"I'll be post-feminist in a post-patriarchy"

Lisa Jervis takes an offending term to task.


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Lynn Harris
August 29, 2007 7:48PM (UTC)

Lisa Jervis, formerly of Bitch, is guest-blogging these days over at Feministe. I particularly dug her recent rant against a term that is one of my least favorites as well, right up there with "panties," "to impact" and "Adam Sandler."

Let's put it this way: What do you think when you hear the word "post-feminist"? Or more to the point, what do you think people mean when they use the word "post-feminist"? (Or "post-feminism.")

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Here's Jervis' response: "As I see it, the history of the term, most of its usages, and the communities that have sprung up around it suggest [that] its primary meaning is that feminism is an unattractive buzzkill and also so very over, so it's past time to move on to more fun, carefree matters [such as giving up our careers]. Or, as a friend of mine recently put it, 'Let's forget liberation and go shopping; mmm, yay big cocks.' To which the only appropriate response is a bumper sticker: I'll be postfeminist in the postpatriarchy. Duh."

In academic circles and elsewhere the term has been used to refer to the social justice movements -- environmentalism and prison abolition, for example -- said by many to have had their roots in feminism; some go on to say that that debt hasn't been acknowledged enough. But Jervis, and I, are more vexed about the ongoing proliferation of the term in the vernacular. (Cf. press coverage of Ally McBeal as "cultural moment," not just "irritating television.")

Jervis does strive to allow for the possibility that the term could -- even should -- be used by people who might say, "I think feminism is flawed and I'd like to see some goal-shifting, fresh tactics, and revisiting of contentious topics."

Yeah ... no. As Jervis herself points out, that position presumes that feminism was One Monolithic Earth-Toned Thing to begin with, and that feminism today doesn't encompass "internal debates and disagreements and near-constant re-examinations of goals, tactics, and ideologies."

Still, in an effort to reexamine her goals, tactics and ideologies, she asks: "Should I learn to stop worrying and embrace 'postfeminism' as a term used by potential allies? Or should I keep trying to convince those kinds of post-feminists that they're actually just feminists?" (I'd add a third option, one particularly tempting to me: "Should I write letters to the editor when journalists use the term lazily and meaninglessly?")

Read the rest of the post (and, for extra credit, Chapter 4 of "Sisterhood, Interrupted") and let us know what you think.

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Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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