Monday, December 02, 2002

Whoops, I did it again

Well, I was trying to stay out of this debate over girlism, but I couldn't stop myself. (I also couldn't get a connection to the comment box, so here it is). I can understand some of what Halley is trying to say–that there are aspects of a certain kind of white, middle class, liberal to radical versions of feminism that may not/ never did resonate for some women. That female sexuality exists and that it can be exciting and powerful. But Halley's rhetorical question and reply really bug me. She writes: "Will anyone really argue with me that the feminist version of female sexuality wasn't strident and unattractive? Girlism is about being sexy and attractive AND liberated." I'll argue. Which feminist version of female sexuality are we talking about? Attractive to whom? There are certainly more to feminist views of sex and sexuality than Andrea Dworkin/Catherine MacKinnon (I'm not knocking them, but they are often the poster women for "strident" feminist.) How is "owning your own sexuality as a woman and letting men understand that it's something you like" not feminism? Or rather, why girlism vs. feminism? And, for that matter, why are we sexualizing what it means to be a girl?

I don't believe that sexuality or the erotic (another term I like) and feminism are mutually exclusive–indeed, I think that particular opposition is used to distance women from feminism and activism generally (ie. the myth that feminists are all strident, man-hating, prudish, frigid, etc.) Read Audre Lorde's beautiful essay "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," for just one instance of another "feminist" view of sexuality. Lorde defines the erotic as an internal sense of satisfaction. She writes:
"When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives . . ."

Lorde describes the erotic as a reminder of our capacity for feeling (something that we are often told is out of place in public life). She continues:

"For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grace responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe."

To me, this vision of female sexuality is anything but strident and unattractive. It may not be cute, and you can't say it in a sound bite, but than doesn't mean that it should just be dismissed.


1 comment:

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