Quick Hit: Jessica on Elitist Feminism

Check out Jess’s awesome piece over at her blog about elitism and feminism and takes on critic to young feminists, Nina Power.

Power also takes issue with me being too “upbeat”, and suggesting that feminism can make women’s lives better. (We like our social justice movements dour, not joyful!) By ignoring how important and transformational it can be for women to see the world through a feminist lens and recognize everyday personal inequities, Power disregards how this kind of individual realization often leads to collective action and activism.
Are theory and political history important? Of course. But there’s more than one feminist project and accessibility, substance and radical thought aren’t mutually exclusive (something Power would know had she read my books or or any of the amazing blogging at Feministing). A huge part of my work has been creating entry points for young women to become involved in the movement; I’ve made deliberate, strategic choices about the language and tone I’ve used in my writing and the topics I’ve covered. And guess what? That shit works.
…Everybody – whether or not they take Women’s Studies, have read Judith Butler or heard of Foucault – deserves to have feminism in their lives.

Go read the rest. Total must-read.

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7 Comments

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    That kind of feminist elitism has absolutely no place. Who is anyone to say they’ve got a corner on what “feminism” really is? Nina Power’s assertion that Jessica’s version of feminism is some kind of watered-down pop version of the real thing is ridiculous enough.
    What’s even worse is how blind Power is to her own academic, myopic reading of the discipline. I’ve got nothing against academia, but many of its ideas are completely inaccessible to all but the most intelligent, the most attuned, and the most likely to have the money and means to study it. But egos have a way of blinding us to a sense of fairness and a sense of the truth and this is something I fear Power may never realize for herself.

  2. LindseyLou
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, I am depressed that this exchange is even going on. Jessica is absolutely right to defend herself against inaccurate descriptions of her work, but I wish other women wouldn’t feel the need to criticize her in the first place. And over the topic of feminism!
    Why is there any right or wrong way to be a feminist? I’m probably the kind of feminist that Nina Power wrote about, but so what? I’ve never taken a gender studies/race studies/culture studies class in my life. Everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone enters the feminist community fully informed on the issues, etc. Why don’t all feminists embrace those who are at least trying, trying to find our sea-legs, if you will?
    Criticizing someone for essentially not being a good enough feminist is just so absurd. I get so angry over it. I can personally attest that superior attitudes like Power’s drive people away.

  3. Toongrrl
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Jessica is likely to bring insecure teenage girls into feminism, it had worked for me. She is pure awesomeness, and Jessica if you are reading this, don’t let anyone tell you any different!
    Jessica here’s a cartoon character you remind me of in a way http://www.gingerlegacy.tk/characters/char-ginger.html

  4. Bianca
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I have never read her book but it seems like to me she is basically putting down something that someone is making mainstream and more accessible. I have never heard of her, but when I Googled her name it says she’s a Philosopher? It sounds like she is coming from a very academic viewpoint which is good in a way, but not everyone is as educated as others and there is a way to explain things to people that does not make you seem like a know-it-all or someone who is out of touch with people who may have not had the opportunity to earn even a Bachelor’s degree or even graduate from high school. You don’t have to dumb things down, just make it simple. Not everything has to be so complicated…
    I feel like Jessica’s response could have been a bit stronger against Power but I’m glad she responded to it. I think the concept of elitist feminism is very real, but in my opinion Jessica is doing a pretty good job overall in trying to expose her readers to different types of feminism. It’s hard to publish every single article or work you come across that is under the umbrella of feminism itself, so hey at least the attempts are made. If Jessica’s “type” of feminism was the only one available, I would think that would call for other bloggers and professional feminists to express their views. Thankfully, we have other people to weigh in on issues to have a variety. I hope Power understands that the point of feminism is really to make women’s lives better… She sounds a bit hateful to me in a way…

  5. Catherine Ryan
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Nina Power has responded to Valenti’s post:
    http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/2010/01/it-in-not-very-nice-shocker.asp
    There is also another response to Valenti’s post here:
    http://codepoetics.com/poetix/2010/01/19/5o-133t/
    I’ve read Power’s One Dimensional Woman. It’s a really lively and interesting piece of writing. I would say that before everyone jumps in and denounces Power’s so-called ‘elitism’, it would be worth reading Power’s book.
    - Catherine

  6. Citizen Lane
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I am as eggheaded as they come, a leftist and reader of social theory, philosophy major, yada yada yada… so I get Power’s frustrations with a world she sees as shirking intellectualism for superficiality. I do. But I think she misreads you, Jessica, in that she implies you disdain academic or philosophical feminism while embracing a pop model that perpetuates the inequities of the Western capitalist system by importing many of the problematic values of that system.
    That’s just not true; you aren’t making any essentialist claims about what feminism ought to be (although she is). Rather, your claim is far more innocuous — feminism can have broad appeal and still retain intellectual cred through deliberate choices in the employment of concepts and language presently familiar to the intended audience. To suggest otherwise is to ignore one’s own privilege to be educated and have access to the wonderful concepts of theory.
    Philosopher, analyze thyself.

  7. LalaReina
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    What I like about Jessica is her feminism makes you comforting with carrying your own flag rather than feeling you need to get in line. I was browsing the library on a summer or so ago and actually read Full frontal that evening. i liked it. it helped me be comfortable fitting the word “feminism” around my beliefs.

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