Saturday, October 25, 2008

Feminist Anthems: Mountain Moving Day

So - an anthem for Second-Wave feminism.

I really didn't know what I was getting myself into when I gave myself this task last week. At the time, I thought I would end up with a solo-acoustic guitar womyns music sort of song. For whatever reason, though, the feminist singer-songwriter song that I listened to are either quite recent (and thus influenced by recent feminist developments), or simply didn't fit in some way.

In the end, I decided on Mountain Moving Day by the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band.

Perhaps this was the overly obvious choice; that's okay, if it is. I think it's a perfect anthem for the ideals of Second-Wave feminism. It's about Women, with a capital 'W'. It's serious, thoughtful, intelligent. It's not mindlessly optimistic, yet exudes confidence about the future.

The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band was the musical expression of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, an early feminist organization. The CWLU was formed in 1969, and the band soon after. Now, I certainly wasn't alive during this time, so I perhaps have a bit of a romanticized view of the early feminist movement, but here are a few thoughts that I feel are relevant to the song:

  1. Back than, feminism was really a movement. That is, it was defined by rallies, protests, marches, and educational endeavors. Saying you were a 'feminist' didn't just mean "I support equality", it meant "I work for equality. Everyone was an activist, if you will.

  2. Things were bad for women back then. Very bad. Sexism was something that happened to every women, all day, every day. The early feminists were trying to change a social structure that was almost unchanged, even after years and years of the women's suffrage movement.

  3. The goals of those women were seemingly impossible, yet clear: while there were certainly arguments about what needed to be done, I don't see the divisiveness that plagues modern feminism.

So, let's listen to the song again. It's mountain moving day. Mountain moving day, and "I know that it's true". Their task was not a small one. But they knew that they would succeed. And they realized, "the waters now will tear the canyons down." That is, it only takes a few to began to accomplish something. But eventually, "All sleeping women now awake and move", all women will realize what is happening, and join. And, strangely enough, the women are also the mountain! "Only a while the mountain sleeps/In the past all mountains moved in fire." So, the 'mountain' both moves, and is moved.

And they succeeded. The mountain was moved. Regardless of what we may think of Second-Wave feminism, any problems we may have with it, they got the job done. The face of culture was changed forever. And modern feminists would do well to listen to the message of "Mountain Moving Day" - there are still mountains to move, and we need to move them together.

Next week, since it's election time, we'll look at election music, and an anthem for First-Wave feminism - assuming I can find one!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

A siren's call

In her Washington Post article "Something about Sarah", Kathleen Parker asks the recurring question of this election--why did Senator McCain pick the relatively unknown and untested Governor Palin as his running mate?--and comes up with an answer so ancient that it's somehow new again. McCain was smitten. He couldn't help himself. His "judgment was clouded by the presence of an attractive woman."

No. Really:
As my husband observed early on, McCain the mortal couldn't mind having an attractive woman all but singing arias to his greatness. Cameras frequently capture McCain beaming like a gold-starred schoolboy while Palin tells crowds that he is "exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief." This, notes Draper, "seemed to confer not only valor but virility on a 72-year-old politician who only weeks ago barely registered with the party faithful."

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama -- under any circumstances. And though it isn't over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman's power, made the wrong call?

Who knows? Maybe Parker's right. It's not like McCain is ever going to tell us why he really decided to choose Sarah Palin (except that it was a "cold, calculated move" apparently perfectly primed to piss off all those unattractive, unhappy liberal feminists). That said, I don't begrudge Parker her op-ed. She certainly makes some interesting points (especially in regard to a Canadian research project--the published article titled aptly "Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future?"--which studied the effects of attraction on decision-making). However, her piece really irked me because of the gendered socio-cultural assumptions on which her opinion is founded.

I am so so so tired of the "pretty woman" excuse. And I have a hard time understanding why men aren't furious. (Unless it's true, which to me, were I a man, would signal a problem I'd want to work on.) Isn't it as bad to say that men are easily distracted by beauty (and hence make poor decisions) than to claim--as is so often done--that women are too emotional to be rational thinkers? Actually, it's the exact same indictment--passion trumping logic--except that women are to blame in both cases. Women are too emotional. That's our own fault. But if a pretty woman distracts a man into making a stupid decision, that man just couldn't help himself. What. The. Fuck.

This is not a new argument, obviously. It's frequently used to defend rape ("she was asking for it"). It's cited as a reason why Islamic women must wear a hijab or burqa. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve:

To the Sirens:

And Delilah:

And Salome:

Not to mention Helen of Troy:

Oh, right, and...Sarah Palin:

How is it possible that after hundreds of thousands of years of human civilization (arguably more), we're still laboring under this notion? The femme fatale seduces and destroys the hopeless, unsuspecting man. The powerful, evil, gorgeous woman weakens the man's resolve through no fault of his own. He succumbs to her beauty. In these narratives, why do men not have any agency when in many other scenarios men have all the agency?

I'm not saying women can't wield power sexually. Of course we can, as can men. We can also be powerful in many other ways, as can men: through intelligence, might, intimidation, charisma, fortitude...the list goes on. So why does this idea of the femme fatale--the man helpless in the wake of a seductress--persist? Is it a convenient excuse? Is it yet another of the myriad examples of female objectification and villainization (vagina dentata, anyone?)? Is it simple misogyny, another way to diminish women's agency/female power as suspect? Is is vagina envy? I mean seriously, I'm flummoxed.

Cross-posted at Open Salon (I'm trying it out...)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girls say yes...

This recent pro-Obama poster has been making the rounds. The feminist blogosphere seems to be in disagreement. Bust Magazine says "yea," Salon's Broadsheeters and Feminist Law Professors say "nay." What do you think? Cool or uncool? Appropriate or inappropriate?

Would you say yes?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Carnival of Feminists #67

The 67th Carnival of Feminists is up over at Jump off the Bridge, and Sally received a lot of great post submissions in the last few weeks on a diverse variety of topics--from politics and Palin to religion, sex and "isms". Check it out!

Also, I'm very pleased to announce that we here at Fourth Wave will be hosting the next Carnival of Feminists (that would be number 68; click on the link for more information) on November 12, 2008.

For now, there's no theme, as long as your posts are somehow related to feminism. You can submit posts by filling out the online form or sending an email directly to me at fourthwave[dot]feminism[at]gmail[dot]com. Submit away! It's an excellent chance to network and introduce your blog to a larger audience.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Liberal feminists hate happy women.

Rachel Maddow's hilarious segment tonight on why liberal feminists apparently hate Sarah Palin (answer: because she's happy, attractive and a working mother):

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Did he really just say what I think he said?

Why, yes. Yes, he did.

(H/T Shakesville)

Jeez, McCain. Tell us what you really think.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Manic Pixie Dream Girls

I saw this great story a couple of weeks ago on and I wanted to share it with the fourth-wavers to see what you all think. Check out the video on NPR then you can see some of the film clips. I wanted to post it after seeing Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist which I found incredibly disappointing. I'm not sure Nora is a MPDG, maybe Nick is, but the shallowness of the characters reminded me of this story.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl was named by Nathan Rabin in a review of Elizabethtown "to describe that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that 'exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.'"
At the Onion AV club you can read about their top 16 MPDG's, films include Garden State, Almost Famous, The Apartment, Joe Vs. the Volcano, and Annie Hall.

As the writers point out the MPDG is a divisive figure, you either love her or hate her, wish you were as impulsive and fabulous as her, or cringe with embarrassment for her. One of the key criteria is the the MPDG serves the usually male protagonist and has no real substantial inner life of her own. For me the best MPDGs are in movies that are about fantasy like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Bringing up Baby. In these films the men don't have very substantial inner lives either, and the film ask us to suspend disbelief and enter the world of these zanny wonderful women. The subject of the inner life of the MPDG is one up for debate, who counts, who doesn't count, and what does it all mean. Who is your favorite or least favorite MPDG? Are there any Manic Pixie Dream Boys? Discuss!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feminist Flashback #7

I almost forgot! Feminist Flashback Sundays presents The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin singing "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves." Tragically, the embedding function has been disabled by Sony, but you can watch the video (and bop along) here.

(Brianna, if you were planning to use this for your Feminist Anthems series, I'm sorry! I won't post any analysis, so feel free to use it anyway...)

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Sarah Palin on SNL

From the October 13, 2008 issue of The New Yorker:

Uh. Yeah.

What did you all think of Sarah Palin's opening appearance on SNL last night (not to mention the later Weekend Update rap which was disturbingly catchy)? I was simultaneously somewhat amused and deeply horrified (hmm...seems I've had this feeling before). Even though I was half laughing, the whole thing made me uncomfortable, especially Alec Baldwin calling Palin a "horrible woman" right in front of her. And did anyone else notice how Tina Fey brushed past her? Maybe it was just an act, but I feel deeply conflicted by her appearance. And I don't even like her! Thoughts?

Edited to add the videos, below the cut:

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