Oh, good. I was wondering when someone would publish an article with this headline! Again!
Now: careful readers will note that this is a post on The Frisky, to which I have contributed in the past. Careful readers should also be informed that I like The Frisky, and have had only remarkably pleasant interactions with those who work there. However! I need to say something here.
Because the post is by Susannah Breslin. And, by “feminism,” she apparently means the blog Jezebel, or perhaps this one post that was on Jezebel, which was about a Gap Kids commercial. And by “gone too far,” she means “put forth an opinion with which Susannah Breslin disagreed.” Yes, it’s true: the blog Jezebel did in fact put forth an opinion with which Susannah Breslin apparently disagreed, this one time, in this one post. For the record, I kind of disagreed with that one post that one time as well! But whether this is, in fact, conclusive evidence as to the too-far-gone-ness of the entirety of feminism is where Breslin and I, apparently, disagree. But never mind! Big conclusions! Narrow-ass case study! GUARANTEED BLOG-FODDER PAGEVIEW GOLD!!!
So, the post in question argued that the little girls who danced in a Gap Kids ad were oversexualized. Having seen the ad, I think this is maybe not so much the case! I just see some kids dancing. However, here are the conclusions which Breslin invites us to draw:
Ah, yes! The golden days! When the only people being challenged were people who, living in the past and all, had absolutely zero chance of ever being you, personally!
Recently, it seems like old-school feminism has returned.
So, the feminism of the past was good and “meant something.” You might even refer to it as feminism of the “old school!” But we should all beware the return of… “old-school” feminism?
This time around, though, it seems like all the political action is gone, and the new feminist key activity consist of pointing out all the ways in which women are supposedly exploited, victimized, or hyper-sexualized by the media.
Okay: first of all, determining that there is zero “political action” involved in contemporary feminism on the basis of one forty-word post on one popular feminist-trafficked blog is probably not the most reasonable thing anyone has ever done. And it should be no surprise that, since it is based on that forty-word post, as opposed to actually seeking out and speaking to feminist activists (of which there are, yes, many) it is also completely wrong. Second: leaving aside the part where none of us participates in political action (even though we do), why is media criticism suddenly un-okay? In the eyes of someone who writes blog posts about blog posts? And who is, yes, engaging in media criticism therein?
Oh, right. Because this particular blog post pointed out some possible sexism.
So, let me lay some facts on you here: the popular feminist-trafficked blog Jezebel is, in fact, a blog. To be more specific, it is a for-profit blog, with deadlines and necessary post counts for the day and everything. Which means that the people working there, as far as I can reasonably ascertain, need to put up a certain number of things that are of interest to their readers every day. This particular item was apparently recommended to them by readers, so there’s one more reason for including it right there. And, yeah, they often cover things that are of interest to feminists, or cover things from a feminist perspective, so pointing out The Sexism is something that they do. Which means that they – like me, like everyone who works at this blog probably, like pretty much all ladybloggers – have to go out looking for materials potentially containing The Sexism.
Which is not the same as “looking for things to get offended by,” so don’t even start with me. It’s looking for material. And it’s something that feminist media critics, and feminists, do, whether or not we have deadlines or post counts or even blogs at all: we scan the media, the culture around us, the news, and we examine it for evidence not only of progress or reasons to be optimistic (I’m really into looking for evidence of progress and reasons to be optimistic lately) but for places where progress remains to be made. So that we can work on them. This isn’t divorced from “political action,” it’s an integral part of that action. We have to know where we are to know where we want to go next.
But Breslin isn’t buying the whole “sexism still exists even though it probably shouldn’t, sometimes in the media” thing:
This is what feminism has come to? Pointing out sexism in advertising? Complaining about the latest Gap ad? Functioning as some sort of self-proclaimed social police in order to point out all the ways in which the media exploits women? Surely, the media is a fair exploiter. Men are exploited as rampantly as women, merely in different ways. (Seen “Tool Academy,” ladies?)
Emphasis mine, because: oh, Lord. I know the Breslin is baiting me, here, but: OH, LORD. Yes, men are exploited differently than women. It’s the differences that matter, and often tell us the most about how gender works. “Tool Academy,” the show she’s putting forth as an example of how sexism no longer exists, was a show which posited abusive, misogynist boyfriends as fundamentally funny, as opposed to being a legitimate threat to the women involved with them, and encouraged their girlfriends to stay with them because they could Make Them Change if they loved them enough. See also, “Tough Love,” in which a man verbally and physically abused women to make them better girlfriends. The MTV/VH1 partnership only recently realized the problems inherent in promoting a show by promising that a man would punch a woman in the face for your entertainment. Is “Tool Academy” exploitative of the Tools in question? Sure. It’s also really fucking sexist.
And it shows us something about how sexism works – minimizing violence against women, suggesting that it all only exists Over There, in the realm of Tools and douchebags and losers we would never hang out with, suggesting that abuse is okay if it’s done for your own good or that women can somehow deserve it by being obnoxious enough – which is why we should keep analyzing it. It is, yeah, going to come in handy when it comes time to identify, resist, and hopefully eliminate violence or rationalizations for violence in our communities.
Now: not all of our analysis will be 100% correct at all times. Not all of the problems we identify will be clear-cut and uncontroversial. (In fact, basically all of them will be controversial.) Not every problem we identify will be as consequential or severe as every other problem. And that is just part of the deal, when it comes to examining the culture. Hopefully, we retain a sense of perspective. I think devoting 40 words and a “Sparkle Motion” joke to a potentially marginally creepy ad denotes an excellent sense of perspective, myself. But if we’re wrong occasionally, or if we get a bit too high-strung and stressed occasionally, or if we run into disagreement among our own, that just means we need to get better at scanning. It doesn’t mean we need to stop examining things. It means anything but that.