Girl talk: Feminist action?

Who said feminism was dead? And who said to be a feminist you can’t wear make-up and shave your armpits?
Manisfesta: young women, feminism and the future, co-authored by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, is a political, social and cultural manifesto stating that feminism is far from dead. It’s about feminism being alive and well, and still very much a part of our daily lives, albeit with a different look and feel than previous generations.
According to these two, feminism is no longer as limiting as it used to be. Being a feminist today doesn’t mean that you have to forgo things that are “feminine,” or be anything other then what you want to be. Girlie Culture is a perfect example of this, it is a rebellion against the false impression that since women don’t want to be exploited sexually, they don’t want to be sexual.
For those of you that don’t know what Girlie Culture is, it is girls and woman embracing girlie things such as the color pink, nail polish, make-up… things that Second Wave feminists (those that fought for thing like gender equality and the legalization of abortion in the 70’s) cast away as being the tools of oppression. Some Third Wave feminists believe that equality doesn’t have to be rejecting Barbie and all other forms of pink-packaged stuff.
The message is that what a woman does in her life; i.e. shave her legs or dye her hair, does not undermine her credibility as a feminist. Cultural and social weapons that were identified in the Second Wave of feminism as instruments of oppression are no longer being wielded against women, and are instead wielded by them.
Girlie Culture presumes that women can handle the tools of patriarchy, and can be in control rather then being victimized by it. Where as the Second Wavers fought to free women from the traps of patriarchy, Third Wavers are redefining feminism to include the freedom of embracing these things if one so chooses.
Manisfesta was written in response to the Second Wave feminists who criticize Third Wave feminists for not being feminist enough and to the media who underestimate the power and importance of today’s feminism movement.
Baumgardner and Richards counter these criticisms with the argument that many women are leading feminist lives, but each in their own individual way. Whether it is choosing to be married and not taking the husband’s name, having children or not, getting an education, entering a male-dominated sector of the work force, choosing to go to work while your husband stays home or becoming a teacher. Third Wave feminism does not have any limitations, and has everything to do with how you approach gender equality and how you define being a woman and a feminist.
They maintain that every time you sit around with your girlfriends and speak honestly, you are creating and embracing an education that is not offered elsewhere. This is feminism in action.
But what makes feminism today so unique, is also what makes many assume that it is dead, causing Second Wave feminists criticize it for being too lax and not militant enough.
Feminism today is played out on a more personal level, rather then in the public eye with marches, rallies and demonstrations. Not to say that feminism can stay alive without activism though, it still takes work, dedication and consciousness raising.
Baumgradner and Richards, aware that feminism today has some glitches that prevent it from being known as feminism, believe that what needs to be done is to connect the pro-women ethics that many women abide by in their daily lives to a political vision. Also, what is needed is Third Wave terminology to help build a potent movement.
Manifesta is a call to action and also a call to attention.
It is saying that feminism is here, but that women need to be more proactive and make the media and mainstream culture more aware of it by bringing attention to all the academics, writers, politicians , singers and songwriters and everyday women that define feminism today.
Women need to make the mainstream media use the term feminism positively and make them draw the connection between feminism and issues such as day-care, anti-violence organizations, instead of depoliticizing these issues by not referring to feminism.

Manisfesta, published by Farrat, Straus and Giroux and is $24.95.


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