Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Your privilege is showing

So apparently some of those upper-class gels over at the posh school think that the rest of us are not clever enough to understand the word intersectionality, and they are upset that what they thought was their exclusive little club is being overrun by All the Wrong Sort.

Well, here at Bluestocking central, we pride ourselves on being the Wrong Sort, and we don't think it's very hard to explain intersectionality – all one has to say is that women can also be working class, people of colour, LGBTQ, older people, a different religion, disabled, etc and that these groups’ concerns intersect with feminist concerns. I figured this out well before anybody coined the word intersectionality to describe it, and I am sure lots of other bluestockings did too. I knew that my privileged existence was only one tiny corner of the giant tapestry of feminism. I also knew that my concerns about how I might be marginalised for my gender intersected with my concerns about how I might be marginalised for other reasons.

Isn't intersectionality exactly what third-wave feminism concerns itself with? Or perhaps the posh gels over at Vagenda Towers haven't heard of third-wave feminism?

Black feminists have been there from the beginning, but apparently some hoity-toity types haven't noticed. Ladies, your privilege is showing. Perhaps you should tuck it back in. It's not very lady-like.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Goddess is not your bitch

Laurie Penny, in an excellent critique of Naomi Wolf's book, Vagina, has drawn attention to a worrying new trend.
Throughout Vagina, Wolf refers to something called the 'Goddess', a sort of wibbly-wobbly divine feminine energy that can be woken by appropriately angled vaginal massage and a nice bunch of flowers, a strategy known, and I really wish I were making this up, as the 'Goddess Array'. This 'Inner Goddess' idea is having a moment right now.

It crops up as a clunky motif in the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey series, in which the protagonist's 'Inner Goddess' responds to the virile attentions of the millionaire stunt-dick in a variety of interesting ways. As the heroine administers a simple blow-job, the reader is informed that her 'inner Goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves'. Imagery matters, even clunky, awkward imagery: in Wolf's hands, this weirdly retro goddess conceit becomes a manifesto, informing the female reader that no matter what her life may look like, no matter what gender inequities she may experience every day, there is something wonderful, special and mysterious about being a woman, and especially about being a woman receiving sexual attention from a man, that should be its own reward.
The idea of the Goddess does not have to be - indeed, should not be - some fluffy flower-bedecked Persephone tripping through the meadows waiting to be abducted by Hades.

Goddesses include the hag Lilith who rejects men, the subversive Baubo who makes Demeter laugh, Eris who sows dissent, Ishtar who destroys, Kali the slayer, Pele of the volcano, and Artemis the hunter.

Because the Goddess is 'Mother Nature', she is not always sweet and kind; sometimes she is the terrible mother, dealing death mercifully. In Paganism, death is regarded as a natural part of the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

It's true that the idea of the Goddess was first popularised by a woman who thought that women were somehow essentially different from men, namely Jacquetta Hawkes, a prominent enthusiast for the Goddess in the 1930s, who believed that women and men were fundamentally different and that the role of women was to remain in the home and bring up children. This is rather ironic in view of the next generation of enthusiasts, the separatist feminists of the sixties and seventies. And clearly Naomi Wolf's inner goddess, and the inner goddess of Fifty Shades of Grey, are also pandering to socially conservative essentialism and the idea that women are just there for men to have sex with; not as beings in our own right.

Can we reclaim the idea of goddesses from this essentialist and socially conservative discourse? I think the first step is to regard them as goddesses, not the Goddess - if they are plural, there's a range of gender expressions available, and there can also be transgender goddesses. Each has her own story and her own political stance. Each expresses her gender differently, which encourages us to see that gender is a social construct and not an essential attribute.

As Laurie Penny says, we don't need the kind of feminism peddled by Naomi Wolf; we need a feminism that affirms women's worth as human beings, and campaigns for women's rights around the world, and that fights back against the current tidal wave of misogynistic rhetoric and legislation.

The Goddess should be on the side of real feminism, not putting women back in frilly nighties in the bedroom. She is not the bitch of patriarchy - she is the wild instinct of women yearning for freedom and human rights.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Suffragettes and tea rooms

Who knew that researching the tea rooms where suffragettes held meetings would provide such a rich vein of historical information? Elizabeth Crawford at the Woman and her sphere blog has been researching this, and appeared on Radio 4 to discuss it.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A bluestocking hero

It will soon be time for Finding Ada Day 2012. it's on 16 October. Start researching your favourite women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) now.

Meanwhile, a splendid chap called Alex Brown has blogged about how much he hates sexism in science. He is the new Bluestockings' hero. Oh yes. The blogpost also includes some rather fabulous pictures and videos of how to paint your fingernails in a sciencey way.

He makes the point that sexism in science is what is driving women away from it, diminishing the diversity (and therefore the creative potential due to different perspectives being applied) of science. His ire was aroused by a sexist comment posted on a photo of some fingernails painted with mathematical symbols in a science group on Facebook.

And I thought I would round up all my Finding Ada blogposts in one place.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Great fictional tomboys

Following the excellent article by Dawn H Foster in The Guardian about why being a tomboy is completely marvellous, and praising some fictional tomboys, I thought it would be fun to make a list of great fictional tomboys. Here are my favourites:
 Can't get enough tomboys? Here are some other people's lists:

But what does being a tomboy mean?