A generational thing

Recently Gene did an interesting post about generational change on the activist left. In it he quoted LA blogger Marc Cooper:

We’ve spoken a lot in the past months about how the election of Obama represents a generational changeover inside the American political system. Perhaps it’s time to see the same transition within the activist left. I had to laugh when I saw the emergence of Progressives for Obama. Its original membership list read like the Madison chapter of the AARP (though it did eventually broaden out a bit). I think it would be refreshing if all the 50-, 60- and 70-year-old progressives still hanging around and offering all their years of invaluable advice to Obama and his supporters would consider a different option: How about just getting out of the doorways and getting out of the halls, and realizing that old road is rapidly aging. The times, they are a changing. All that is solid melts into air.

It came back to me while I was reading this lengthy Observer piece on feminism since the Equal Franchise Act (since democracy, in other words).

I could see a similar generational clash in that piece between old-school feminist Rachel Cooke and burlesque performer Georgina Baillie. Although Cooke describes Baillie, patronisingly, as having ‘only done what society expects of her – even if this is not something she is immediately willing to identify’ the younger woman comes across as far more intelligent and socially aware.

‘It’s definitely ironic,’ she says, when I ask about her stage show. ‘The word slut is not a bad word. It means an independent girl who does what she wants, who has fun, but doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s totally empowering when I go on stage as Voluptua, my alter ego.’ Maybe so. But does her audience always understand that? ‘Maybe not… I agree. Some men don’t get it. Luckily, if someone gives us stick when we’re on stage, there are four of us. We can outsmart them.’ And when she’s not on stage? ‘It’s more difficult.’

Is she a feminist? ‘I’m a different kind of feminist. It’s OK for guys to be studs, but if a woman wants to sleep around… I don’t think there should be a double standard about that.’ She sighs.

While old-school feminists like Cooke have done a great deal in terms of equal pay and representation, they share with the Victorian patriarchy a puritan conviction that women don’t really like sex, and only bear the act with gritted teeth in order to conceive.

It definitely hasn’t occurred to Cooke that Baillie and women like her might find sexuality genuinely empowering. Working on a newspaper that makes a fetish of irony, it’s surprising that Cooke doesn’t see that terms like ‘slut’ can be reclaimed from the bigots, just as the gay community has reclaimed the word ‘queer’.

Cooke’s priorities for the feminist movement are very different. Here she literally judges a book by its cover:

We are a very long way from legislating against porn, or even further from posters like the one I saw the other day: an ad for a new book by Belle de Jour, the nation’s favourite blogging call girl, which featured nothing more or less than a pert backside in a pair of gauzy knickers.

I think there are now two kinds of feminist:

1) People who fight against oppression of women always and everywhere; from British women raped in taxis to Afghan women who have acid thrown in their faces for not wearing a veil.

2) People who get annoyed by lap dancing clubs, celebrity magazines and book adverts on the Tube.

Unfortunately, liberal discourse is dominated by type 2).



One Response to “A generational thing”

  1. Sarah Franco Says:

    I don’t know if you have followed the creation of the french movement ‘ni putes ni soumises’…

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