Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shelving: Professing Feminism by Dapne Patai and Noretta Koertge

It's twenty years old and Daphne Patai is a polarizing figure within feminism, but there's a lot of truth in Professing Feminism, especially know when many feminist blogs have a mainstream presence.

The book deals with the problems of teaching feminism in an academic setting, not feminism itself. Most of her criticisms can be applied to online feminism. In fact, they're strikingly true for the feminist blog world. Academic feminism was pretty insular in the 90s, before the days of social media. Now anyone can start a Tumblr or a hashtag campaign and maintain some degree of respect if  she parrots back the same talking points.

Criticizing feminism from within is an incredibly difficult exercise. Even as I write this short post, I'm thinking, who might read this? Who might misconstrue my words, or, gasp! think I'm working for the enemy? So much online feminism relies on ideological purity at the expense of open discussion. And that's... okay. If it were explicitly laid out. But what's presented as an intellectual exercise is more often akin to a support group. Which by itself isn't a bad thing, but purported "safe spaces" are never safe for everyone. And how can someone feel safe when she is forced to frame her words within exceedingly narrow parameters?

I'm not the only one who's complained about having to parse every word for possible offense, the endless credentialing, the call outs, the pile-ons, etc. I can afford to be an apostate -- I don't really have anything to lose, but I rarely participate anymore. One of my old haunts has been pared down to a dozen or so core commenters, and that's really sad. It might be safe, but it's really boring.