I realize that one cannot be guffawing and slapping their thighs when considering profound ideas; vision times take to understand, learning requires focus and diligence. I get it. We do need the somber nods, we need podiums (I think) but I also need to shake it.
Third wave feminist literature has begun to recognize this in the form of anthologies, zines, online columns, and memoirs. There’s a great variety of resources out there. Feminism, using 3rd wave literature as an example, has begun to resemble who we are as humans: complex, fragmented, stubborn, insightful, and impatient. If we ourselves are that, then our feminism will reflect that. But, I’ve also noted something else that is occurring; something that I have entitled:
Discussing the Great Divide in Feminist Discourse
Let’s talk about pop culture, bras, sex, media, health and the newest awareness bracelet hue – SCORE. You’ve got a big audience. We can bitch about whatever we want, talk lust, and spit on our lawns. Yeah. We step up to take a Survey Monkey questionnaire and then step back down. It’s femini-step aerobics. We’re not really accountable to do much and it’s uber fun to talk about hot women. This is feminism, but it’s FemLite.
But, take those topics and apply it specifically to womyn of color, transnational feminism, third world womyn, transgender and queer feminism, and you will hear the squeak of the FEMINIST SURRENDER flag pulley its way up the liberation pole. These issues are too often regarded as FemPlex (feministically-complex).
It’s usually met with
Can’t process that.
Way too serious and deep and sad and terrifying and global and systematic for me.
Give me a break.
We gotta find the ‘tween of the nailpolish approach and the weekend cabin retreat mode. Know what I’m sayin’? Too many young fems are learning that it’s ok to be sexually responsible, but those other womyn? Over ‘there’ in developing nations? Well, they are are just S.O.L. when it comes to contraception. And that’s too much, too serious to think about anyway.
Is it too serious?
These problems do, indeed, have serious ramifications, but for those that exist in femtopias, remember that our sovereignties are only as strong as the dialogues we create. The larger the divot, the more avoidable the issue becomes. Systematic oppression, the non-existant safe places for WOC, debates on sex worker rights, racism, welfare, government, and the like are labeled The Serious, “heady,” “complicated,” “depressing” and young fems learn to skitter away like marbles on a cracked linoleum floor. For that which we do not confront, we fail one young womyn in this world. Read: I’m not knocking scholars [entirely] or am hallucinating that a stag comic show will bring a revolution. Neither am I downplaying the work activists do with FemLite, but there is an undeniable trend of lobbing off The Serious and then stuffing them into the towers, which is, seriously, the LAST place where it should be. Leaving the heavy, critical work for scholars not only lazy, but it enables the curbing of actualization and accountability of everyday citizens.
This erred placement of discourse could be labeled as the worst mishandled file ever. The academy is great, but it’s not the tent of the circus. Scholars are often the flying trapeze performers – the lofty ones up in the air who generate lots of ooohhhss and aahhhs. Awesome, but this also generates a sense of separatism and further disconnect. Most people cannot and do not want to be the trapeze fliers. Formal degrees are just one avenue and it’s not always the best option or AN option for most womyn, especially WOC. The tent – what holds up through the storms and houses all the activity inside – of the feminist circus is the grassroots activists, the common womyn, the passionate curiosity that dwells in each of us who just love the circus and want to join.
The wonderful thing about FemPlex is that it doesn’t have to be limited to academic spheres, privileged people who get their own conferences, or barefoot liberals with a comma and letters after their name.
Let’s play another game! (No,it’s not Let’s Justify the Racism, although that is one of my faves.) It’s the Feminist Idol contest.
Who’s your favorite femme?
Maria Eddy! Maria Eddy!
YES! She’s the ohsofab theorist who is working on her next book using leaves and tree sap to collate the pages.
Yeah! And, she’s taking speaking this evening at the Cherry Blossom cafe.
Eddy, mhm. Is that her last name?
No, it’s Maria, Ed.D.
I once had a mentor who said the greatest theologians are the ones who analyze the presence of God in their own lives. The most transformative feminist philosophizing, art, and expression can and must be done from the simplicity of our lives. No tricks, twirling bats, or elephants needed. Ever think about supporting a woman photographer for a big event? Ever want to support local women artists? Have you tried to Google and find the author who wrote that non-best seller that moved your heart and send them a thank you? Radical listening, ever try it?Have you walked across the street to talk to a neighbor?
Today, it is entirely radical to build community. To be able to tear another person away from a screen, off their couch, for a walk, or spend time discussing ideas, background, and the evolution of friendship is not costly, only infrequent. Radical feminism is not solely about the agenda on the Hill, lobbying, research, and writing articles for progressive magazines. The root of our lives is in our families, in our communities, our front windows, where the germs of oppression, racism, sexism, and homophobia exist and breed. We need people that can translate the big wig theories and texts into a practical, joyful, human connection. We need seriousness, but we also need hope and we are in a drought of accountability.
To be a feminist, you must be brave. More brave than you would ever want to be or imagine.
What would happen if we could step beyond our crippling “seriousness?” What if we could, instead, understand the severity and the devastating oppressive nations we live in and then work to resolve with a dedication that stands on the crutches of passion, flexibility, creativity, mentoring, and heaven forbid – humor?
Point is, join the circus, not the towers.