Tag Archives: Gail Collins

Feminist Friday: “The Eggs and Us”

Hello, my fellow patriots! Welcome to Feminist Friday: Independence Day Edition.

This is the time of year we celebrate our country’s revolt and ultimate freedom from England by stuffing our faces with hot dogs and allowing small children to handle flaming sticks. I kid! I kid because I love. As surprising as it might seem to some pundits and various other douchebags, progressives and liberals (like myself) are not automatically anti-America or unpatriotic. On the contrary, I love my country. I’m not pointing out its flaws to be bitchy; that’s just a perk. No, I’m doing it because I want to make my country better, a place that reflects my own values. A place that is safe for women.

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More than anything else, I respect America’s goal to give every citizen freedom. I say “goal” because this principle only works in theory. In practice, women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, the working class, students, non-Christians and many others do not have the automatic freedom that our leaders keep harping on about. Usually, I feel somewhat optimistic about all of this. I think Hey, it’s 2014! Sooner or later we will all wake up and demand justice and equality for everyone. Unfortunately, two recent Supreme Court decisions have dampened my faith in America and its dedication to women’s rights and freedom. It’s hard to be all USA! USA! USA! when future employers are completely within their rights to deny coverage for my contraception, and it is possible that going to a Planned Parenthood clinic (for a variety of reasons) would result in verbal and/or physical abuse.

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But just when I am tempted to sit in my room and cry because two major decisions that affect me and every American woman have been disproportionately influenced by five old, saggy white guys, I remember Gail Collins. She is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times and one of the few journalists who balances wit with biting political analysis. She and Nate Silver got me through the last election, but that is neither here nor there. Her June 27, 2014 column is entitled “The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On” and discusses the now-defunct buffer zones and the then-upcoming Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/opinion/gail-collins-the-eggs-and-us.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 

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Here are some of the best tidbits if you are too lazy (shame on you) to read the whole thing:

  • “…this [buffer zone] decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.”
  • “…the Greens [of Hobby Lobby] draw the line at anything that they believe might endanger a fertilized egg, like Plan B, or IUDs. Many scientists would disagree with the Greens’ theory about how contraceptives work, but it doesn’t matter. Religion trumps.”
  • “Once again, we are reminded that men do not get pregnant.”

If you are also ready to start picketing the Supreme Court due to their increasingly shitty choices (from 250 feet away, of course), then I highly recommend reading this and all of Collins’ future op-ed writings. She covers current events and contemporary politics in a sensible, funny, never-bitter style. You should also pick up a copy of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It will piss you off, inspire you, and inform you about our women’s amazing strides and devastating failures throughout the past 54 years. It totally changed my life.

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That’s all, folks. I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July! Appreciate all of the opportunities that the United States has given you. And never stop reaching for the equality and freedom that you were promised and deserve. I’m gonna Google Obvious Child for the twentieth time.

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(Image #1, #2 and #5 courtesy of plannedparenthoodaction.org; #3 courtesy of harvardmagazine.com; #4 courtesy of yorkblog.com)

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In every generation, one girl is chosen to fight the forces of darkness…and piss off her predecessors

 

“Individuals must now choose the kind of life they want to live.”

Angela McRobbie

In my admittedly limited studies of feminism, gender and sexuality*, there are a few patterns I see over and over. One of these is the conflict between older feminists and younger feminists.  Generally, second wave feminists (those who fought for the ERA, reproductive rights, equal pay, etc.)…

…do not get along with third wave feminists (younger feminists who include sex-positive, global, or LGBTQ activists in their fight).

Why is that? Third wavers sometimes view their founding mothers as stodgy, racist and elitist. Conversely, second wavers sometimes think of their daughters’ generations as spoiled, slutty, lazy and ungrateful. Since I think of myself as a blend between these two groups, I just want to say that both the Betty Friedans and the Tavi Gevinsons of the world have good points and glaring blind spots. But I digress…

I think McRobbie is one of the few feminist scholars who sees these tensions but does not outright attack either group (although there is a slant towards the second wave).  She describes that the media, peer pressure and ideological institutions all “invoke hostility to assumed feminist positions from the past, in order to endorse a new regime of sexual meanings based on female consent, equality, participation and pleasure.” As McRobbie sees it, the world is training us to see the second wavers as man-hating lesbians and to believe that Lady Gaga and her sparkling lady parts are the height of female empowerment. Really, this means that pseudo-feminism and the third wave have become intertwined and blurred. The older generations recognize this, but still feel that sexual agency might be a teensy bit indecent for ladies. And younger generations wish their moms and grandmas would just leave them alone so they can read Gossip Girl in peace.

Whoosh. Did you get all that? To bring it back to the quote at the beginning of this post, young women (like myself) need to find what makes them uniquely happy and liberated and go for it, traditional feminism be damned. Since, as McRobbie claims, “young womanhood currently exists within the realm of public debate,” there is a lot of pressure and opinions swirling around our heads. Can we be political while still being likable? Is it okay to wear clothes that accentuate our hips and breasts? How can we be taken seriously? Am I allowed to think about relationships constantly if I still get a 4.0? Am I selling out if I love Hillary Clinton but still sing along to Katy Perry in my car?

No matter what you do, somebody gets pissed off.

Which brings me to my petite, blonde hero: hail Buffy Summers, the slayer of vampires.

After watching all seven seasons of this show, I have come to the conclusion that Buffy’s character inhabits the tensions and pressures of young feminists. First, Buffy clashes with the Council, Giles (her Watcher), and another slayer, Kendra. Apparently there is some ancient rule book on how to turn bloodsuckers into ashes. You are not supposed to tell anyone your secret; social lives are off limits; you can’t date, marry or have kids; you aren’t allowed to let anyone help you fight the good fight; etc. etc. etc..

Buffy considers that path for about one episode and then just does whatever feels right to her.  She and her fellow Scoobies work together, contribute different skills and create their own family. Willow brings the smarts and the witchcraft; Xander brings the comic relief; Angel brings the brooding sex appeal; Spike*brings the hilarious bitchery; Cordelia brings the fashion; Giles brings the bespectacled, British common sense.  Together, as Milly Williamson points out, they embrace their “socially marginal identities, speaking from and for the experience of outsiderdom.”

You see, Buffy is an Outside Girl because of her vocation and because she doesn’t fit neatly with second or third wavers. She just does what makes her comfortable. Buffy fights demons in halter tops, has sexual relationships with two different vampires, and shares the weight of the world with her friends and mother. Even when they try, no one can tell her what kind of slayer–or feminist–she is allowed to be. Buffy might be “chosen,” but she is  also an individual.

*American Women’s History class; Introduction to Women’s Studies class; Gail Collins’ book; Jezebel; Leslie Knope; Tina Fey; Joss Whedon’s awesomeness

**Nice Segue: I can’t decide which evil, bitchy pop culture villain I love more, Loki or Spike. Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

(Image #1 courtesy of ew.com; #2 courtesy of thegreatkh.blogspot.com; #3 courtesy of the-unpopular-opinions.tumblr.com)