roadtripping america, mapping out feminism
November 8, 2007 8:45 PM   Subscribe

GIRLdrive: "On October 15, we set out on a road trip. We are interviewing and photographing young women across the country, asking them what they think and feel about feminism."
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur (39 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 


did anyone hear Katha Pollitt's interview on Fresh Air today. Remarkably refreshing and reminds me why I too am a feminist.
posted by parmanparman at 9:13 PM on November 8, 2007


Nothing says "feminism" like women in their twenties referring to themselves as girls.
posted by dhammond at 9:24 PM on November 8, 2007 [5 favorites]


[IB's wife]

dhammond: I specifically refer to myself as a "girl" and my husband as a "boy" for actual reasons. Sometimes I use "guy" instead of "boy," but "gal" has unfortunately fallen out of favor in contemporary America.

To me, girl and boy have considerably less cultural baggage attached to them than man and woman. A "good guy" or a "good boy" is completely different from a "good man," and not only in age. "Good man" and "good woman" imply a huge commitment to gender roles I'm personally not that willing to make. It weirds me out to refer to people I've known all my life -- people who are not living out the cultural ideals of the "good man" or "good woman" -- as men and women.

If "guy" and "gal" were both in vogue, I bet you'd see a lot of these same people using those terms rather than calling female people in their age group "girls." But I think the visceral negative reaction to calling one's own age group "men" and "women", especially among people who haven't gone down the socially acceptable path for their gender, is not something unique to me. In fact, several of my friends mentioned very similar things when I brought it up -- that they hated having to refer to their peers as "men" and "women."
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:33 PM on November 8, 2007 [9 favorites]


Could it be that we just don't want to grow up?
posted by ODiV at 9:42 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


They talked to Lyn Hejinian!

I just wish she'd said more...
posted by hototogisu at 9:48 PM on November 8, 2007


Good points, IB's wife, but to me there's something a bit different to referring to your gal pals as "girls" and using the term as the title of your blog about feminism.

It's an interesting and well done blog, but the concept is a bit too polished and marketed for my tastes. I don't want to be too cynical about this, but five bucks says they try to turn this into a book for teenage girls to discover their identity. As girls. This marketing of feminism, which historically has been wrought to the gills with notions of struggle, comes across as a bit too slick when packaged by two privileged girls from New York City.
posted by dhammond at 9:48 PM on November 8, 2007


Thanks, IB's wife - that's exactly what I thought, but couldn't articulate. (22 year old girl).
posted by jacalata at 9:53 PM on November 8, 2007


This marketing of feminism, which historically has been wrought to the gills with notions of struggle, comes across as a bit too slick when packaged

Blah blah blah I can't hear you. Buffy reruns are on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 PM on November 8, 2007


dhammond: I was thinking the same. The words they use and all that pink gives the impression that this is a girl power thing, which clashes with the content IMHO. The content is actually interesting, especially when it reveals that some of the women avoid the term feminism simply because of its bad rep, which is sad.

By the way, anyone care to give a brief overview of how feminism is viewed by US politicians and media? In Sweden, the former government labeled itself as feministic and Prime Minister Göran Persson and many of his ministers called themselves feminists. There's even a political party called Feministic Initiative which got tons of attention in the press.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:59 PM on November 8, 2007


Excellent blog, heartening to see a new generation discussing, exploring and talking about feminist issues. So exciting to read the comments on their blog. Honestly, I could cry with thanks, it's wonderful. Way to go Nona and Emma!

A shout out for an acquaintance, Andrea Johnston, who created Girls Speak Out, eighty thousand girls on five continents ages 8 and up who participate in, read about and help organize workshops, action projects, trainings, and conferences that express your true self--and build girls' strengths and power as leaders.


posted by nickyskye at 10:00 PM on November 8, 2007


ps great post! Thanks Hypocrite_Lecteur.
posted by nickyskye at 10:00 PM on November 8, 2007


So is this why my wife doesn't like it when I refer to her as "the little woman?"

I think people should be able to label themselves however they want. Saying "I'm a guy" can certainly be a lot less pompous than saying "I'm a man" depending on circumstances, of course. Dave Barry wrote a whole fairly funny book about this.

I applaud the premise of the road trip. However, I wish there was more variety--nearly all of the women are college educated and seem very much alike. Maybe that's my old man's eyes and ears. They also seem like mostly old friends of the interviewers, and the chumminess is a bit grating after the tenth or so interview. It doesn't seem challenging, I guess.
posted by maxwelton at 10:04 PM on November 8, 2007


Fine, then I won't do it again, bitch.

Did you miss the part where the person saying "I hate when boys call themselves feminists" is a guy?

Anyway, that post highlights what's wrong with the "short quote" approach of some of the entries; some of the women seem really interesting but we only get the briefest look at them. Neat idea, though, just wish it had more depth to the interviews.
posted by mediareport at 11:08 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


some of the women seem really interesting but we only get the briefest look at them.

I mean, show us some skin. Come on, ladies *winka-winka*
posted by dhammond at 11:19 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


You mean you haven't clicked all our profiles and seen ther acres of flesh on display. Shucks, what was the pic on the profile all about then??
posted by Wilder at 11:28 PM on November 8, 2007


Love this, very interesting to here the different (and yet similar) perspectives. Thanks.
posted by liquorice at 11:41 PM on November 8, 2007


*hear
posted by liquorice at 11:41 PM on November 8, 2007


I use guy and gal all the time. I can't remember exactly what someone said about it, but it was something about me being refreshingly unsophisticated. Of course, now that I'm getting older, people just think it's because I'm old.

It was a conscious choice for me to use "gal". I didn't want to use "girl" (especially with Oprah and her "girlfriends"), and "woman" is too stilted and proper for everyday talk. Gal seems just right if a bit anachronistic, but then I'm not about whatever is current.
posted by Eekacat at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2007


By the way, anyone care to give a brief overview of how feminism is viewed by US politicians and media?

Feminism=feminazi in a lot of people's minds, unfortunately. Like every other political issue in the USA, you've got a tiny number of screaming lunatics at either extreme, plus a huge number of apolitical, non-vocal people in the middle. A political party labeling itself "feminist" would be a tremendous marketing mistake, because feminism is seen as a relic of the 1970's. So you get a lot of people saying "I'm not a feminist, but..." before espousing an idea that would be considered feminist.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2007


It's a cool idea, and it's an interesting blog.
As for terminology - the word "gal" always reminds me of my grandmother, who even at 80 would call all her friends gals - and then laugh at herself for calling a 90-year-old woman a gal. I find myself using the word "girl" and then questioning it, but feeling absurd saying "woman." And people who say "ladies" just irritate me. It always sounds so patronizing.
posted by bassjump at 7:40 AM on November 9, 2007


Hmm, I to feel weird calling myself a "man", I feel much more "guy" like. You could probably write essays on the infantilization of society, but who cares? Plates, beans, and all that.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2007


Another MeFi post about two girls who took a roadtrip...in a tuk tuk, from Bangkok to Brighton and achieved their goal. Tuk to the Road, 2 girls, 3 wheels and 10,000 miles, an epic overland adventure in aid of a charity.
posted by nickyskye at 7:49 AM on November 9, 2007


but feeling absurd saying "woman."

I don't really understand why, unless this really is an age thing, and there is a reluctance to imply that a person is older or more grownup than she really is. I think this is true in my case; when I was around 24 or 25 I started feeling feeling that it was silly - and somehow doing myself a disservice -- to keep calling myself a girl, yet I wasn't really feeling "woman" - that's for women my mother's age, right? But if it doesn't sound absurd to refer to a fifty-five year old female as a woman, it really shouldn't for a 25 year old either, so I started using the term anyway, in most situations. And got some odd looks from friends who were three or four years younger. What's the cut-off point at which it no longer sounds wrong?
posted by frobozz at 7:56 AM on November 9, 2007


*ahem* QuietGAL reprazentin' !
posted by Quietgal at 8:24 AM on November 9, 2007


Good post and blog, thanks!

Fine, then I won't do it again, bitch.

Pay attention, delmoi.

did anyone hear Katha Pollitt's interview on Fresh Air today. Remarkably refreshing and reminds me why I too am a feminist.

Yes! My wife and I both loved it. I've always liked Katha Pollitt, and this just gave me another reason.
posted by languagehat at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2007


MaxWelton: I thought the same thing when I read that, that they're interviewing people of the same social, education, and economic stature, and missing out because of it..
posted by stratastar at 9:38 AM on November 9, 2007


This marketing of feminism, which historically has been wrought to the gills with notions of struggle, comes across as a bit too slick when packaged by two privileged girls from New York City.

Gender inequality issues have little or nothing to do with whether one is "privileged" or not. Women who graduate from college, on average, make only 80% of a man's salary.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2007


I love that they called out how so many women preface statements of equality with "I’m not a feminist but...'"

You're a feminist, honey. Accept it.
posted by desolepas at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2007


Good point desolepas, it reminded me how being a liberal has become a bad name...oooh, s/he's a *shudder* liberal. Not. No, it's ok to be a damn liberal, it's something to be proud of. Enough with buying into the denigration and skulking off into letting the frikkin war-mongering- subprime-screwing-with-the-economy-Republicans-get-their-bullying-way silence. Enough. I think it's the same with feminist. It's ok to be feminist. It's not a bad word. Should females now buy into being gen y or iGen handmaids? No way! Be a feminist and proud of it.
posted by nickyskye at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2007


You've come a long way , Baby (worth the wait).
posted by spock at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2007


Considering that we all have a different life experience and attach different baggage to different words, I think it's essential to honor each others' experience by looking for the spirit and context of words, without attaching extra meaning. Honestly, woman, man, boy, girl, guy, and gal all have these esoteric rules and regulations attached to them? Not everyone has a copy of that rule book. In the same vein, not every guy who calls himself a feminist is trying to co-opt or possess-to-gift gender-based power and not every "I'm not a feminist, but..." woman is coming from a bad place.

Now, "privelege," there's a tricky word, because our dominant culture so rarely has the privelege discussion that our definitions tend to be all over the map from common disuse. As a result, I think a lot of us don't know what we don't know about privelege. We don't know the questions to ask. I'm tending to think of privelege as something that everyone has in some area and not in others. Even the whitest, richest, heteroest, male you can imagine has a hidden cross to bear and who am I to compare one human being's experience to another's? Certainly some people have more of it than others, but to actually try to measure and rank it is a pissing contest and exactly the distraction that benefits privelege itself. Identifying our own privelege and how it helps and harms us as an individual and how it harms the people around us is a better place to start. Connecting on common trauma and recognizing our divergent heritage and experience could also be helpful.

From my perspective, there are some pretty heavy assumptions of privelege in the GIRLdrive premise. From marketing a book of other peoples' ideas to "freedom of the open road" to the heavily edited sound bytey narrative itself. It's okay to have privelege because it's unavoidable and to totally give up privelege in our current system would be martyrdom (a debatably priveleged idea in itself), but I really hope that as this project progresses, there is some meta insight into their own situation. Or maybe that's already there and I missed it in my own biased quick judgement.
posted by Skwirl at 3:23 PM on November 9, 2007


or privilege.
posted by nickyskye at 4:27 PM on November 9, 2007


Good post.

Though a couple of those people were amazingly narcissistic.

Like: He was a platonic friend before she moved but it took “about 50 minutes” to turn romantic when she showed up with no job, money, or apartment. “Every day he wakes me up and asks me if I am ready to be his girlfriend today,” she tells us, “but I didn’t move to Seattle just to start another serious relationship.” While still in college, Colleen had a brush with domesticity when her boyfriend, who was going to med school at Duke, bought a house with the intention of moving in with Colleen. One day, he realized she wasn’t ready and they broke up—just like that.

Uh. What?

'Didn't move to start another serious relationship? But I will mooch off you. SUCKER!'


Women who graduate from college, on average, make only 80% of a man's salary.


Yes. But also consider...
(from your same link)

The study showed mothers more likely than fathers, or other women, to work part time or take leaves.
posted by tkchrist at 5:21 PM on November 9, 2007


You're a feminist, honey. Accept it.

I think a lot of women use the "I'm not a feminist, but..." preface because they've been told, by other women, that they're not feminists -- because they eventually want to be SAHMs, because they like porn, because they like it when guys dominate them sexually, because they're pro-life, because they aren't pro-LGBTQ, whatever. Women are told by other women that they aren't real feminists if they hold a certain belief on a controversial issue. So they start believing that even though they think men and women should be equal, they still aren't really feminists. And then you get "I'm not a feminist, but."

Sure, there are definitely other contributing reasons -- modern women may not want to be associated with the Dworkin or MacKinnon type of feminism -- but I think people tend to overlook the power of more established, qualified women telling younger women "You can't be a real feminist if you think X."
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:56 PM on November 9, 2007


My impression has always been that feminism is considered a "dirty word", and if one associates themself with it, well then they're never going to get a man. Most people I know, prefer the term "humanist" because they think feminists are too radical and don't want to be branded with the "hairy, butch feminazi" lable. In my experience, the only people who have ever told me that I'm not a feminist are anti-feminists, who assume that having a boyfriend and being feminist is impossible. I gather they think that feminists are all lesbians.
posted by liquorice at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2007


Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and equal rights for women.
posted by nickyskye at 10:11 PM on November 9, 2007


they think feminists are too radical and don't want to be branded with the "hairy, butch feminazi" lable.

the power of more established, qualified women telling younger women "You can't be a real feminist if you think X."

God, I hate that crap. I've been a feminist since I can remember because my mother used to work a full-time week, on top of her full-time job, keeping the house clean and the family fed while my father sat on his arse in front of the TV. And I'm only 30.

So as soon as I became aware of the term 'feminist' I applied it to myself, and then I was reading Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir in grade 7. I've said in other conversations, only somewhat facetiously, that I'll stop being a feminist when the rape rate is equal (and in a world where the sexes are equal I imagine the occurrence of rape to be very, very low). For me it's all about choices and expectations, and I think as younger women grow up with these stereotypes (such as the butch feminazi) and taking for granted the increased choices and expectations that women have fought so hard for, the less likely they are to think of themselves as feminist. And that's sad.

But then I also think that as society is becoming more individualised and ironic postmodernism is entrenched that people just don't recognise the gender inequalities inherent in our structures and systems. The successes we have achieved, plus what some people refer to as the 'feminisation' of western culture means that the inequalities aren't so obvious to most people, so it's not as important. Which is also sad.

There was an anthology produced in 1991/2 in Australia with a very similar premise to this blog, but I can't remember the name and google is unhelpful. It would be interesting to read and compare the attitudes.

Most people I know, prefer the term "humanist"

Oh, this makes me weep. Literally weep.
posted by goo at 6:19 AM on November 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


goo, Wonderful comment
posted by nickyskye at 8:51 AM on November 10, 2007


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