Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feminine Feminism

Some prominent foci of the current "4th Wave feminism*" are street harassment, intersectionality (though not often effective), and reclaiming femininity.  Crafts & domestic projects have become incredibly popular as both personal and feminist statements recently, primarily among privileged (read: predominantly white) feminists. This isn't that different from the DIY movement of the early 90's, save that we have the internet now and crafts today are typically much more feminine than then. I suggest that Pinterest is the primary subcultural point.

A few months ago, an argument passed around tumblr debating that the popularity of Pinterest among women evidenced a move back toward domestic femininity...but that it isn't a bad or regressive thing. Femininity has long been a widespread cultural scapegoat: a woman must be feminine in order to have value, though femininity is weak + devalued in patriarchy. Reclaiming crafts, domesticity, and general prettiness is a way young, privileged women are putting power into femininity. In the 1950's, femininity was often displayed in order to attract & keep a mate (see: The Feminine Mystique, The Erotic Silence of the American Housewife, Pink Think, etc.); that's unheard of now: today's feminine feminists do it for ourselves.

I'm waiting for more people to say that the empowering of domesticity is connected to the current feminist focus of street harassment. Catcalls & stalking often push women back into our homes just for the safety, and more dialogue among women is engendered therein. Domestic crafts are a way of reclaiming the very femininity street harassers prey upon, while also connecting to other women. Pinterest (and tumblr, etsy) has become the women's bookstore of the 2010's.

Of course there are problems within this feminist movement, largely relating to race (as always). Crafts require time and money and a safe place, and the websites of exchange display mostly white able-bodied people, white aesthetics, English at around a 6th grade reading level. WOC designers & businesses are often celebrated by tumblrs that focus on race, rarely by tumblrs that focus on gender/sex (and are therefore white tumblrs). Transphobia isn't unusual either, "I didn't mean it that way, therefore it's not transphobic." I'd like to say that intersectionality is improving now, but I am able-bodied & white and it's not my place to make such judgements.

Beginning about 7 years ago, much mainstream media noted that domestic femininity was becoming more common among [white, privileged, cisgender] women. Many such journalists speculated that feminism was ending, women were going home in order to become housewives, etc. They were partly correct, but they couldn't see femininity as something powerful willingly chosen by strong individuals.

* I'm beginning to realize that the use of Waves as categorizing islands of angry women, as opposed to a point of generational reference in a larger context, is a divisive tool used primarily by mainstream media.

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