Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Moderators: Enigma, Sonic#

User avatar
Sonic#
member
member
Posts: 4999
Joined: Sat Nov 7, 9:37 2009
Location: Georgia, US

Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby Sonic# » Mon Feb 13, 12:14 2017

I read an article that highlights how popular feminist arguments tend to support being included in a hierarchical system, rather than challenging the deeper unfairness of that system.

The article: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/02/ ... t-bullshit

A few thoughts: the author, Yasmin Nair, is a writer I've seen from time to time pushing on mainstream feminist and queer politics to be more radical, to consider the costs of being mainstream or inclusive. Here, she focuses on pop sociological books that herald the rise of the single woman, like Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. Nair's primary issue is that Traister, for all that she compiled research to describe the existence of single women, doesn't do much to recognize the broader systemic situation of single women: it's great being single if one's relatively affluent, but there are many more pressures to marry and conform if one has fewer resources; more broadly, some of the book's cited benefits of singleness seem to support the centrality of nuclear marriage, like being able to wait longer to find a better spouse.

More broadly, Nair's attacking what she calls at one point "Big Tent Feminism," which respects a form of choice that only benefits those with enough resources to participate in it. Being able to have choice doesn't seem to challenge the institutions that put economic, political, and social constraints on people. Near the end of the article, she gives a couple of examples:

Feminist principles are not, ultimately, simply about making things better for women. They are about paying attention to gender in order to think about policies that make things better for everyone. So, for instance, a feminism that is simply about ensuring that women at the top get bathrooms with diaper-changing stations means nothing if the women and men who are cleaning those bathrooms — and presumably wiping baby shit from the walls — get neither time off nor the ability to place their children in care while at work. A policy that ensures that female professors get to take a year off after having their babies is useless if the system continues to simply hire adjuncts of all genders — who get no such benefits, no matter how well paid they are — to fill in for them.


I see her speaking against a possible answer in the recent thread on whether someone pro-life/anti-abortion can be feminist. One of the stakes in that kind of question is how open a particular feminist community wants to be. If I think that anti-abortion policies are harmful, and that the current institutions are already set up to marginalize women with limited resources who seek out abortions, then what kind of coalition do I build if I say, "Sure, you're feminist because you choose that," rather than saying, "I have serious problems with that stance because that does harm to women, but let's talk about it?"

Any thoughts?

User avatar
felipefs

Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 1:34 2017
Location: Brazil
Contact:

Re: Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby felipefs » Mon Feb 13, 16:42 2017

Traister (which I've never read before), from what Nair tells, puts feminism in service of capitalism. Which caught my attention, because in some excerpts of "Why Feminism?", that I'm currently reading, Lynne Segal clearly demonstrate that, during the evolution of feminism, socialism was brought under the hood of feminism:
...the radical heritage of Women's Liberation continues, she argued, whenever feminists work to realize the dream 'that all human beings can be more than present circumstances allow. That vision is not one of equal rights. It was called 'socialism' and it was being reshaped to service feminism.

Socialist feminists argued that while capitalist societies had changed the relative power and privileges of men, they had also consolidated women's inferior status, along with that of a multitude of other historically subordinated groups - predominantly along racialized and ethnic lines.

I do agree with Nair on the subject. As the "Big Tent Feminism", hypothetically, can serve as a less *drastic change of world view* to attract curious (elite) people, I wonder how effective it would be as the newcomers go deep in the subject. Socialism and captalism are two opposing schools, and I don't see how someone with strong captalist view would like the under-the-hood socialist view of feminism.

I'm not sure if I think of Traister as a "soft" feminist or someone using feminism to sell books.

User avatar
melsbells
member
member
Posts: 669
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 6:45 2014
Location: Finland

Re: Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby melsbells » Sat Feb 18, 16:04 2017

Thanks for this link. I really appreciated this article, and I doubt I would have stumbled across it on my own.

allowances for every possible variation of “feminism” under the logic that If Women Want It, It Must Be Feminist. No matter how poisonous the effects may be


I've fallen into this trap. I'm so unwilling to even hint at suggesting I don't see someone as they self-identify, that I'll try to side-step the issue instead of confronting someone about how a view they hold.

I was happy to see Nairs's explanation of how feminism requires socialism. I have long been opposed to the idea of meritocracy because in a system where someone can win, you need to have someone who loses, but I haven't before explored how that view is connected to my take on feminism.

Still, after agreeing strongly with Nairs's point of view and not having read the book being criticized, or any other books by Traister, I'm still curious if the criticism is fair. I think any movement needs a certain amount of meet-them-where-they-are. If I'm talking to someone who falsely believes that global warming is a hoax, I would expect a better chance of being heard out in the matter of water conservation if I focus on the financial benefit instead of the environmental.
[Single women] help improve other people’s marriages by modeling what confident women should be like, for their married male coworkers.
If I were speaking to a person who believes that the increased number of single women is a societal downfall because married men have more available people to pursue affairs (how many parts of that mind set leaves a bad taste in your mouth?), I could see myself making a similar claim. And while this certainly doesn't directly help single women in lower classes, maybe it still provides some ease if they aren't accused of breaking apart marraiges. I still see some worth in appealing to others in any way I can to see some of the changes I want to see in the world.

This gets at a fairly large internal conflict for me. Are these changes that in effect only benefit those already with power even worth my time? Does it actually do anything to make the radical changes I want to see in the world possible? If I don't want an meritocracy with enevitable losers, can an appeal to someone else's capitalist ideals do anything to move my agenda forward?

User avatar
felipefs

Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 1:34 2017
Location: Brazil
Contact:

Re: Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby felipefs » Sat Feb 18, 19:33 2017

allowances for every possible variation of “feminism” under the logic that If Women Want It, It Must Be Feminist. No matter how poisonous the effects may be


sigh... when I'm on /r/feminism, I often see people from men's rights going there with fallacies.

I was happy to see Nairs's explanation of how feminism requires socialism.


I agree with that. But, it's unfortunate that one requires the other, because it means this fight will take longer, much longer, than expected. It's not just put sexism to an end, but also capitalism. 2 strikes needed.

User avatar
Aum
member
member
Posts: 3056
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 23:35 2007
Location: Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Re: Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby Aum » Sat Feb 18, 20:53 2017

Feminism is pretty bougie. It has taken me years to be able to access the language tools necessary in order to be given equal footing in a lot of different discussions. It's always the academics who stand out the most and have the power to shift discussions. We are also seeing that same language being used to create walls to "other" opponents, rather than engage them. I feel this is partly why Trump won the election. He just got through all the specialized language and pandered to emotions, as well as real economic despair. (I'm not a Trump supporter, so don't get me wrong.)

I guess a way to sum it up is that feminists have to be careful to not get too heady. It needs to stay practical, solvent, and accessible to everyone. It's not that the higher discourse isn't important but it shouldn't be running the show. IMO the academics don't have a clue what is going on in the real world because they are so distanced from the ground level struggles.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

User avatar
Sonic#
member
member
Posts: 4999
Joined: Sat Nov 7, 9:37 2009
Location: Georgia, US

Re: Inclusion vs. revolution: "Bourgeois Feminist Bullshit"

Postby Sonic# » Sun Feb 19, 10:30 2017

I'm also stuck somewhere between these comments:

melsbells wrote:Still, after agreeing strongly with Nairs's point of view and not having read the book being criticized, or any other books by Traister, I'm still curious if the criticism is fair. I think any movement needs a certain amount of meet-them-where-they-are. If I'm talking to someone who falsely believes that global warming is a hoax, I would expect a better chance of being heard out in the matter of water conservation if I focus on the financial benefit instead of the environmental.

Aum wrote:I guess a way to sum it up is that feminists have to be careful to not get too heady. It needs to stay practical, solvent, and accessible to everyone. It's not that the higher discourse isn't important but it shouldn't be running the show. IMO the academics don't have a clue what is going on in the real world because they are so distanced from the ground level struggles.


First, I feel like (for Nair) Traister is the present target of a more basic conflict between feminists who normalize power structures (marriage as norm that more people are varying from today) and feminists who expose those power structures (maybe marriage is a class-based institution) and then seek ways to help people who have been left on the outside. For Nair, Traister's work has some value but is a missed opportunity: Traister address at some points how marriage doesn't work for everyone, but it still seems like marriage is the ultimate point of comparison which other relationships have replaced or aspired. Nair's not alone. Moira Weigel recently gave a review called "Not All the Single Ladies" in the journal Dissent. She is similarly ambivalent. In response to one excerpt, about the new power given to working women to put aside domestic tasks and hire help, Weigel responds: "Traister fails to reckon with the fact that most of this low-paid gendered labor is still performed by women. The ability to avail yourself of such services, if you can afford them, is not a triumph for women as women; it is a triumph for a particular class of women."

Is that fair? Is Traister too "heady"? Are Nair or Weigel too hard on a potential ally?

I think it has to be possible to distinguish the ability to criticize other people's arguments from the ability to form coalitions on specific issues. I think tents and economic pitches on environmental issues are okay until the argument for "pragmatism" or "meet-them-where-they-are" become arguments for "unity" and silence over what's inconvenient to acknowledge for liberal or "bougie" feminists. (To be abundantly clear, I didn't read melsbells calling for such silence at all; I'm just trying to work through some typical things I've heard.) I think we can work on arguments that work with particular audiences, provided we acknowledge that women of a fairly privileged strata get a disproportionate amount of these kinds of arguments, and one of the failures of the "Big Tent" so far has been the lack of economic or social appeals offered to the kinds of people reluctant to vote for Clinton. Traister's not bad, but she can certainly do better.

Finally, Aum, the only point I disagree with you on is the idea that they're "heady" or inaccessible because of "academics" who dominate the discussion. Headiness seems more general? Nair has a PhD in her work but isn't in academia; Weigel is a PhD candidate in her field and may end up there. Traister isn't in academia at all, but she has the greatest soapbox and the greatest potential to silo off women of color and rural women. The feminists with the biggest soapboxes today aren't usually academics (bell hooks and a few other people excepting); they're white feminist media personalities like Jessica Valenti, Rebecca Traister, and Rebecca Solnit, women who get a lot of things right, whose work I personally like, and perhaps know intersectional feminism, but who neglect parts of the "Big Tent" and feel out-of-touch on some issues of class or race. They're post-feminists like Sheryl Sandberg ("Lean In") who would only take the parts of "intersectional feminism" that encourage a "choice first," accommodating-the-system-while-working-in-an-office approach. Academic feminists do sometimes become heady, but many of them criticize both of these strands of thinking for who and what they leave out. The issue sometimes isn't that critics are out of touch. It's that they have a smaller audience to begin with, and relatively few resources to reconfigure their arguments for explicitly political purposes.


Return to “Feminism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 2 guests