I've been trying to understand why feminist critique, both in fandom and outside of it, has such potential to cause me pain. Because I know that it's necessary, god above I do, and I wouldn't banish it for the world. But I do get that sinking, painful, want-to-look-away-now feeling, and I'm not usre that I like it.
This semester has been one of major feminist conflict for me. I have an instinctive attraction to the feminism of women like Virginia Woolf, Emma Goldman, Carol Gilligan, and Ursula LeGuin--the idea that women should not have to turn to the yang side of things to be good feminists, the idea that there is another way of doing things that has traditionally been alotted to women that's worth hanging on to.
Gilligan is a perfect example of this: she points out that men and women tend to view moral dilemmas differently, men focussing on rights and women on responsibilities. Only men's way of thinking has been regarded as correct and/or mature by the psychological establishment. Gilligan argues that the other way, the one that has traditionally been sociallized to the female role, is just as valid. LeGuin does this, too. She talks about writing with the female voice, tellling the yin-ish stories. And I like this idea. This feels like somewhere where I belong. Because I do, as a person, value caretaking above individual achievment. Heck, I'm a socialist. Something Le Guin mentions: the story has been definied (by men) as a thing with a conflict, something that moves the way a thrown spear does. She rejects this, talks about the novel as a vessel, as a carrier bag, something to tuck bits of things into.
Okay, all well and good. but a lot of these ideas are criticized as being part of feminist backlash, trying to tie women to the domestic role again. And I want to say, "no, really they aren't. All women don't have to be like this, it's just that I am, and I don't want to be devalued for it." But I can see their point. And it makes me oh so anxious.
Perhaps it's that I vehemently don't want to be part of the problem. I see the reality of sexism, and I want to make it better. I want to help. And I hate feeling like I'm supporting the misogynists by being the way I am.
Or maybe it goes even deeper, to a desire to not be controlled. I hate the idea that all these things that I think and feel, that I think are me, are really the result of my brainwashing at the hands of those who I would oppose. I want my thoughts to belong to me, not to someone else. And yet I know that there are women who have stuck their heads in the sand and refused to recognized the reality of sexism, and I know that they impede the progress of feminism. It happens. but I don't want it to happen.
I don't want my pleasures to turn out to be guilty ones. When LeGuin or C.S. Lewis or even my own darling Tolkien makes me happy, I don't want to think that it si only so because my thoughts and feelings are not my own. Re-reading Anne, I realized that Anne's life made me happy, and wasn't that horrible, because she goes to college and all but then goes back home to raise six kids and Gilbert gets to have a career. I felt this pang of anger towards myself for enjoying this portrait of the feminine mystique. And then I thought that LeGuin would talk about writing motherhood, writing the yin story, that Gilligan would talk about the fact that Anne chose to help individulas rather than fight the system, and that it maybe wasn't so horrible after all.
The end of the matter is that the things that make me happy, the images and dreams that I most cherish, are not going to be acceptable to a certain brand of feminism. And that makes me very, very afraid, because the success of the feminist movement is something very dear to my heart. And when the things that I love are accused of sexism, it's going to freak me out, because it will plunge me into re-evaluating myself. Someone over on miriam_heddy
's journal brought up shaving, but for me the equivalence isn't there. I know that, when I do shave, I'm caving to social pressure. I don't do it often, but I recognize that it makes me far less likely to wear skirts. I know my motivations in that scenario. I'm not acting with complete courage, perhaps, but I'm certainly not deluding myself. And it's that delusion that I worry about, that I will do anything to end.
If the things that I love are sexist, if I love them for the wrong reasons, then I regard that as something I must change. Because I am determined to lead the self-examined life.