On Feminist Media Watch…

The Feminist Media Watch has been getting a hell of a lot of coverage in the weblogging world over the last few days. I myself wrote a couple of long pieces on them a few days back [have a look]. I thought it might be interesting to do a quick review of some of this coverage.

  • Babygrrl wrote an article about the failings of traditional feminism from what would probably be described politically as a post-colonial bent. Her criticisms of the way in which European Feminism has (in some of its strains particularly) represented itself as expressing the concerns of all women, regardless of colour, cultural background and the like are illuminating. The same theoretical framework which takes as its subject the liberation of individuals (either from a political patriarchy or from a typology of difference) can be shown to have invested in exactly the same colonial beliefs that oppressed other groups. All the traditional “big” questions of feminism arise: What is a woman? Is there something intrinsic to Womanhood that is the same cross-culturallly? Who speaks and for whom (and who is silenced) when one speaks as a feminist? All interesting and thought-provoking questions. [Echoed and reinforced by Miss Elisabeth]
  • Zippygirl found the site to be “condemning the choices other women make as not being feminist enough. I do not like them saying wanting to stay home and have babies is very wrong if that’s how you identify yourself as a woman”. As with any discourse that purports to represent a disenfranchised group (and I know this from experience), not everyone feels themselves to be represented, or agrees with the goals of the movement. Nor for that matter is a movement ever a monolith – there are many versions of feminism and many different forms of feminist (the same with queer theory, post-colonial theory, race studies etc) – and the fights between them are occasionally savage.
  • ouch!: Tracy has had similar objections. She says, “I got an email from one of the Feminist Media Watch contributors telling me that the image on my site is “sick.” She suggested a site where I might find “positive images of women” for my site.” Issues of representation in feminism are as old and as well trodden as you can get – and they are still as difficult today. In this specific case, I think the idea of the image as intrinsically negative is remarkably unnuanced – questions have to be asked about who uses it, for what purpose, with what intention and in what context. The reclamation of the word queer is an example of how something created to have dubious overtones can be used in an affirmative fashion.

I feel like I have been concentrating on the negative publicity – but in a way that is inevitable since it inspires debate. However this is one of those dangerous areas where if you set yourself up as representative of a group of people you have to suffer their wrath when you say something they disagree with. Certainly many academic feminists would have considerable trouble with the site. Personally, I think anything that raises awareness of these issues is doing a valuable service – whether I agree with their specific take or not.