Sunday, December 16, 2007

Who Killed Feminism?

As the Spice Girls embark on their wholly gratuitous world tour, the timing of a recent piece in the Daily Mail (U.K.) is flawless. The article's provocative thesis - that the Spice Girls killed feminism (along with subverting morality and embarrassing England) - is the stuff of more interrogatives than declaratives, save one that I will state at the outset.

The author's passion and reasoning notwithstanding, the Spice Girls did not kill feminism, but rather they are its prey.

As Faye Weldon points out in her piece, "the idea that girls should take charge of their own sexuality" as espoused by the perfectly sexual Spice Girls seemed empowering, but in reality it was hardly novel. Indeed, women embracing a male sexual stereotype was part and parcel of second-wave feminism as manifest in the United States and presumably elsewhere.

The appreciation of the new feminist ideal flowed directly from its attractive package; the promise of feminist author Erica Jong's "zipless fuck" appealed equally to both men and women. But once society opened feminism's box and examined the contents, we were less than overwhelmed, as Weldon reports.

Now, with the dubious privilege of hindsight, we have the answer.

For a start, we are now living in the Age of Easy Couplings.

What chance did formal sex education have when faced with the catchy lyrics - written by men, of course - that told young girls to indulge in such things as "weekend love" and encouraged "playing games"? What it did of course was to separate love from sex.

The Spice Girls killed romance.

Their singable, suggestive lyrics took away the innocence of the playground - or at least what was left of it. And it's never coming back.

They turned difficult love into temporary sex, and reduced female aspiration to a series of consumer choices.

They turned little girls into [pedophile] bait, and in doing so they helped destroy our concept of childhood.
To be sure, the "Spices" did reinforce the culture of "Easy Couplings," but again they did not birth it. That they are submissive to as opposed to defiant of male fantasy is evidenced by what Weldon describes as their having "dieted and airbrushed themselves into what they think men want: fearful of turning back into the naturally pretty, unpretentious young girls they originally were before the pop industry cast its greedy eye on them."

But the greater sin committed by the Spice Girls was to suggest that adult women could have it all without making any hard choices. By this imagining, life could play itself out as a long series of exciting, but ultimately meaningless dalliances, with every day as Christmas morning and every night being New Year's Eve. (H/T: Sade) But what Beckham, et al. did not count on was the hard facts of life forcing themselves into the picture; belatedly, the responsibilities of adulthood have now been made known to the Spice Girls.

Each to their own, I suppose; except they've got five children between them.

Sexy strip-teases, I ask you! Of the five of them, two are married (one of those for the second time and not to the father of her baby), one is a single mother, and two have long-term partners.

According to the rumour mill, chickenpox has struck on the tour.

It must be dreadful in that 747.

Well, what did the feminists think would happen? That these girls wouldn't have messy relationships and have to drag their kids round the world so they could go to work? At the end of the day, a working mother's a working mother.

In the cotton mills 150 years ago, toddlers crawled about the dusty factory floors.

Now it's on the aircraft floor, up and down the aisle. What's the difference?

As history reveals, most women in the world have the "right" to work outside the home, and for the better part of America's history, women have indeed worked in some capacity other than "domestic goddess." With the exception of Wellesley graduates who wanted to work for prestigious Arkansas law firms, second-wave feminism did not add appreciably to women's ability to work, nor to their standing in society more generally. Rather, it demeaned femininity as it was classically understood.

As discussed elsewhere, the fruits of second-wave feminism have made themselves apparent in as much as
it established "a nether-gender for women, rendering them biologically female but sociologically masculine." Weldon herself details some of the specific effects of feminism.

So I'm embarrassed for the feminists, clinging on to the dream of a proud, equal, serious society, where justice ruled and lasses didn't throw away their hard-won equality in the pubs and clubs, puking up their resentments on the shoes of paramedics trying to help them out of the gutter.

Those little girls who first listened to the Spice Girls ten years ago are the ones who are now running up vast credit card bills on designer shopping they can't afford.

They are the ones who are anorexic or bulimic (just like Geri was).

They are the ones who are [fueling] a rise in sexual diseases the like of which we haven't seen for generations.

The full measure of feminism's unfortunate outcomes has rained down on two or three generations of young women by now. Worse yet, facilitated by feminism's race to bottom of male sexual stereotypes, older women have taken leave of their discretions as well. But all of this was in the works prior to the advent of the Spice Girls. In retrospect, they were merely the next link in a seemingly endless chain of women who have been fooled by the false promises of feminism.

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