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How ╬feminism' is destroying the women's movement

Illustration by Cody Angell
By Caitlin Hall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday March 6, 2003

I'm tired of Britney-bashers. You know the type: self-righteous, overeager, the kind of woman who wields the term "feminist" like an unsheathed sword. The kind who's always desperately trying to tell you how some blond pop star is setting back the women's movement. The kind who doesn't realize how deeply entrenched she is in the new cult of true womanhood, the one that has unknowingly resurrected its ancient predecessor's chief principle ¸ that the greatest thing a woman is capable of is self-sacrifice.

These "feminists" are doing about as much for womankind as the good ol' boys at Augusta National.

Of course they mean well, but intentions mean little compared to consequences. And consequently, it is these women, and not the Britney clones, who dot the landscape of pop culture, who are mangling the "women's movement."

The problem becomes clear when you consider the true aims of such a movement. They are not, as some would have us believe, to "empower" women, to make each and every one a luminous symbol of womanhood at its finest. These are choices; the point is to have options. Put another way, it's a matter of subtraction, not addition; rather than build up a new model of perfection to which women aspire, the point is to bring down the barriers in the way of women making free choices for themselves.

That is where the pseudo-feminists have missed the boat completely. Women don't want a new Barbie doll, even if she's plump, brunette and dressed like a CEO. They, like men, want the freedom to set their own goals and the freedom to have a fair shot at attaining them.

And wasn't that the point ¸ that we should be free to make our own decisions, to determine the course of our own lives?

It's not a matter of competition with men, and it's not even about escaping certain roles. There's one hell of a difference between exploitation and the free choice to boost record sales by posing as a voluptuous, sex-crazed virgin. That gulf is undetectable to the pseudo-feminists. They want one type of woman: the type who uses her freedom to reject the old paradigms. In their minds, anyone who fails to do so is somehow confused ¸ that's why they have such a hard time admitting that it's all right for a woman to want to be a homemaker. But the fact that these women don't approve of the autonomous choices others make doesn't make those decisions involuntary.

These women want martyrs. They want universal self-sacrifice. They want those who manage to reach the top to be spokespeople, models of the new feminism. And they're surprised by those who don't rush to comply.

It reminds me of something one of my philosophy professors, David Schmidtz, once asked: "How free can you possibly be if you have to justify everything you do?" By asking women to make the point of their lives to be a virtuous woman ¸ even if the definition has changed in the last few decades ¸ we take an enormous step back.

This column isn't all about rotten feminists, however. In honor of International Women's Day on Saturday, I'd like to say thanks to all the women around campus who are doing amazing things for women's rights. Students for Choice is a prime example, and the name says it all: It's not about abortion; it's about trusting autonomous, moral individuals to make their own choices.

Thanks also to Eve Ensler, whose "Vagina Monologues" made a stop at UA last week, and who has dedicated her life to preventing violence against women. Those of you who didn't make it to the performance, which was curiously underreported, definitely missed out. It was the single greatest event I've attended since arriving at UA, and it was student-acted, student-directed and student-produced to boot. Ashley James, the studio art sophomore who single-handedly put the whole production together, is one righteous babe.

Let's hear it for all those who support freedom and autonomy for women and men alike ¸ let's hear it for the true feminists.

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