I recently read an article published in your magazine called “New Girl, Go Girl,” which purported to be about the “new feminism” (because apparently the old feminism, where women banded together and fought for equal rights with our male counterparts, wasn’t good enough). While there’s a lot to be said for young girls taking ownership of “cultural currency” and standing strong against “social stereotypes and a sex-saturated culture”, I take particular exception to three things in the article, and I will deal with them in order of appearance, so here they are:
3 Things I Learned From This Article
1) The best fictional teen heroines are the best by virtue of the fact that they are fat, plain, and sexual. “Fat” and “plain” are not my words; they belong to the author of the article, Anne Kingston. The first part of this article highlights a new teen novel, How To Build A Girl, whose heroine is described as smart, well-read, funny, but also fat and plain, among other things. Katniss Everdeen, of Hunger Games fame, according to Kingston, pales in comparison next to this new teen heroine because…well why is that, anyway? They seem to be fairly equal—I think we all agree that Katniss is smart, would have been well-read if the oppressive society she lived in allowed her to read extensively rather than fight for her freedom, and would have been hilarious if she (back to this again, sorry) hadn’t had to fight to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive government. As for her physical appearance, I can’t remember whether she was skinny or fat, pretty or not, because none of that was relevant to (sorry, once more) her fight to overthrow an oppressive, corrupt government. Kingston extolls the heroine of How To Build A Girl for the integrity of her personal quest—-to lose her virginity at age 16, which apparently she does accomplish in the novel. Good for her. Because that’s what very young girls SHOULD be reading about, not about women who want to change their worlds like Malala Yousafzai. It’s a shame that Suzanne Collins hadn’t realized that—I’m sure Hunger Games would have been even more successful if Katniss had spent the majority of her time trying to get laid. As for this being no “Cinderella story”, the heroine somehow gets a “coveted job as a music journalist, and sails into a bright future at the age of 17”, which is what happens to all girls who don’t pursue post-secondary education. In contrast, Katniss Everdeen’s Cinderella story is pretty close to the Disney version, except the mice are all forced to fight to the death, and the Fairy Godmother wants to kill her for starting a revolution.
2) Girls with “bass” run the world. Kingston cites Meghan Trainor, pop singer, and her catchy little ditty “All About That Bass” as part of the new ethic of female self-acceptance. I’m sorry, but did you actually read the lyrics of this song? There’s a neat little tool called Google that you might look into. If you bother actually reading the words rather than just tapping your toes to the chorus, you will discover that Meghan, who for obvious reasons “refuses to be called a feminist”, is proud of her large posterior for these two reasons: a) the boys chase it, and b) her mama told her that boys like a little more booty to hold at night. In addition, she wants all the “skinny bitches” to know that she is “bringing booty back.” THIS is the voice of the new girl power? That boys like big butts and that we should make sure that our “junk” is in all the right places? I’m sorry, but how is this self-acceptance in any sense of the word? What it is, in fact, is yet another sad example of women trying to desperately justify their physicality to men, and to condemn other women for theirs. As a professional, intelligent woman, I honestly can’t remember a single time that I worried about what “the boys” thought regarding my ass, or the rest of my “junk”.
3) Feminist ideas that should have stopped being an issue are still relevant in 2014. Knight refers to Susan Douglas, who seems to be a walking anachronism, and her two contradictory statements. First, she condemns the new “sneaky form of sexism” which seems to mean “young women can do or be anything they want, as long as they conform to confining ideals about femininity and don’t want too much”. Second, she condemns “a celebration of stay-at-home moms and ‘opting out’ of the workforce”. Excuse my ignorance, feminist guru person, but haven’t we gotten past the point where we look down on our sisters who CHOOSE to be mothers? Isn’t that what the fight for equal rights got us—the option to work or stay home? Some women actually like babies and want to spend a lot of time with them; some women think they’re poop and puke machines and can’t wait to get back to work. Either way, that’s the right of every woman to decide, and to snidely suggest that there’s something wrong with celebrating stay-at-home mothers is akin to someone else snidely suggesting that there’s something wrong with supporting our sisters who want to return to the workforce. So who is it that expects women to conform to confining ideals? You can’t have it both ways, Susan Douglas.
While there were a lot of merits to this article, there were also a lot of flaws. Women need to stop worrying about their physical appearance and how men (and other women) feel about it, and start worrying about a) developing and promoting the power of our minds and self-will b) nurturing love for and promotion of other women and their choices and c) focusing on the world around us rather than the world within us. But that’s just me. Thanks for listening.