Ha! That’s a misleading title. It’s not like there’s only one feminism. I guess what I mean more specifically is the strand of feminism (I don’t think it’s acute enough to have a name) which I addressed in my January blog post on the political efficacy of shame. Specifically, the way I feel alienated by feminists who criticize books like Portnoy’s Complaint as “a pile of kleenex.” Because who’s to say that my desire can’t work the same way Roth’s does?
Actually, on re-reading that article now (a sample from N+1′s No Regrets) I’m struck by how much more nuanced the conversation is than I originally read it to be. Emily Gould flat-out stands up for Roth. I don’t know how I missed that the first time around– I guess I was angry. But that school of thought still exists and I’d like to respond to it. I like dwelling in my shame, and even though I’m only 23 and not very confident that I have the right answers, I’d still like to figure out why I’m so attached to the maybe-true myth of shame as political motor.
Anyway, I’m reading “A Cyborg Manifesto” in full for the first time now, and this passage stood out to me as a good articulation of my problem with so many contemporary feminisms:
One of the effects of [Catherine] MacKinnon’s theory is the rewriting of the history of the polymorphous field called radical feminism. The major effect is the production of a theory of experience, of women’s identity, that is a kind of apocalypse for all revolutionary standpoints. That is, the totalization built into this tale of radical feminism achieves its end — the unity of women — by enforcing the experience of and testimony to radical non-being. As for the Marxist/socialist feminist, consciousness is an achievement, not a natural fact. And MacKinnon’s theory eliminates some of the difficulties built into humanist revolutionary subjects, but at the cost of radical reductionism.
MacKinnon argues that feminism necessarily adopted a different analytical strategy from Marxism, looking first not at the structure of class, but at the structure of sex/gender and its generative relationship, men’s constitution and appropriation of women sexually. Ironically, MacKinnon’s ‘ontology’ constructs a non-subject, a non-being. Another’s desire, not the self’s labour, is the origin of ‘woman’. She therefore develops a theory of consciousness that enforces what can count as ‘women’s’ experience — anything that names sexual violation, indeed, sex itself, as far as ‘women’ can be concerned. Feminist practice is the construction of this form of consciousness; that is, the self-knowledge of a self-who-is-not.
Whew! Now that I see it all laid bare on a page like that it seems very straightforward, but I just couldn’t get there myself. Yep, the women-are-constructed-through-sexual-desire thing just doesn’t work for me. Whether because of my looks, my social circle, or the way I carry myself, I’m just not “sexualized” very often. Actually, the only context in which it really comes up is when I work in the food service industry, and there it’s kind of a nuisance more than anything else. It’s fun to complain about because it’s like swatting at a fly. Engaging somebody else’s fear/fantasy. Anyway, in stories about one person creeping on another person, I identify 10,000 times more strongly with the creeper than the creep-ee. But heck, don’t I have as much right to feminism as anyone else?
Anyway, I guess I like Donna Haraway’s insistence on epistemologies of unity as ~the~ feminist (and Marxist!) problem.