On 'young women' and feminism: I think, Katha, that Ted is quite correct to point out the mistake in presuming that differences in emphasis, interpretation, language, focus or even position between feminists and 'young women' are errors on the part of the young women. If feminists are to maintain any political relevance, let alone produce any future-directed political thought/action, we can't afford this kind of position. It's not that older feminists, or older women, never have things to share with younger feminists/women, but the minute we start identifying feminism with a repetition of 'us' and our positions then we are in trouble. Also I think this it very interesting that most of the current despairing and/or patronising criticisms of 'young women and feminism' are echoes if not repetitions of criticisms made by feminists in the 1890s, the 1930s, and the 1950s (not that they weren't made at other times, but the repetitions are particularly intense at times).
On gender/sex: yes there are baby boys and baby girls, yes there are men and women. But these categories are themselves not outside of discourse, language, systems of knowledge, however you choose to articulate that set of fields. Kelley and I call our sons sons and ourselves women because that's what we have been taught to do. As Yoshie points out, just because there are 'real' physical differences between people doesn't mean we have to group those differences around the primary poles of male and female. And, I think Butler's very important point in Bodies that Matter is that as soon as we try to organise those real differences -- think about them, name them, study them and so on, we are no longer in a realm outside discourse, outside the social.
At 11:34 24/11/99 -0500, you wrote:
>> Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 23:43:19 -0500
>> From: Katha Pollitt <kpollitt at thenation.com>
>> T -- I don't know how old you are -- you present yourself as quite a
>> youngun, but this is the Internet, you could be 90 -- but I'm prepared
>> to believe that times have changed, that 25 year old men are settling
>> down with 35 and 40 year old women all the time. Do you have any stats
>> to support your contention?
>we're off to a bad start already--i said nothing of the sort.
>(out of curiosity, is this a genuine misunderstanding or a
>debating technique?) i'll stress again that the way you pose
>the problem--which sidesteps the interesting possibility that
>a 35 or 40-y-o woman might settle down with a young man--is
>hardly irrelevant to the problem at hand. and, in fact, i made
>no claim whatsoever about my age; but i don't reflexively con-
>demn people younger than i am as defective or deficient--and,
>i can assure you, not doing so could be a full-time job given
>the way a lot of people think, as is evinced by your misreading.
>> As for feminism preaching itself out of a job -- in a couple of
>> hundred years maybe. What makes older women so peeved at young women who
>> are "anti-feminist" is not that those young women are refusing to pay
>> homage, but that the young women are wrong about what the condition of
>> women in this country really is. They think they get equal pay, but they
>great way to garner support, start off by saying 'you're wrong.'
>not to me, i'll suffer the ignominy just fine, but to someone
>who's sorting out generational issues in a very pressing way--
>say, someone fresh out of kollidge--doing so is idiotic.
>> don't. They think they can "do anything" -- but they can't. they think
>> there's no going back, and in some ways they're right -- women are never
>> going to drop out of college in great numbers to marry at 19 again. but
>> in other ways they're wrong -- welfare reform, for example, is a
>> tremendous "going back" to the beginning of the century, when poor women
>> were expected to support their kids by whatever means they could find or
>> give them up to foster care or orphanages. I don't think abortion will
>> be made formally illegal as it was pre Roe v Wade. But can abortion be
>> subjected to so many restrictions and hurdles that lots and lots of
>> women end up unable to get to a clinic in time? Sure -- that's already
>> happened in much of the country.
>my own take on this is that gender issues, as with most other
>identity-related issues, have been temporarily subsumed within
>a 'larger' economistic discourse. (i hasten to add that making
>an observation like that isn't the same as defending it as
>true or correct.) and, moreover, i think that this swing of the
>last, say, 20 years has been a flight from the real issues,
>because economic issues *are expressed culturally,* for example,
>through gendered disparities in income, etc. i put that in very
>ambiguous terms because i'd prefer not to get sucked into the
>marxism-vs-culturalism chicken-and-egg question of which is
>'more important.' anyway, of course i agree with what you say.
>but i'm also confident--very confident--that once this go-go
>market shite begins to contract, that the balance will flip very
>decisively toward addressing the specifics, by which i mean:
>> the "anti-feminist" young women don't care about that, though, any
>> more than they care about welfare reform. It won't affect them -- so it
>> doesn't matter.
>i'll really stress again--and i hope you take this as construc-
>tive criticism--that the way you're posing this problem is a
>very effective way of alienating the very people you want to
>> Will feminism be irrelevant someday? Oh, maybe in 500 years. 600
>> years, if todays posts on age and gender represent general masculine
>and if it keeps on making the kind of progress at the rate that
>it's made since i was a kid--and i'm only 34--then feminism is
>cooking with nitro. the progress is grotesquely uneven, biased
>very decisively for the rich and against the poor, and i'm all
>in favor of explicitly fighting on all fronts. bottom line is,
>i don't disagree with you at all. but the way you distorted
>what i said is pretty appalling. i pointed at the successes of
>feminists, and you transformed that into the failures of the