It always amuses me when Caucasian males discuss feminism. Noah Berlatsky (“Power to the Clueless,” March 2) makes a perfect example of cluelessness himself by beginning his review of a book on bisexuality with the line, “A largely bourgeois liberation struggle, feminism has always linked the pursuit of justice with the pursuit of self-actualization [. . .] offer[ing] the fuzzier prospect of personal transformation and utopian bliss.”
Excuse me, but isn’t offering “utopian bliss” what all social movements do? Didn’t Dr. King offer us his vision of a world where racism was eliminated? Didn’t the peace movement offer a vision of a world where love replaced hatred? Why wouldn’t a movement offer an alternative to the system they are trying to dismantle?
Among those “fuzzy” social goals that the women’s movement has raised consciousness of and fought for solutions: domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, reproductive rights, legal rights for women, educational equity as well as pay equity. (As a single mother waitressing, I was paid 60 percent less than the teenage busboy, and then I was forced to share my meager tips with him.)
On to the “bourgeois movement” slur: while many joined the women’s movement, they certainly weren’t all bourgeois. It’s just that the wealthier wrote the books and got the press. But many poor women and welfare mothers, like myself and friends, were in fact feminist sympathizers if not activists. If you are looking for a truer history of the women’s movement, check out the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union Herstory Project Web site: www.cwluherstory.com.
“Women’s Lib” has suffered from this false claim of white middle classism for almost 50 years. Mr. Berlatsky offers nothing new to the managed media discussion of the efficacy of the women’s liberation movement, now relegated to the term “second wave.” In fact, it is a movement that has grown to influence international geopolitics. Women around the globe have used the movement as a model and inspiration. This is manifested in the UN-sponsored international conferences in recent years, bringing women from around the world together to strategize and share their struggles.
And in the U.S.? Mainstream culture is still trying to figure out if feminism is a good or bad thing, mostly because the people writing about it have no sense of history, just the same old media pap.
One more thing: after his insufferably long review that all led to his conclusion that Jennifer Baumgardner was “clueless” because of her white middle-class privilege (she may well be, I haven’t read the book) Berlatsky ends his thesis with the statement that “her basic contention [. . .] is probably right.” Jeez.
Happy International Women’s Day! (March 8)
Mary Ellen Croteau