in fact I did, but have deleted what I wrote – read the book, its more compelling than I will ever be. What I wanted to discuss is the response I get (and give) when I bring up the book with friends, or workmates, or strangers when I’m a little boozed. Feminism is such a contentious word! It really makes people’s hair stand on end, they recoil a bit, glace quickly at the nearest exit, and eyeball you in a slightly different (my god is that fanaticism!?) kind of light. I might be over-exaggerating, but I’m pretty certain that each man I’ve mentioned The Beauty Myth to has sub-consciously reached protectively for his balls.

Why this ingrained fear? Why is feminism akin to so many dirty little isms, like the commun and the nihil? And scarily even I undermine it, making jokes to smooth over the awkward introduction of the topic – I’m reading feminist literature, but don’t worry, I also baked you these delicious scones. Wolf raises this very issue, explaining that feminists have been cast as such ugly, mannish, boorish women that even women don’t want to be associated with them for fear of some nightmarish transformation from beauty to beast. That I have fallen into this very trap makes me feel, well, pretty stupid and shallow really. Like, totally, zomg, flakey.

So, to redeem myself for the sheepish excuses I have doled out for reading The Beauty Myth, I plan to compile a wee compendium of contemporary feminism/ists. This will not require any man-hate/hunting or bra-burning, because feminism really, truly, shouldn’t be boiled down to things as medieval as that. But this isn’t some Dove ad either- I want women with fire in their bellies.

So, exhibit A: Hermoine Granger. Fictional, I know, but this girl’s got game; she’s smart, confident, moralistic, and importantly, more occupied with success than with looks (ten points for Gryffindor). So who else?

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