Bra-Burners and Feminist Activists: A Wee Primer

Inquiring minds want to know: what's a feminist activist, and how should she dress?

My last post has raised a lot of discussion for people about the nature of feminism and feminists. There are questions about litmus tests and whether Zuska applies them. I thought it best to take a moment or too to assuage some of your curiosity and anxiety, in the form of a series of multiple-choice questions or statements. Alas, there is no answer sheet, except the one provided by your own pre-existing (mis)conceptions and biases. Enjoy.

  • Feminists are:

    A. a relic of the past. But we should be grateful for for their brave struggles, blah blah - now let's play Makeup Mirror and get a virtual Fashion Makeover!

    B. everywhere, like zombies. Be careful! They want your brains!

    C. humorless.
  • Zuska is a feminist. This means she is:
    A. a wise crone who subscribes to the radical notion that women are humans.
    B. a hairy-legged feminazi who hates all men.
    C. a ball-breaking lesbian who hates all men.
    D. a bitter, ugly woman, angry because no man will sleep with her.
    E. some combination of B, C, and D who just needs a good fucking.
    F. OMG! The personal is personal! Why do you have to be so, like, political and activist? Can't we just talk about shoes and makeup?
    G. humorless.
  • Zuska likes to wear comfortable clothing and flat, comfortable shoes. This means:
    A. She doesn't care about clothes and shoes.
    B. She is an ugly dyke who hates all men.
    C. She is asking for it - obviously, or she'd cover her hair.
    D. She doesn't give a shit what you think.
    E. She likes to be able to walk without turning her ankles and injuring her toes.
    F. She believes high heels and fashion are tools of the patriarchy.
    G. If F obtains, then it must follow that she believes YOU are a tool of the patriarchy if you wear them, because individual choices are all that really matter.
    H. She wears what fits her body and works for her foot issues.
    I. She wears what she has to until she can hie herself unto the nearest nude beach.
    J. Actually, she wears a bikini underneath a burka while blogging, along with these:

    i-2337bf339fc7982942ce8845d455cba2-shoe 9 [320x200].JPG

    K. She is humorless.

  • Victoria wanted her Facebook page to be a place for "girls...that aren't activists...Bra burners are activists." Aside from the fact that bra burners are a historical myth, what does this mean?
    A. Victoria is stating that she has no interest in social change, political change, economic justice, or environmental wellbeing.
    B. Victoria is frightened by the spectre of other people associating her with man-hating hairy-legged feminazis from hell (who are probably dykes).
    C. Victoria has caught the buzz from Christina Hoff Sommers, who has spent the last year or two appropriating the negative discourse of "judicial activism" and applying it to women in science who make arguments for gender equity. Activist women scientists! They will emasculate science and ruin all that is good about America, given a chance.
    D. Activist bra burners are humorless. What else do you need to know?
  • Who can claim feminist identity?
    A. Bra burning activists and other unicorn-like creatures.
    B. No one in their right mind - it's a career-killer.
    C. Pretty much anyone. What they mean by "feminist" is another question.
    D. Anyone interested in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
    E. Only humorless, hairy-legged man-hating PC feminazis.
  • If you want to be a bra burner feminist activist, you should
    A. Never wear makeup because it is a tool of the patriarchy.
    B. Wear makeup whenever you want, if you want to, because it is your choice, not because someone tells you that you should or shouldn't, because feminism is about the freedom to make choices.
    C. I'm very confused.
    D. "The only way to effect real change is to work collectively. An individual woman deciding to stop wearing makeup might be living up to her own feminist principles so good for her, but it will not change anything, or improve matters for women who are in situations in which it is not possible to stop wearing makeup because they might lose their jobs or be made more miserable in some way. The only possible solution then is to work with other women, which is never easy."

More like this

Subtitle: It's really cool when feminists can help me advance my personal interests, as long as nobody sees me talking to them, 'cause, you know, they're ugly. Over at Isis's place, Victoria writes that she does not wish to be sexually harassed at scientific conferences, no matter what she is…
Though university administrators seem to be widely reviled among faculty members, one of the best jobs I ever had was in administration. Many wonderful opportunities came my way; possibly the most mind-stretching, exhilarating, and rewarding of these was the chance to spend four weeks attending…
Last time I checked, Erma Bombeck, when she was alive, was a hugely popular American humorist who wrote a newspaper column and published 15 books, most of which were best sellers. She came from the working class, and made quite a successful career for herself in publishing, at a time when women…
In the midst of a vigorous discussion on my last post, reader Deatkin expressed his frustrations as to how he might engage in a positive manner in a discussion of feminist issues. In this case, it was not the hairy-legged man-hating feminazi Zuska who was intimidating; it was Comrade Physioprof.…

You go, girl. =)

Right on, Zuska! My partner and I are currently raising a feminist son and we want him to know that wearing makeup and high heels are entirely his choice (though if he opts for the burka there might be problems).

Ooh oooh!!! Sci votes for "humorless". Sci is entirely humorless and very proud of it in an extremely humorless was. Very very humorless.

All I can say is Thank God for Sarah Palin. She is exactly what young American girls needs as a proper role model. The world hasn't seen a real traditional conservative female leader in a long time. Palin is strong, smart, funny, pretty, and a traditional American woman. America's ladies needs her. She is the new "feminist" movement and the hardcore radical leftist marxists hate her guts becuase she is so normal and they are not.

By Angry White male (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

Oooh, yes! Because pretty is an important quality to have in a leader! That's a great way to evaluate Palin or any female leader! Thanks, Angry White Male Douche!

If by "normal you mean "average, then "normal" is precisely what Palin is not, not by any long shot - though she's an expert at presenting herself as an average Jane. All the ultra rightwing leaders are desperate to be seen as nothing out of the ordinary, just your average Joe or Jane, even as reality is nothing of the sort.

Not long ago, I caught a plane home after a week working in a distant city. As I opened my evening meal I took out the napkin and discovered that instead of the usual insipid orange or green that they usually are, I had been supplied with a deep, rich beautiful purple napkin. I turned the purple napkin over in my hands a few times to admire its lovely purpleness and then the short-haired older academic-type woman in the seat next to mine leaned over to say - "that's the colour of feminism".
Unaware that feminism was now in the business of appropriating my favourite part of the visual spectrum, I was taken aback at first. Nevertheless, it took me less than a second to give her my respose - "that's a shame - I still like the colour purple though".
I was rewarded by a wonderfully quiet trip home.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

The adjectives used to describe Palin above are a bit curious
"pretty"...mmm..only if you are vocabularily-challenged. I'd call her handsome, even sexy, but not pretty.
"funny"...yep...but not really for the right reasons...
"strong"...I guess so - you have to be in politics
"traditional"...teen pregnancy, wasn't it? Depends what kind of traditions you embrace, I guess.
"smart"...um...I guess there are different kinds of smarts, and Palin has one of those kinds.

Most leaders are very, very ugly, so it makes a nice change when somebody good-looking arrives on the scene.

Here in Australia we have a very smart woman as deputy prime minister. She's also quite good looking but she's unmarried and getting on a bit, making her an object example for young women of how to get your priorities wrong. I've lost count of the number of my female peers who've reached 40 without finding a mate and then resorted to internet dating followed by IVF to start a family.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

Priorities wrong?
....he says as he yells at his wife Shirley to get him a sammich and another stubbie..
You better be showing off that famous Australian sarcasm rather than that famous Australian mysoginy....

By Scrabcake (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

If you want to be a bra burner feminist activist, you should

I was all set to pick, "Burn a bra while actively fighting patriarchal structures" but it's not one of the choices.

Is this a trick question?

I'm not wearing a bra right now, but I didn't burn it, so I am not sure I can play. Maybe that's for the best since I am totes afraid that the answer to #3 is G and I am tired of being such a tool.

I think G contradicts itself since freedom of choice should include the freedom to make all choices. I'd lean more towards H for myself, but then I have foot issues.

The answer is B, right? Isn't it always B?

Also, I'm currently wearing fuzzy slippers - does that make me a feminist or not? does the fact that they are blue make a dif?

Isn't it charming? Discussions about feminism often turn into discussions about shoes ;-)

@teen pregnancy

Give the teenage mothers a break, their life is hard anyway.

"Humorless"?? "Differently humored" is preferred!

I answered "all of the above" to all of the questions. But it's ok, I puked on my own shoes afterwards.

Someone really needs to photoshop a woman on a unicorn holding a burning bra in one hand, with a lasso of truth in the other hand (paging Dr. Isis?).
That's the kind of feminist *I* am.

Thank you for that quote from Mind the Gap UK. Perfect to redirect quibbles about the politics of fashion.

My choosing to wear sensible shoes doesn't really help the case of other women who don't have that freedom, nor does my colleague's wearing high heels hurt those other women. Instead, we should both ask what we can do to help all people be more free. That sounds very "Kumbaya," but I can't help it.

p.s. That's not funny! I work in a clinic for people whose bras have been burned!

"The only possible solution then is to work with other women, which is never easy."

Working with other women is never easy? Wow. That's news to me.

/humorless feminist nitpick

(Oh, also. How do all these he-man woman-haters justify spending time on feminist sites? Don't these Lords of the Universe have planets to send whirling about the firmament or something)?

I think all males should go burn their underwear and refuse to mow the lawn. Now are we equal?

By Angry White Male (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Cara: "Working with other women is never easy? Wow. That's news to me."

Working with other human beings isn't that easy. Even if those human beings are respectful or friendly toward each other, there's still the mechanics of coordinating activities, which becomes more complex the more people are involved.

By J. J. Ramsey (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

You forgot the part about how we feminists hate children. Yet weirdly, we're also the ones whining about how short maternity leave is etc etc. It's a wonder the contradiction doesn't make our pretty little heads explode!

Touche! I mean, uh, not funny. (Dang, where is my "wymyn power" pin)

Why is it important to recognize the successes of feminism? Because only by doing so can we revisit the failures. I heartily recommend Ariel Levy's article in the recent New Yorker, Lift and Separate.

"In 1971, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Walter Mondale, came up with legislation that would have established both early-education programs and after-school care across the country. Tuition would be on a sliding scale based on a familyâs income bracket, and the program would be available to everyone but participation was required of no one. Both houses of Congress passed the bill."

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books…

Hard to imagine this happening now, even before the recession. BTW, the article goes on to mention that the bill never went into law because it was vetoed by Nixon.

I do think that individuals who refuse to be beauty 2K compliant make a difference. It is inspiring to see people who have overcome cultural messages about their worth and what being beautiful is about. The choices we make aren't ever going to be solely personal. Conformity to performing femininity (including beauty) does help the patriarchy. so does a lot of other stuff that feminists are a part of. No one is perfect, and we all have to pick our battles. There is stuff like rape going on that is kind of higher on the priority list anyway.

Brilliant, Zuska.

And I'm totally convinced the answer to #3 is J.

Question #1 though? Feeling a little hungry now...

By a little night… (not verified) on 24 Nov 2009 #permalink