Last Tuesday, Debra J. Dickerson wrote a post at the MoJo blog in response to an article in the New York Times on the future of abortion providers about how “today’s feminists need to blog less and work more.” Yes, because all we do is sit on our lazy asses in front of a computer screen all day, nothing else. This was also troubling because it appeared in Mother Jones, a progressive and liberal publication. So what is Dickerson doing writing for MoJo, bashing and discrediting today’s generation of feminists and the current feminist movement?
She also wrote:
But you young chicks maybe need to go the Northern Exposure route, sending folks to med school in exchange for a few years running an abortion clinic. That feminist fire in the belly? I gotta say: Pole-dancing, walking around half-naked, posting drunk photos on Facebook, and blogging about your sex lives ain’t exactly what we previous generations thought feminism was. We thought it was about taking it to the streets. Harsh, you say? Uninformed? OK. Tell me exactly what today’s feminists are doing for the struggle. Besides posting disses against old chicks like me.
Okay, we may not be abortion providers or Planned Parenthood workers, but feminists today are certainly involved in activism. Activism doesn’ t have to be, and may not be, as big as “taking it to the streets,” but it can happen in smaller, still meaningful ways. If the personal is political, we can politicize and infuse activism in our daily lives in various ways, like:
- donating money or volunteering at a organization that supports and promotes women’s rights and equality
- voting for politicians who have pro-women platforms or endorse policies that support women
- spending time with/mentoring boys and girls, or young men and young women and showing or teaching them that they don’t have to conform to society’s suffocating and unrealistic gender norms/stereotypes
- helping parents raise kids free from gender norms/stereotyping
- fighting for comprehensive sex-ed and promoting sex positivity
- supporting gender/sexuality studies classes in higher education by taking classes (or majoring/minoring in) in those departments, signing petitions to save gender/sexuality studies at universities using budget cuts as an excuse to eradicate them
- boldly and shamelessly calling yourself a feminist and explaining what it means and why it matters (like how female physicians make 40% less than male physicians, or how relationship/domestic violence is the leading cause of injury and even death for women nationwide) to your friends, family, co-workers, etc.
- instead of sitting there fuming and seething when someone says something ignorant and offensive (racist, classist, sexist, homphobic, etc), you call them out and try to start a conversation with them why their comment was ignorant and offensive (sometimes people don’t budge, but you try anyway and hopefully that plants a seed for them)
- creating safe and supportive spaces where people can talk about feminist issues in a constructive and intelligent way (thank you, Women’s Centers and Women’s Studies/Gender & Sexuality Studies and yes, even the feminist blogosphere!)
- respecting the women in your life who have been positive role models thus far and letting them know that they are acknowledged and appreciated
- pointing out the pervasiveness of rape culture to your friends when they casually throw around the word “rape” or joke about it
To add more insult to injury, yesterday Dickerson posted “Don’t Trust Any Feminists Under 30″ about how young feminists today are cocky and refuse to heed the advice of older feminists. Dickerson, again, makes some egregious claims here. She says:
All of that to say this to the young feminists so offended by this elder’s critique: One day, you’ll have your own Jim story to tell. One day, when you’ve lived through more of this bitch called life, but without all that youth and vigor, you’ll hear yourself saying something like, “These young women today just don’t get it. Not like we did.” When you’ve made hideous mistakes you know were because you talked the feminist talk but didn’t walk the feminist walk. When that day comes, if I haven’t keeled over at my desk, please have the grace to call me up so we can laugh together at youth’s callow overconfidence and refusal to listen with respect, if not agreement.
Woah, slow down there with the elitism! Life is a learning and a growing process, so we are all going to make mistakes. Maybe we young feminists wouldn’t be so offended by “this elder’s critique” if this elder was respectful, gave constructive criticism instead of just petty insults and if she substantiated her claims instead of loosely grouping all young feminists as pole dancers who walk around half-naked, put drunk photos up on Facebook and post the details of our sex lives on the internet (yes, some women do those things but not all women are feminists – why, I’ll never know, for as Gloria Steinem said, “if you’re not a feminist, you’re a masochist”). Besides, Dickerson sounds pretty cocky herself here, not quite the sagacious and respectful elder she paints herself to be.
And then she writes:
I’ve earned my bitchiness and I’ve earned the right to be taken seriously.
On that point, I critcized a group. If you’re going to criticize an individual—namely me—you might want to check me out. Questions like “how many abortions has she provided,” and “how many young feminists does she know”? Please. Also with the ageism; again, please.
Look Dickerson, if you want to talk about ageism, look at the title of your post, “Don’t trust any feminists under 30″! How is that for ageist? Plus, how many young feminists do you know? Probably not many, or none, if you’re making these aggrandized, false claims. And you’ve earned your right to bitchiness? Because your experiences are that special and important that you are entitled to being petty, mean, and ignorant? Besides, that doesn’t do much to terminate the myth that feminists are all angry bitches.
She then continues:
Your generation just seems so complacent, la la la there are no abortion providers in most of the country but I’ll just go auction off my virginity and flash my thong with pride. I’ll excel from kindergarten through Harvard Law, then mommy track myself for a man who is not my equal. Then I’ll breastfeed for eight years, not because I want to but because I’m a bad mommy if I don’t. Unfair, but from love…So, you know, have a little respect and a hell of a lot more humility. We older chicks may be critical bitches but you will be too, someday. If you’re lucky. Would you really rather we didn’t give a damn?
“So…have a little respect and a hell of a lot more humility”? Look who’s talking! She oversimplifies all of the issues she raises and doesn’t speak about or reference them in intelligent ways. Auctioning off virginity is problematic but it also speaks volumes of 1. the premium placed on virginity (a social construct), 2. the obsession with/fetishization of virginity, 3. the ridiculously high and continually rising price of higher education, 4. the simultaneous hypervaluation and devaluation of sex in society (sex scandals always make headlines, yet we lack comprehensive sex ed). Taking the “mommy track” is a tricky issue and larger issues underlying this are: 1. the struggle to balance family and career, 2. “choosing” between having a family or pursuing a career, 3. the devaluation of motherhood in this country, 4. the lack of affordable quality childcare.
Also, what is with her calling feminists “chicks” and “bitches”? That is just plain rude and belittling. What is up with all these anti-feminists posing as feminists? There are already enough haters out there.