Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Now I Get It - Melinda Tankard Reist and the 'F' Word

I move through some pretty conservative circles - home educating will do that to you - but it isn't just conservative or religious women from whom I hear this: I'm not a feminist.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's. To hear smart, thinking women declaring themselves not to be a feminist, whatever their politics or religion, is a little shocking.


And this is where Melinda comes in, Melinda Tankard Reist. And the drama in the blogosphere over the legal action she has taken against a blogger who declared her to be a Baptist ( shocking, I know ) and deceptive and duplicitous about it to boot. It's all here.

So I waded in, but mostly because a friend rang me to tell me I had a commenting double on a feminist blog, who not only shared my name but my outlook on these things. I expected a discussion in the comments. Perhaps a sort of civil disagreement. Whilst I'm not keen on the suing of bloggers and generally in favour of revealing one's influences and ambivalent on MTR's stance on reproductive rights, when she speaks in the media about the damage done to our society by porn and about the sexualisation of girls and young women, she does speak for me.

From that first dismissal of bourgeois feminism - you know you're a bourgeois feminist if you are white, educated and middle-class - or as one fem-blogger put it - a woman who listens to the ABC  ( that's like NPR if you're American ) - I realised a civil discussion wasn't on the agenda.

There's a line, don't you know, and you cross it at your peril. Bourgeois women, it's best not to try lest you get a theoretically sound slap on the hand and demotion to Feminism 101. There is no grey.

There appears to be a vested interest in ridiculing and dismissing MTR's girl-respecting activism. 'Sex-hating' is how one male 'feminist' blogger described her. And I notice her 'high profile supporters' mentioned in the SMH article aren't exactly known for their commitment to the kind of feminism that sees the sexploitation of children for commercial purposes as a problem. 'Wowser' is a word they use a lot. We're in trouble if the 'theoretically pure' can't work out the difference between sex-hating and the exploitation of girls, and cast it as a second order issue, of concern only to a certain type of (privileged) mother.

So now I get it. Those not-a-feminist-women aren't anti-women at all. They just don't see themselves as part of a gated community.  I get that. If the discussion I had today was a feminist discussion, I guess I'm not that kind of feminist either.

I'm more the Rebecca West type. And the next time someone says to me "I don't see myself as a feminist" I guess I'll understand why.

If you do see the exploitation of girls and their sexuality for commercial purposes as a first order, women's and mothering issue, you might like to sign up at the The Collective Shout. They don't mind a typo or two. And they won't ask you for your credentials on the way in.


  1. There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who state they are and are, and those who state they are but really aren’t.

    No, no, There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who state they are and those who behave as if they are but state they aren’t, but really are.

    No, no.There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who are interested in the politics of being female and those who are just interested in power for themselves.

    No, no. There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who see women’s choices as not determined by gender (really, Eva Cox?) and those who think women need protection.

    No, no. There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who think feminism is about gender and those who think feminism is about reproductive rights (but hang on, if you aren’t pro-choice, you’re not feminist).

    No, no. There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who behave like feminists and those who want to oppress women, like the patriarchy does.

    No, no. There are two kinds of feminists.
    Those who think like me and, no, actually there is only one.

    Clear now?

  2. Seriously though, when anyone now says 'feminist' I think I'll be asking for a definition (no presumptions).