Tag Archives: feminist outrage

Why Can’t Boys Wear Dresses? A Feminist Rant

Dear readers, I have a confession to make – I am a feminist.  I get deeply upset by inequality, but just as much for the constriction of choices of men as for women.

Yesterday I saw a news article trending on my Facebook newsfeed, exclaiming that a young celebrity male has been photographed wearing – wait for it – a DRESS!  Gasp!  Shock!  I should never read comments on online media, it’s not good for my blood pressure, but I did and they were just as horrible as I could have predicted.  Thankfully since then there have been more messages of support, but it’s telling that the first reaction to this “news” (I don’t actually qualify this story as newsworthy) was a wave of homophobic ignorance.

It’s insane that in a time where a woman or girl can wear whatever she wants, be it dresses or trousers, or a princess costume or a pirate outfit, a man or a boy is still constrained by such attitudes.  A young woman is encouraged to enter male-dominated fields like construction, but a young man is still too-often ridiculed for entering female-dominated fields like nursing.

As a feminist I’d like to think of myself as more enlightened than this – and yet recently, when out shopping with my almost-18-month-old son and my mother-in-law, I found my views momentarily challenged.

In one lovely little shop my son became enamoured of a pink music box with spinning fairies.  He was obsessed in that delightfully exhausting toddler fashion, being over-enthusiastic in his playing with it and I realised that I should probably buy it for him a) to pay for it in case he was wrecking it, and b) because he was so enthralled by it.  While considering this, for one moment, I thought something along the lines of “Hm, but is it appropriate?”  The fact that I caught myself asking this was a wake-up call for me, and made me doubly determined that this lovely pink confection was coming home with us.

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Pink, spinning fun for the whole family.

Why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a toddler to enjoy something that makes music, and spins around, and causes him to laugh hysterically?  Why would it be more appropriate if it were simply in a different colour, or with spinning pirates or something instead of fairies?  It doesn’t change who he is, at the basic level of chromosomes, because he will always be a male despite the colours of his playthings, or clothing.  It won’t change his sexual orientation.  It won’t in any way affect him, apart from setting a precedent that there are indeed no gender boundaries to constrain him when he’s old enough to make his own choices.

So my son has a pink spinning fairy music box, so what?  So a male celebrity sometimes likes to wear dresses, so what?

We still have a long way to go.

A Final Chapter on Wollstonecraft: 18th Century Feminism for a 21st Century World

Even though I haven’t posted for a couple days, I’ve been thinking.  A dangerous activity, indeed.  In a recent post, I wondered how Wollstonecraftian feminism and class struggle issues of the 1790s  could be pertinent in 2011.  Surely in this modern age we’re properly enlightened?

I know feminism is alive and well today, but I feel it’s a very different brand of feminism than that espoused in Wollstonecraft’s Vindications.  Today’s feminism seems primarily concerned with the body: sexual and reproductive freedom.

I might be making no friends here by saying it, but feminism today is also bizarrely obsessed with being pro-vaginal:  love me, love my menstruation.  This has led to no end of weird things popping up on Etsy – the cool kid’s handmade Ebay.  For example:

Uterus jewelry.

“Love your ladyparts” soap – in the shape of said ladyparts.

Vagina mug.

Uterus superhero plush toy.

Hand-embroidered vagina art.

I could go on, but I’ll leave that to the domain of Regretsy, a blog devoted to weird shit on Etsy.

So, back to the topic at hand, I hold that today’s feminism has taken female empowerment well in hand.  Now you can proudly show off your vagina-love to all and sundry, and society can just deal.

But what of Wollstonecraftian feminism?  I doubt Mary would have thought vagina jewelry particularly pertinent to her arguments.  Is there still a place for arguments about female agency, strength of moral fortitude and reason?  Or do we feel we’re beyond these antiquated concepts?

With this current body-driven feminism, I feel it has become very inward-looking.  We lack the  sense of the wider, what it means to be an agent for feminism in a world that still seeks to degrade us as emotional, unreasonable and unequal.

And of course, this generalisation doesn’t take into consideration those brilliant few who do take their feminism to beyond themselves.  What I’m talking about here is the wide majority of women, in their everyday lives as daughters, mothers, sisters and co-workers.

Feminism has been fought for for generations, centuries even, so perhaps there are those who say, “The battle was won, what does this have to do with me?”  But it has everything to do with you, living as you do in a fluid society.  There will always be those who seek to diminish the power of the Other, that threatening presence of those who place ones own view of themselves into stark  and frightening contrast: the women, the poor, and those who are sexually, ethnically and religiously different.

And in Wollstonecraftian feminism there lies a universality.  She writes that her “affection for the whole human race”  and the “rights of humanity” are the motivation for her work.  It is not an argument that seeks only to benefit her personally.

I call with the firm tone of humanity; for my arguments […] are dictated by a disinterested spirit – I plead for my sex – not for myself.

And thus Wollstonecraftian feminism couldn’t be more pertinent to today’s modern world, as indeed it will be pertinent for as long as there is society itself.

Why I am not writing a vampire novel

No, I’m not writing a vampire novel and it’s not just because it’s been done ad nauseam, which it has.  It’s not even because Twilight happened to us all, from which we are still only just recovering.   My reasons are just a little more personal.

It offends my feminist outrage.

I’m not carried up in the romantic necrophilia that is modern vampirism, nor am I titillated by the victim-predator dynamic which is often its result.  I don’t care if the vampire is woman or man or both; my feminism is not restricted to cheering for Girl Power alone.  My outrage exists when there is any unfair romantic dynamic which is based more on obsession than partnership.

I give you an excerpt from Dark Symphony, by Christine Feehan:

Others fear him, sensing that he is dangerous – a predator – but for Antonietta he is her ultimate fantasy, her dream lover. He woos her with kisses full of erotic allure, whispering that she is his light, his salvation. Byron has waited an eternity for her, and he will let nothing stand between him and the woman born to be his lifemate…

Puh-lease.  If that’s not an unbalanced relationship, a la Edward-Bella, I don’t know what is.

Why do I care?  I’ll tell you why – this shit sells.  I can’t even be glad our teenagers are at least reading, because I know exactly what they’re thinking.  I’d be thinking it, too, reading these novels at age 14-16, a sponge for all the tragic-romantic sigh-worthy crap that’s out there.  The thought is:

I want to be her.

The idea that a whole generation of young people consider this dynamic attractive makes me worry.  To be aroused by fear and obsession, to desire a predator “full of erotic allure” and who will “let nothing stand between him” and the possession of you.  I wonder how many of them will pursue and remain in unhealthy relationships because the partner that scares them and makes them powerless ultimately reminds them of the terror-desire of their teenaged dreams.

Maybe I’m underestimating today’s youth, and I hope I am, but I still feel that writers of novels directed at teenagers should refuse to idealise danger, violence, obsession and fear.  I wholeheartedly applaud using those concepts, and would never advocate censorship or removing difficult ideas from young adult and even children’s literature, but when you do so there needs to be a sensitivity of treatment, a responsibility.  Interacting with danger, fear, obsession and violence can lead to empowerment, but my worry is that the lesson is lost from these particular novels when their authors fail to depict it.

This leads me to also address that what I’m talking about is the modern vampire novel, and that most certainly isn’t the beginning nor end of vampire literature.  However, as I’ve mentioned above, that shit sells.  It’s the hot teen craze right now, so to try and thwart the tide of popularity with something contradictory would be an uphill struggle.  I’m fairly certain people are doing so, because not everyone is a total idiot when it comes to writing vampire fiction, and we have a wealth of amazing novels already in the genre from a time before this craze ever occurred (a blissful time for all).

So, no, I’m not writing a vampire novel.