In Which I Break My Promises Yet Again (or, Hey! It’s My Blog and I’ll Write What I Want To!)

September 16, 2006

I said that I would do my round-up of the call-to-action posts this weekend. Well, I can’t. I’ve gotten completely distracted by other issues and cannot summon the emotional energy to plug my own cause (supporting the organization that’s looking for a way to save my nephew’s life) or to plug-by-link the wonderful posts about all the other ways and means of acting to make the world a better place (because those posts get me all teary. Which is why I’ve been so bad about commenting on them. I get all overwhelmed and can’t think of what to say. Because I am a SUCK.)

And, because of these other issues, I don’t feel that I can make one more reference to Gloria Steinem without a) apologizing for maybe sounding like I’m brandishing my supah-dupah exciting adventures as the Blogger Who Met Gloria Steinem and Shared a Sofa-Bed With Mom-101′s Dog, and b) making some statement about why I keep talking about Gloria Steinem.

So, what of these other issues?

There’s been some skirmishing ’round the momosphere about blog politics. Yes, AGAIN. Whatever. It’s an old topic and one that, frankly, frustrates me or bores me, depending upon how bad a day I’m having. I’m not going to revisit it here; I’ve said enough about it in the past, and in any case, I vented at urbanmoms.ca (and received a comment smack, and then vented some more), if you’re interested.

So “these other issues” don’t really have much to do with that debate. The thing is, in some of the discussion swirling around that debate, there has been occasional reference to Greenstone Media and the possibility that there has been some ‘selling out’ by those involved with Greenstone projects. Some of this has to do with sour grapes about some bloggers getting more attention than others. Others, however, have raised it as a matter of debate (which is always good): is the fact that Greenstone Media is using advertising and thereby selling women as a market as a means of supporting itself undermine, or entirely destroy, its bona fides as a ‘feminist’ project?

(The related question that has been popping up: do bloggers who host advertisers – or profit in any way from blogging – undermine or destroy their blogger bona fides? Does even the merest hint of commercial enterprise undermine the openness and honesty of a blog? I’ll address this later, which is to say, in another post, which is to say, when I feel like it, which I hope will be soon.)

TOMama wrote a provocative piece about the possibility of there being a dark underbelly to Greenstone’s enterprise over at Literary Mama, in which she stated that the fact that Greenstone was treating women, in part, like a market, made her very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to make her doubt that the emergence of Greenstone could really be viewed as a victory for women and/or feminists. Her discomfort was heartily seconded by one commenter, who noted that Gloria Steinem isn’t an appropriate spokesperson for feminism or women’s interests anyways, because she is white and privileged and so it really isn’t surprising, is it, that she’d front a project that is only relevant to privileged white consumers. Right?

Wrong. This is what I said in response:

I think that it’s a stretch to claim that the main purpose of Greenstone is to deliver women to advertisers. As you yourself say, advertising is more or less key to ensuring survival in 21st century media. Women simply won’t have a place to be heard as women (what Greenstone is trying to offer) if we cling to antiquated Marxist notions of what constitutes a ‘pure’ revolution. Media is what it is: it’s largely driven by economic interest, sustained by advertising and/or sales. We might prefer that cultural discourse weren’t so circumscribed by that fact, but that’s the way it is.

And I, for one, don’t see much wrong with it. I live in a capitalist, consumer society, and I accept, even embrace, the terms of that society. If we have a problem with being ‘sold’ to advertisers and/or used as pawns by the capitalist system, that’s another revolution altogether (one that, I should note, has been attempted, and not altogether successfully.) I don’t expect the feminist movement, or any corner of that movement, to take on capitalism full-stop as a condition of its feminism (nor, as a liberal capitalist, would I want it to.)

(After-the-fact edit: Economic inequality, yes. Capitalism as a system, no.)

I simply don’t take it as read that commitment to the feminist movement or efforts toward gender equality require a commitment to anti-capitalist ideals. Capitalism and commerce don’t preclude the free exchange of ideas and promotion of change any more than does the established intelligentsia of a socialist movement (quite the contrary, I’d say). How, exactly, does the presence of advertisers or market researchers in the background of cultural or political discourse fatally impair that discourse? That’s our world, people – all of the messages we receive are mediated (even in personal conversation; we’re products of what social scientists call a knowledge system, and we can never entirely escape that system.) So long as we’re aware of that – and, better, constructively critical of it – what’s the problem?

One of the biggest obstacles to the success of the feminist movement in its many and varied forms is the incidence of in-fighting and unproductive criticism from the very women who claim to support it. So Gloria Steinem is white and able-bodied and privileged and interested in working with advertisers. So what? Does calling her – or her projects – down help the broader feminist cause? To my mind, anything that gets women heard is a good thing. Anything that mainstreams women’s voices is a good thing. Anything that makes women’s voices a discernible part of the din of our culture is a good thing. If we sit around waiting for the perfect utopian solution or for the perfect spokespeople (only disabled lesbian women of colour need apply?) before supporting efforts that promote women, our cause is doomed.

I’m not saying that we must refrain from critical analysis of our actions, but to make any suggestion that some projects might not be worthy because they don’t fit a perfect vision of a transformative movement is, to this feminist, foolhardy. It’s really not all that different from Hirshman saying that only women who remain in the workforce can call themselves feminists, or Flanagan saying that only women who stay at home can call themselves good mothers. Only certain kinds of feminists and feminist projects – those that reject quote-unquote privilege and capitalism and what have you – are good feminists and good feminist projects? Bullshit. This only hurts us, and our cause.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m one of the those ‘privileged’ bloggers who has been invited to participate in Greenstone. About which I’ll say this: any suggestion (I’m not saying that you’ve done so here; this is emerging elsewhere in the blogosphere) that I’ve sold out for supporting a project that promotes the voices of women offends me deeply as a feminist, and strikes me as evidence of what I’ve said above. We’re calling down women for supporting Gloria fucking Steinem? We’re doomed.

Thus spake Her Bad Mother.

I know, it’s kind of lame to make an entire post out of a comment that you’ve left somewhere else, but the recurring beat of what the fuck what the fuck pounding in my brain is hurting my head and I needed to vent.

And it’s my blog, even if I am some shameless Gloria Steinem-promoting whore. So I’ll write what I want to.

Shocked, shocked to discover that her mother shamelessly whores herself out to aging feminists. Shocked.

*********

As I said, I’ll have more to say about how I think this pertains to the so-called commercialization of blogging later, although you’ve probably guessed how I feel about that. And I’ll be flogging this particular dead feminist horse as a Guest Bytch over at SheBytches on Monday. If the screeching of my ranty voice doesn’t put you off entirely, you might check it out.

Or you could just head to the Basement for a drink or some tea and a chat…

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    { 52 comments }

    Pamela Slim September 22, 2006 at 2:28 am

    Whew, HBM, you amaze me!

    Grrrrreat post.

    And as someone who was there with you and Gloria, I have to crack up at the “Gloria is irrelevant” comments.

    I flash back to 1972 when I was 6 and my Dad left my Mom with 3 kids, no job and a lot of panic. Gloria and her contemporaries did so much to get my Mom through that excrutiating phase… reminding her that she had power, worth, and didn’t need a man to have an identity. That shaped so much of who I am as a woman, and for that I am very thankful.

    So now that Gloria is a) 72 and b) still working and being creative and c) still white, she is irrelevant? I don’t think that ANY of us could have stood the intense criticism, degradation and threats that she faced to speak out on all our behalf.

    Thank god we have young, diverse, strong, fresh female voices today. But to hear them, do we need to forget who paved the way?

    Seems to me like a “Sorry granny, I know you gave birth to Mom and everything and kind of raised me and your other grandkids, but we have different views now and I don’t agree with your cookie baking and stories of the ‘way it was with grandpa’ back in the day. Why don’t you just scoot along to a nursing home and stop bothering us?”

    In most non-Anglo societies, elders and women are honored for their lives and contributions.

    I, for one, am happy to see Gloria still alive, kicking and fighting in the way she sees fit. Lord knows she deserves to choose how to spend her time and resources now.

    As for the advertising question? Even Karl Marx fought for control of the “means of production.” Aren’t many of the feminist platforms about equal pay, access to job markets and economic opportunity? Why the hell shouldn’t women finally make some money off what men have been pimping for years?

    OK, end of my rant.

    :)

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