Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oh, the irony!

Now, I know there are a lot of Third Wavers out there who will take umbrage at me for taking umbrage at the cover of this book (and Third Wave feminism in general). But, and correct me if I'm wrong here, isn't one of the most important planks of feminism (in all its iterations) the moving away from woman-as-sex-object? Maybe I missed a memo or something, but I kinda thought that's what I signed on for.

I know some of you will simply dismiss me as a crusty old Second Waver who needs to join the sex-positive revolution, and to you folks I say, simply and very calmly, "shut up." I am not anti-sex. Nor am I anti-pleasure or anti-the-choice-to-whatever. I just think that if you cared about women's equality as much as about selling books, you would think twice (and maybe even three or four times) before writing a book about feminism and placing a naked woman on the front. I especially dig the subtitle of the book: "A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters." I would venture to say that feminism matters because of this book cover.

Now, lest you all think I'm some rigid feminist hypocrite, let me state that I believe that feminism is about all sorts of freedoms to choose, even the freedom to choose to put a naked woman on the cover of a book about feminism. I also think that women ought to be able to choose to do whatever they want to do with their bodies, including promoting themselves as sex objects. I'm not saying that women shouldn't have these choices. I just think that if they were really interested in equality, they wouldn't WANT to choose these things.

Because, no matter how you slice it, choices have consequences. And those consequences often aren't realized only at the individual level. A woman's choice to wear high heels, short skirts and a face fulla makeup doesn't only affect how people see HER. It affects how people see WOMEN. She might as well wear a sandwich board and advertise the Patriarchy. Likewise, when a feminist author chooses the naked torso of a woman to grace the cover of her book, she encourages people to see women as nothing more than naked body parts. Which, to me anyway, is about as unfeminist as you can get.

Like it or not, we are representatives of our identity groups, and we are accountable to each other. I try to do my part by not wearing the uniform the Patriarchy has assigned to me. Because that uniform is awfully constricting, flattering on way too few bodies, and serves mostly to titillate men and make women easier to catch (on accounta high heels are hard to run in). Also, I swear and use power tools and show my hairy legs in public, so I'm doing my share to represent "other" versions of womanness. What have YOU done for feminism lately?

I'm not asking you to give up your FREEDOM to choose the things that genuinely bring you pleasure. All I'm asking is that you check yourself in the metaphorical mirror once in awhile and ask yourself, "What message am I sending with this?" If you find that the message you're sending is one that suggests women are little more than sex receptacles, I urge you to reconsider. Does choosing to send that message feel good? Does it feel better than the alternative messages you could be sending? Does it make you feel good enough to outweigh the expense to other women? 'Cause, like, I don't always feel like picking up your tab.


Christine said...

The title of this book intrigues me. What does she mean by "full frontal?" When I hear that term, for whatever reason, I think of male nudity. And no one wants to see that!

I agree that her choice of picture is confusing (at best) given the subject matter of the book, but I am interested in how she plans to reach young women who are either afraid of feminism or don't care about it. I want to know how she's going to reach women like my first-year college students who think everything is hunky-dory and actually kind of like it when a man holds a door open for them. (Not that holding a door open for someone is inherently bad, it was just the example my students used in class when we were discussing gender equality issues. They insisted that not only is chivalry not dead, it's also a good thing.)

Gender Blank is right that a little more critical introspection would benefit us all - we need to examine everything that we put out there for the world to see and think about the implications of our actions - and if this book gets even one young woman THINKING
about her place in the patriarchy, well, then that's a good thing. In spite of the picture. So, the book has a lot to live up to to overcome its bad first impression, but I hope it does.

Bitey said...

Oh my God, GB, that is exactly what I've been trying to say! I followed you here from IBTP, and this is exactly right. Thank you.

Gender Blank said...

I've noticed you over at IBTP, Bitey. Welcome to my pad! Nice to have other blamers on board!