A group of young women in Wellington have put together a feminist zine called Muse. I got a copy of the second issue today. There were some good articles, including an excellent one on Rosa Parks.
But bits of it left me with this weird annoyed feeling, and I realised, after thinking about it that this was actually the sympton of a much larger problem and it wasn't the fault of the writers of the individual articles, but a problem in the feminist movement, which seemed worth a post. (There was also one article that made me furiously angry, that I believe had no place in any feminist zine, and I may or may not write about that, depending on whether or not I calm down).
It was the most personal articles in Muse that I found so frustrating. As I was trying to think of a written response this bothered me. It seemed that every critique of the articles would become a critique of their personal life. Then I realised that that was the problem, that personal experience was being offered up as feminist analysis. And while I believe that personal experience needs to be a part of feminist analysis, it is not enough, on its own.
The problem, yet again, is the complete and utter misunderstanding of what the phrase 'the personal is political' was actually supposed to mean. I think feminists need to have a better idea of our history, the context in which ideas were developed, and what they actually mean.
The personal is political means that problems that seem personal can't be solved personally or individually, they must be addressed politically or collectively.
It is actually completely unsustainable to try and solve political problems on a personal level (it's also ineffective, but that's another rant). One of the articles actually articulates this really well, but her conclusion is one I disagree with.
The writer of 'Am I Still a Feminist' has found herself falling into more and more aspects of the traditional female role as she grew older:
But here I was. Living in domestic harmony with him. We both worked, so why was I rushing home via the shops in urgent need to get dinner on the table before he got home? And why was I putting on make-up after work, in order to sit at a dinner table?"She thinks about this and comes to the following conclusion:
But today, I am brave enough in myself to make choices. Someimtes I want to cook the dinner, because I enjoy cooking, just as men do. [...] Sometimes I dress up a little - just as men do. I believe that making these choices and having the strength to feel comfortable with them, does not contradict my feminist values.[...]The whole point of feminist analysis, the whole point of 'ther personal is political', is that that's not an either/or situation. The point is that it doesn't matter whether we do make dinner or don't make dinner, we can't make the choices in the same way men do, because our choices are constrained by the patriarchal ideologies that the author believes she can get rid of as an individual. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that no woman can be liberated on her own, and that we cannot find what our true choices would be in the society that we live in at the moment.
And now I am strong enough to make choices from within, and recognise whether they are my choices - or have been imprinted upon my subconcious by patriarchal ideologies
The point of feminism isn't to give you strength not to cook dinner for your partner, and it certainly isn't to give you strength to cook dinner for your partner. It's to analyse why you're the one who is supposed to make dinner in the first place, and fight back.