May. 6th, 2011

marshtide: (Default)
First a health update: been to the doctor's today and they've got the results from my scan, which show that I definitely have a slipped disc. I'm being referred to a spine specialist in Stockholm and have been given another heap of the ridiculously strong painkillers. I'm also written off work sick for another month, which basically means I'm not going back, I suspect, as there's only a week or so more than that left on my contract. Am I glad I applied for university? Yes. Yes I am. (By the way, what is reasonable to request for help in making my entrance exam more bearable? I have trouble sitting for long periods, basically. Any ideas?)
Now back to some of the questions I've been asked for 3W4D!

Branch asked: Do you think the Third Wave of feminism is making a new start, or covering a lot of ground that's already been covered? - and I do have Thoughts on this, but I am not actually that eloquent, so I've been fighting with it for a while.

And then yesterday my 20th anniversary edition of Bang arrived in our mailbox, and when I sat down to read it one of the first things I found was an article about feminist magazines over the last 150-odd years, written by Ulrika Knutson. And it basically covered a bunch of the stuff I'd been thinking about.
Here are some rough thoughts. I can't seem to get this very refined, so this isn't so much a proper essay as... well yeah. A list of things that have occurred to me. I think I'm feeling intimidated by all the feminist theory books in this room. They're staring at me.
1. I think feminism & women's rights movements have always perceived themselves as to some extent doing both (and been perceived from the outside as largely doing the latter). In other words, there is generally some kind of battle for people to make into their own, but there's often a feeling that one gets stuck in a lot of the same old bullshit about attitudes etc. anyway.
2. My perception of the situation in Sweden is that the basic laws are now mostly in place. So it can feel even more like fastening in the same old bullshit. I'm mostly involved in and following feminism in this country right now; I imagine that it's at least somewhat different in the US, for example, because the legal situation is not the same, but that there are probably similarities.
That isn't to say that there are no problems whatsoever with Sweden's laws (perish the thought), but that the changes required are possibly not as sweeping as the ones that have already been achieved. At least when it comes to gender equality.
I am not writing off the possible need for sweeping changes more generally.
3. I also think that it's very easy to elevate previous generations and say that this one is completely pathetic and all about people being self-indulgent and squabbling over scraps; or to say that the previous generations were actually pretty terrible and that we're so much more enlightened now. Both of these attitudes make me want to beat things. Just a little bit. Basically: seriously, cut that crap out. It's always more complicated! I do think that actually the weaknesses of this wave of feminism/feminisms are pretty much the same as always: a tendency to try and mainstream at the cost of diversity, to disown people who don't fit the image and to patronise people in lower social positions than the median for whatever reason. To try and speak for women as a group, forgetting that they are not all like oneself. On the other hand, these are certainly not problems which are limited to feminism.

On the third hand, that doesn't mean we shouldn't give them a good kicking when we spot them.
4. Also, feminisms, plural: this stuff really varies by specific spaces. A lot of feminist spaces are not queer-friendly, still, and a lot of them are transphobic, still. They can actually be those things and still be feminist spaces, but they're obviously not the ones I would seek out; I'm very glad that for example Hallongrottan is wildly positive about queerness, genderqueerness and trans, & that it doesn't seem difficult to find a space where I can be as queer as I damn well want within Swedish feminism. Don't think any space is problem-free though - if you're not seeing oppression that means it's pointed at someone else.

I have trouble accurately judging whether the amount of queer feminist space available to me is big progress since I've only been around for one wave; I suspect, however, that queer feminist groups of some kind or another have probably been around a lot longer than I've actually heard about, but perhaps without advertising themselves specifically as such...
Ditto this for other subsets of feminism but with even less awareness because I haven't had to go look for them just to feel comfortable.
5. There is a respect in which everyone is always making a new start (while also covering old ground) and that's the other side, that doesn't have to do with laws but with attitudes. Here is a quote for you by Ulrika Knutson, from the article I mentioned above:

Många sätter likhetstecken mellan lagstiftning och feministsikt framsteg. Men attityder, förhållningssätt och subjektiva upplevelser styrs inte bara av lagar. Lagarna är tröga, medan kvinnomedvetande, feministiskt insikt, genusuppenbarelse, genusbefrielse - kalla det vad ni vill - är färskvara, och ingenting som kommer automatiskt. Det är en existentiell dimension, en existensiell aspekt. Kanske finns här en förklaring till varför kvinnotidskriften ser ut att fastna i äktenskapstrasslet, dammtusseländet och sextrösket. Det är inte säkert att det fastnar, kanske ägnar det sig bara åt livsnödvändig repetition?


Vi som lever i det tjugoförsta århundradet måste utförska och diskutera allt detta i vår tid, oavsett hur Fogelstadkvinnor gjorde på trettiotalet.


Many equate legislation with steps forward in feminsim. But attitudes, approaches and subjective experiences are not only controlled by laws. The laws are inert, while women's awareness, feminist insight, gender revelations and gender liberation - whatever you want to call it - are perishable, and not something that comes about automatically. This is an existential dimension, an existential aspect. Perhaps this is the reason why feminist magazines seem to get stuck in the tangle of marriage, the realm of dust-balls and the mire of sex. It's not certain that they do get stuck; possibly they just devote themesleves to essential repetition?


Those of us who live in the 21st century have to investigate and discuss all of this in our time, regardless of what the Fogelstad women* did in the 30s.
* Group of Swedish feminists who ran a weekly magazine, started a school for women, etc. 
& I definitely buy into the idea of essential repetition, which was basically my thought when I was originally trying to figure out what I was going to say; that it's a lot of the same ground being covered, over and over, but that it happens like that because that's probably the only way to get anywhere with social attitudes. 

I posted a bit about a thing that happened across the Swedish part of the internet last year where women shared their experiences of uncomfortable situations where they didn't know how to set sexual boundaries or had boundaries ignored without really being able to formulate what was going on; sharing experiences of the effects of an oppressive culture has definitely been a part of previous waves. Of this I have read! (It's tragic that the only examples I'm mangaging to come up with here are Swedish when I actually grew up in the UK and have only been able to speak Swedish for a year, right? But that's been a year of extremely enthusiastic self-education.)

6. Also - in the same article it's noted that the discussion of women's rights was perceived as being rather tired and same-old in the 1850s, when Sweden's first covertly feminist magazine appeared. So, uh, I wouldn't really worry on that account! Keep at it! Same old? Sure, but maybe sooner or later it'll grind them down. :D
7. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure there possible new angles on all this that we're missing. I await them with interest.


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