Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why you can't force a "click" moment

I'm reading Amy Spalding's essay on Sleater-Kinney in Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists, and there's a lot I can relate to -- and a lot I don't.

I more fascinated than envious of women who came to feminism by way of pop culture. I'm not trying to sound condescending -- sometimes I truly think I missed a crucial step in my third-wave feminist development. For most of my life, I've never turned to music for more than entertainment. Oh, I can "nerd out" with the best of them, but a great album has never caused a seismic shift in my thinking. I breathed a sign of relief reading through the rest of the book. Most women who call themselves feminist don't because of Ani, Liz, Courtney or Kathleen. Still...

I never had a "click" moment.

Like Spalding, I came to Sleater-Kinney kind of late to the game. I knew they were a very good, nay, great rock band who were loosely tied to the riot grrrl scene of the 90s. (A scene that largely passed me and probably a lot of girls in the middle of the country by.) Did the music resonate with me? Sure, of course it did. It was the first time I'd seriously listened to music made by and for women that definitely wasn't radio-friendly. I was a dyed-in-the-wool music snob by then with a perfectly cultivate disdain for the top forty pap of the 80s, but the heavier rock that followed was too dark and plodding to hold my interest for long. Sleater-Kinney was a pretty good match, and frankly, a good way to ease into the more political riot grrrl bands that I'd overlooked a few years earlier. But they still didn't make me a feminist. Borrowing a line from Spalding, "What (Sleater-Kinney) did was unleash what was already within me, fighting to get out and shook awake the part of me that thrives on passion and creativity." I still want my click moment, though.

When I look through my own life, I can't isolate a single incident that led me to a "great paradigm shift," but lots of little ones that I can piece together like a giant collage:

*Susan Faludi's Backlash and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth
Two watershed third-wave feminist books published my senior year of high school that led me to the feminist writers that came before them. I spent a summer reading my way backwards through the annals of feminist literature, and however I feel now about the two books that started it all for me, I'm glad they were there.

No seriously, some of the strongest women I knew were women of the cloth. I've long turned away from the catholic church, and religion in general, but nuns left a pretty big impression on me, and they didn't take shit from anyone.

*Darlene Connor
Darlene was my Daria, my Angela Chase, and my Cher Horowitz. There were so few examples of working class families that weren't degrading or cartoonish, and I latched on to Darlene early.

*Patti Smith
She never identified as a feminist, and always aligned herself with me, but gave me a sense of what being an artist without compromise meant.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. None of these things made me a feminist as much as they made me aware that's there's more to life than whatever Cosmo's preaching this month. I can't remember a time when I didn't call myself a feminist, even now when I question the tenets of feminism and who it actually benefits. It was more of a gradual "growing into my feminism."

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