Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Michelle Goldberg, the NYT,  "The Future isn't Female Anymore"

The Drift, a buzzy literary journal founded by Kiara Barrow and Rebecca Panovka, left-leaning women in their late 20s, published a series of short essays earlier this year under the rubric, “What to Do About Feminism.” “For a long time now, we’ve had the sense that feminism is in trouble,” Barrow and Panovka wrote in the introduction. They described an ambient feeling that feminism has been sapped of cultural vitality, even as an anti-feminist backlash is gathering momentum, and that young people especially were turning against the movement.

Of the eight essays they commissioned to try to make sense of this moment of “profound malaise” in feminism, four used the word “cringe.”... 

“Much of contemporary feminism, like my adolescent self, relies on a defensive posture, its energy driven toward negation. (Save Roe!),” wrote Elisa Gonzalez....

Barrow and Panovka both consider themselves feminists; neither of them takes any pleasure in dissecting what they see as the movement’s stasis. “We’re quite alarmed to see that the people around us, who are our age, are by and large quite disaffected and maybe considered themselves feminists five years ago, but now don’t want to anymore,” said Panovka.

You can extrapolate only so much about broader trends from the mores of up-and-coming intellectuals, though they can be a leading indicator. (Brooklyn literary circles nurtured a millennial socialism  years before the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.)...

Recently the Southern Poverty Law Center and Tulchin Research commissioned a poll of 1,500 Americans to measure belief in various reactionary sentiments, including the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and the idea that trans people are a threat to children. Because misogyny is so ubiquitous in far-right spaces, Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the S.P.L.C., decided to add a question about feminism.

Predictably, most young Republicans agree with the statement, “Feminism has done more harm than good.” What was astonishing was how many young Democrats agreed as well. While only 4 percent of Democratic men over 50 thought feminism was harmful, 46 percent of Democratic men under 50 did. Nearly a quarter of Democratic women under 50 agreed, compared with only 10 percent of those 50 and older....

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a new influx of energy,” said Samhita Mukhopadhyay, co-editor of “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America” and the former executive editor of Teen Vogue.... 

Beyoncé would sample that talk in her song “Flawless,” and in 2014 she performed at the Video Music Awards in front of a giant screen emblazoned “Feminist.” A feminism that valorized the quest for power and prestige suddenly had cultural currency. Taylor Swift, who’d distanced herself from feminism in 2012, embraced it in 2014, with the help of the then it-girl Lena Dunham.

Teen Vogue’s transformation into an explicitly feminist publication was an indication of the movement’s glamour.... 

Recently I emailed Faludi to ask how this moment of backlash compares to the one she chronicled more than three decades ago. In part, she replied, there’s more raw misogyny now. 

The whole thing's hilarious, in a tragic sort of way.  "Brooklyn literary circles... millennial socialism...  Bernie Sanders", the link's to Goldberg's own piece in Tablet, where Jewish identitarians and their friends complain about identity politics. 

More links:  Vogue, and Beyoncé Knowles, Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham, and "glamour", and again, and again... "Glamour is the performativity of the sexually intimidating woman—intimidating according to conservative gender roles: the woman not as passive but as judge."  

See also fiascos: Comaroff vs/and Ronell and "Cat Person",  Jian Ghomeshi and his lawyer,  Marie Henein.  The last of the "agains" for glamour is about Iran. The difference between the strength in/of performative but reserved feminine sexuality in conservative but modernizing cultures vs the weakness of sexualized femininity in post-feminist cultures. For Beyoncé there's also this, for a laugh, on the purblind reality of Oxbridge idealism.

The Drift, "Steered by the Reactionary"/ What to Do about Feminism

Of the 8 pieces two of them are by transwomen: men who've responded to and mimic the performance of sexualized femininity. Candy Darling, as always.

"I've been up all night alone, wondering about my identity. Trying to look for an explanation for living this strange, stylized sexuality. Realization cuts feeling off. I try to explain my identity as being a male who has assumed the attitudes and somewhat the emotions of a female. I don't know what role to play."

Warhol said Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn weren't women because "they don't bleed." In the late 90s, a 40 year old woman, a well known artist,  told me me everything she'd learned about being a woman she'd learned from drag queens. The switch is important: from the artifice of femininity built out of biology and culture, out of necessity, to an art built out of fantasy—from representation to mannerism—and then returned to the source.  I've described the process dozens of times. That's why Streeck made me laugh, or maybe as I said just left me "banging my fucking head against the wall." 

In the order that seems to be emerging, social bonds are construed as a matter of taste and choice rather than of obligation, making communities appear as voluntary associations from which one can resign if they require excessive self-denial, rather than as ‘communities of fate’ with which one either rises or goes under.

A definition of woman, not based on the experience of women, but of a male fantasy of women.  And of course what does all of this say to women and girls who have no interest in or ability to trade in glamour, to play off others' desire, who are neither beautiful nor fabulous, but simply female? And on the streets the plain have a disadvantage. The streets are Darwinian. 

One of the pieces was written by Andrea Long Chu, and another by Becca Rothfeld, a biological woman, on Srinivasan. That makes comments easy. On Long Chu, and then the two of them, Chu and Srinivasan, and Katha Pollitt, whom Rothfeld doesn't mention. Chu thinks political lesbianism is a "failed project."  Derrick Bell argued that the decision in Brown v Board was a mistake. Our new liberals who call themselves leftists are beginning to understand his point. But again: "As I said years ago, all that's clear is that blacks as a group get the benefit of a knee-jerk sympathy from liberals that women as a group do not."

The Drift, appears in a link here.  Steered by the reactionary, indeed.  

As an aside it's amusing or something that the liberals protesting that the 11 year old boys voguing at drag shows aren't being sexualized—of course they are—are the same people who call Epstein a pedophile for sleeping with teenage girls.

I though about "I Wanna Be Black" again (a third time), but this song came on at work today and I heard myself singing every word. 

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