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Friday, 2 February 2007

Feminism and the 'Personal'

Feminism is personal as well as political. Yes, I know sometimes the personal is political. Thing is, sometimes we push the 'political' side so far that we forget the 'personal' side.

It's too easy to decry the portrayal of women in popular culture. I hate music videos the most; you can pick your own pet hate. It's too easy to denounce these things and too hard to make a change.

Sometimes, it's so hard to make a change, all we can think of to do is to keep up the criticism. Keep it up! Shout louder! Shout more! Find more things to shout about, if necessary. Taken too far, this can lead to debates over whether lipstick belongs in the category of things to be denounced. Because, obviously, if we can just decide that, getting rid of those images of women gyrating in front of the cameras will be so much easier.

No. No, it won't. But here's another problem - a personal problem. I'm nearly twenty-two, and I still don't really feel like I have a fully developed sexual identity. I reject ideas like 'sex kitten' and I've never been that fond of 'dominatrix'; both have their place, but I'm just not happy with them. Partly I may just be slow to learn; I've certainly been slow to get into actually having sex. But I have found ideas here and there that have helped me along. Sheila Kitzinger's Woman's Experience of Sex was a wonderful introduction to the realm of sex beyond the basic mechanics; Girl With A One-Track Mind gave me a completely different and somewhat more detailed view several years later. I don't agree with everything in those two sources. The point is that they had enough stuff in there that I could agree with to broaden my scope.

They say it's easier to destroy than to create, but when it comes to ideas, that simply isn't true. It really does seem to me that destroying the idea of women as sexual objects would be much, much harder than helping to create ideas about women as sexual subjects. When young women say they have no problem with objectification because they like to be sexy, convincing them otherwise is going to be pretty hard, but if we can create more notions of women as sexual subjects, we will at least give them - give us, give me - another option. Bad ideas die more easily when the needs they service can be addressed by a different idea.

Sometimes feminism needs to be personal. It needs to give true examples of ways to be a woman, instead of just being political about the personal by closing options off.

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