“Mama; feminism is just so 70’s”

I recently found myself discussing whether young women define themselves as feminists or not with a fellow blogger. It was not long after the RU486 vote came down and the country was reminded of the power of four women.

My theory is that feminism is a historical term that defines a time when women’s rights had to be fought for inch by inch. That said, not all our rights have been won, or will be won. However, instead of gen X and Y seeing issues as being structural, related to gender, young women see them as individual issues. They respond with individual rights and micro-collectivism.

Girls from a Melbourne school recently did just that when one of their friends was asked to remove a t-shirt that said:

“Nobody knows I’m a lesbian”

Not only did this young woman not comply, but her friends wore t-shirts that read:

“Nobody knows I am bulimic”

“Nobody knows I’m pregnant”

“Nobody knows I’m on steroids”.

As I observe the girlchild, her girlfriends and her peers (be they straight, lesbian or bisexual), I believe they don’t need the term to differentiate from non-assertive women as they take their rights as given. These include sexual and reproductive rights. They don’t need the term to differentiate themselves as assertive women as young men have also been exposed to feminism and equality and behave accordingly. The girlchild’s boytoy is typical of his peers. He is is non-predatory and shares (as a given) the power dynamic within the relationship. They earn similar incomes and both have cars.

Perhaps it is only as our girls age and enter the workforce with a view to a career, attempt to balance work and family and sense that the barriers are broader than the individual, will they need to gather as a greater collective and change the status quo. Or, perhaps me and my generation sit in the last remnants of patriarchy, with our bitterness and our cynicism.

Our girls will command the earning power and just buy what they need.

I’m choosing to believe that four women in government can continue to make a difference. Those of us who are just so 70’s worry too much and the girls who are not noting this as an historic event are busy asserting their individual entitlements.

“Oh Mama, all that feminist shit is just so 70’s”- so sayeth the girlchild.

I take comfort in the knowledge that she can be dismissive because she does feel equal.

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36 Responses to ““Mama; feminism is just so 70’s””

  1. weezil Says:

    Sooth Suki: “I take comfort in the knowledge that she can be dismissive because she does feel equal.

    The girrrlchild owns a uni degree, has her own money, own car, own plans, own life. She just won’t own the “F” word.

    That said- who cares? She’s significantly more equal than a great number of her peers.

    You won, Suki. 😀

  2. Jennifer Says:

    There are various gradations of feminist awareness. Arguably one does not need a feminist ideology to know how to be assertive, as well as to be aware when one is being taken for a fool. Arguably, this helps, however.

  3. genevieve Says:

    There is anti-feminism out there, and I don’t believe it’s all coming from the girls actually. There are under-25s who are terrified of missing out on a man if they come over too assertive. Maybe they don’t really believe they can have it all?

  4. Kate Says:

    I’m 27 so caught twixt x and y, and I still see a lot of value in feminism.

    There’s so much more work to be done when we earn 92 cents in the dollar (adjusted) and domestic violence is still a huge problem for all women, everywhere.

    And let’s not forget that non-western women also need something concrete, an ideology that sticks up for their rights. We westerners have won some battles, but the war is far from over.

  5. tigtog Says:

    I think the need for feminism as a collective movement might become more obvious as young women move on into their careers and start seeing colleagues relegated to the mummy track, and that assumptions are being made about their future work/family balance choices along patriarchal lines.

    I think it’s a great advance that corporate sexism now doesn’t really hit women until their late 20s, but it’s a fairly large shock to the system just when one is adjusting to all the matching/hatching upheavals as well.

  6. Suki Says:

    This generation of women seems to believe that power comes from individual, independent strengths.
    Collectivism does not seem to appeal to them.

    Every year I see IWD celebrators growing older and older, with little to no influx from young women to replace us.

  7. tigtog Says:

    The cult of individualism has been on the rise for several decades, nursed along by corporatists as the handmaiden of consumerism. The more individualistic you are, the less you want to share, the more consumer items duplicating those already in the home you feel you must have so they are yours alone. The union movement has the same problem with the disinterest that younger workers have for collectivism.

    So, dismantling consumerism and cult-individualism. How-to?

  8. Suki Says:

    Collectivism occupies a redundant time-line. Its processes are not fast enough for our society’s short attention span. People constantly ask me “for the skinny on that”- no matter how complex the issue is. I think in terms of ‘bumper stickers’ to keep them engaged.

    The 21st century woman is by and large time poor. She makes decisions based on the most efficient use of that precious commodity.
    Time invested now, to advocate for a change in society, to benefit her daughters (and sons) yet born, is not common.

  9. Jennifer Says:

    I agree with tigtog — that in one’s late twenties one loses out by having to stand alone as a female, when many of one’s female colleagues have disappeared, taking softer options.

  10. Kate Says:

    Ah well. I know a few feministy-inclined women my age, so all is not lost.

  11. Renaissancewriter Says:

    Suki, I loved the idea- and I hope you are right. Sadly, we are regressing here in the USA, and as one of those latebirthed feminists (I was 18 in ’75), I remember before abortion was legal, equal pay was legal, etc.
    We haven’t come that far. Not yet.
    But, the blurring lines and the subtle appearance of equality make it easy for this generation to grow up THINKING they are equal (until they try to advance at Walmart say, or until they try to become a coach in the NBA, or be the Sr. Engineer in the Space administration). The USA made the “girl power” thing work as a prototype, a hood ornament if you will. Yes, You can have a Condi Rice in office– 3d tier. Don’t you dare try to run for President however. And- subtle but true, the women that appear to be near the top of the current political party are there at the pleasure of the old boys, making the rich white folks look good. They are there because they can tow a party line, put their own thoughts in a blind trust, and act the part for their superiors.
    I have noticed that once they get OUT of this administration, all of a sudden they find they really DO have balls- and learn how to use them. Christine Lahey is a fine example. As head of the EPA just out of New Jersey, she helped the goons mess up the environment as much as possible, roll back protections, gut programs, open lands, and ignore the global warming greenhouse effect for their oil partners. Now that she is free and clear, shes got a book out criticizing the same men she used to kowtow to. That is progress.
    I hate to see these wonderful, happy young women find out that there is a horrible backlash to all their independence coming, in the forms of repressive health laws, wage limits, job discriminations, and a host of other things. Using the “feminist” label might seem more appropriate to them then, even though they are embracing the fruits of feminists before them now.
    Women didn’t start this ideal in the 50’s- or the 40’s. Since America was founded, women have been kicking and jostling for nothing more than *equality* and the ability to make our own choices. Margaret Sanger and Mother Jones were there long before I ever came along and picketed against the pickets at a womens health clinic.
    Right now in South Dakota, abortion is officially illegal, since they have NO doctors performing the procedures there- they were all threatened and harassed out of town. Having a “right” to something doesn’t help if the availability is restricted.
    Us girls have to stick together- there will ALWAYS be people out there that need to have an “us and them” society, making women the “them”.
    Have a great day folks.

  12. Jennifer Says:

    Renaissancewriter’s words ring true to me, as well.

    What I understand about human rights, including female human rights, is that there is a very thin veneer of civilisation, here in Perth Western Australia. Should you once lose your footing on the thin silk mesh which supports you above the lower part patriarchal viciousness, the underlying quarter of patriarchy’s historical residues still simmering away beneath one’s feet — you are in dire straits. Few people will have the wherewhithal to first perceive the dilemma that you find yourself in — and secondly, to do something to help you. You’re on your own — Girl.

  13. Suki Says:

    Are you saying that the ‘sisterhood’ can’t or won’t help you when you need support? If that’s the case what use a collective?
    Or are you saying that women can also be vicious- workplace bullying data certainly bear out woman to woman viciousness.

    In the evening Peruvian women of a village link hands around the home of a female neighbour who is experiencing domestic violence and sing to remind the perpetrator that he is being ‘watched’ and his behaviour is ‘known’.
    This also serves to offer support to the woman.

  14. Jennifer Says:

    Suki — I was referring to men.
    I dont know exactly what the situation is with women in the workplace. Generally, I perceive most younger women — who have not experienced very much of life in various ways — as being emotionally immature and having bought into a superficial individualist ideology. So, certainly such women CAN be both indifferent to one’s personal hardships as well as vicious — bringing one down to the point that one effectively ends up in the grasp of patriarchal (male) clasps again. (I won’t go into detail with the last sentence — but email me privately if you want a fuller explication.)

  15. weezil Says:

    Jennifer, mind your generalisations.

    Yes, quite a number of men are patriarchal bullies, but as Suki points out, it’s not a syndrome owned solely by men. Nor are all men patriarchal bullies.

    Find those men who buy into an equal social structure- and value them. They are your bridge to and your lever upon men who don’t value women.

  16. Jennifer Says:

    HI Weezil

    What you the presumption that I was speaking about all men? I certainly didn’t say I was. I was speaking about a particular situation in the past — one which I am certain could easily repeat if the circumstances were the same or similar. I offered to clarify this further by private email.

    You are making certain presumptions about my present relationships with males.

    I wonder why.

  17. girlchild Says:

    Dont complain about domestic violence still being a problem for women, beat him back, dont complain about work not being equal get more competent, STOP Complaining about inequality and just get better and get more. The more all you old femseps sit around and ponder how much inequality there is going on the more you will feel it. Get off your arses and just be, you’ll find that its not that hard.

    Sure you could probably class most women anywhere as feminists but the word has a stigma that defines those women as wanting to beat men at their game, if you play right you’ll be on their side instead of against them. Get tactical not bitter!

  18. Jennifer Says:

    girlchild, so the way to improve the status of individual women is for us to adopt a whole swagbag of reifications (abstractions)?

    These glittery words sort of range in their solicitations between the emotionally evocative “just be” and the passionate (but as yet empty) reverberation implied by “get[ting] more competent”.

    Thankyou girly.

    I’m sure that as I continue to make my non-bitter way through the world, several of these reifications stuck jauntily in my backpack, I shall encounter the best of self-aware outcomes that is available to a contemporary … person … of today!

  19. Mike B) Says:

    Sukie wrote:

    The 21st century woman is by and large time poor. She makes decisions based on the most efficient use of that precious commodity.
    Time invested now, to advocate for a change in society, to benefit her daughters (and sons) yet born, is not common.


    Two good points, Sukie. We’re all time poor and our time and skills are commodities which we sell for wages. Often, we don’t claim legitimate overtime because we’re afraid of losing our means of making a living.
    In short, 90% of us, men and women, are wage-slaves.

    Back in the 19th Century men and women saw relevance in shortening the work week, in order to have more time for themselves, their families and their friends, not to mention their pleasures. The movement for the eight hour day was born back then and essentially, that’s where the whole labor day tradition of having a holiday on May 1st originated. Of course, the polytricksters didn’t get around to legitimizing the eight hour day until the mid-20th Century, after countless demonstrations and other classwide activity. But what’s even more astounding is that women didn’t have the right to vote in a lot of industrialized countries until 1945 e.g France.

    It takes a long time and a LOT of collective action and a more mature consciouness to move history in the direction of greater freedom and less authoritarianism. Feminism exists because women in various places on the planet are all treated as less politically relevant (to varying degrees) than men are. Statistical, anecdotal, legal, cultural evidence for this fact is everywhere to be found. Feminism is the conceptual language and activity which expresses the recognition of this social relation.

    I think that the, “superficial individualist ideology” to which Jennifer refers, is pretty much endemic in the workforce as a whole. This concept, along with a kind of “pop-Social-Darwinism” both feed into notions that “we’ve come to the end of history” and “there is no alternative” and we might as well just see what we can get and shop until we drop. This kind of narrow individualism is a blind, nihilistic alley which leaves both men and women powerless. One is a powerless number.

    The point, of course, is to change that situation and that can only be done in solidarity with other, like minded, freedom loving people.

    Happy International Womens’ Day!

  20. girlchild Says:

    I do believe Jennifer that your only problem with the patriachy stems from your bitterness and your attitude. Once again get off your arse, and stop being bitter.

    Life is only the way you make it.
    Don’t blame your internal problems on something that has evolved when you have remained primitive. You are stuck in the past, and although we are sorry that you couldn’t join the party, please stop pooping on everyone who’s having a good time.

    Although I am referred to as the “girlchild” I am a young woman and would prefer if you restrained from the patronising ‘girly’ nickname you have so graciously given me.


  21. Suki Says:

    Hi Mike B),
    How we took for granted 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for family.

    Even on International Women’s Day, in the light of WorkChoices and the expected reduction of workers’ rights and fair wages, we should take a big-picture view and prioritise the reinvigoration of the union movement and union membership to bust this government.

  22. Suki Says:

    Hello girlchild,
    Welcome, welcome, welcome sweetheart to your mama’s on-line world.

    Jump on board and I’ll proudly give you a tour… 🙂

  23. Jennifer Says:

    Although I am referred to as the girlchild I am a young woman and would prefer if you restrained from the patronising girly nickname you have so graciously given me.

    Wow. it bites.

  24. Suki Says:


    -Yes SHE does!

  25. Jennifer Says:


    -Yes SHE does!

    Well, Suki, I don’t know anything about this character. I know far, far less than this … individual claims to know about me.

    I do treat him with the same measure of tone that he adopts though.

  26. Suki Says:

    Ok Jennifer, let me fill you in.
    The girlchild is not a he -SHE is my daughter.

    SHE is the subject of this post, and SHE has come by her Mama’s blog to speak for herself!
    If you bothered to read the comment threads you would have seen me welcome her.

  27. weezil Says:

    …and despite her proclivity for the odd bite, she has very nice teeth, too!

    However, all are advised to hit the deck when she is swinging around large calibre automatic weapons.

    There’s nothing nebulous in the grrrlchild’s statement advising women to stop bitching and get competent. It’s an admonishment she lives by. No men rule her world. If she wants it, she’ll have it and no one will stand in her way. If that’s not ‘feminism,’ I don’t know what is. Regardless, if she doesn’t want the ‘F’ word label, I’ll not only respect her wishes, but be in awe of them.

  28. Renaissancewriter Says:

    “The more all you old femseps sit around and ponder how much inequality there is going on the more you will feel it. Get off your arses and just be, youll find that its not that hard.”
    Well, an intelligent discussion degenerates into namecalling and disrespect, as well as assumptions and the same old yada yada. So long as women disrespect each other’s views and just ASSUME that what is working for THEM is going to work for some one ELSE, then we are just going to keep doing the same infighting.
    When the feminist movement began, it was instantly split by the moms who felt they needed to defend their choices and make their lives look “better” than what they were getting from the working women, and the working women felt they had to “defend” their choices to go into the workplace and put off having family and kids, at the exspense of the moms. It’s still dividing us today.
    Only now, I also see that there is a whole generation of women that are arrogantly obnoxious about anyone older than them. Someday, when you reach 30,40,50, I certaintly hope that you get a chance to read your own words and feel some sense of shame and remorse– and I pray that the world is such a good place that no younger women are still out there throwing their arrogant little opinions around without thinking about respect, solidarity, and the fact that EVERY woman should be happy, not just the ones that “got theirs”.

  29. Renaissancewriter Says:

    Suki- hopefully, you are personally respected in your home on your own merits. I am SURE your daughter will be happy in her life, and that she can take care of herself quite fine.
    Now, how many other people can she reach out to along the way– because, let’s face it, giving back is one of those hallmarks of maturity, humane consideration, and emotional stability.
    You must have one heck of a lot of lively discussions at your house!

  30. weezil Says:

    RW, the grrlchild is indeed respectful of others.

    What she’s saying is that she expects all situations to be of the conditions demanded by past feminsts, as though equality were a fait accompli. In a rather general sense, she sees no need to wear gauze skirts and have hairy armpits for the cause. In a nutshell- don’t dream it, be it (apologies to Rocky Horror).

  31. Suki Says:


    The girlchild is and will be who she chooses to be. No doubt her behaviour will upset some and inspire others. She is of her time. A time where women (and men) her age enjoy the privileges and opportunities that we as their parents have created for them.

    You ask if I am personally respected in my home. I wonder why.
    What is it about your pre-conceptions, (I assume of my young, feisty daughter) that led you to asking me that?

    I agree there have to be less assumptions of others if a dialogue is to occur between the generations of women basically all heading towards the same desire- that being the elimination of discrimination and gender equality, however, we as older feminists must also subscribe.

  32. Renaissancewriter Says:

    Something about the way her opinions came across to me made me want to know how you felt about it…notice that I did not just assume that you were or were not respected, just seeing the extreem oppositional poles (and knowing how my own teen can see my dinosaurian tendencies) made me wonder….. Suki has some *very* on target vibes, and is a woman that I enjoy dropping in on to see what portion of the universe she is dissecting. Her daughters wide sweeping generalizations without much underpinnings gave me pause as to how much of that was just public puffery as opposed to a regular diet that her mom has to share.

    As to Rocky– yep, THAT part I completely agree with and WANT young women to find, the idea that each of us should be able to live the way we envision it, and when we do what we think is right- for us- we should be able to do so without the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis) fortune raining down. But we cannot.
    I dare anyone out there to marry someone of the same sex. Or decide that they want to print pornography openly on the web. Or argue about religion in front of their catholic church, or complain about people who have children TO a large group of them.
    The State of South Dakota just outlawed a womans right to ANY abortion last week… and I doubt that even the beautiful girlchild will be able to understand the profound life changing affect that rule will have on the young women of that state, or the widening ripples of intimidation it spreads across our land.

    I had absolutely nothing in common with the women of the 20’s that went out in search of the vote, who disliked sex, who believed that alcohol was the root of all evil, and who often were at odds with some of the very things that I passionately worked for throughout the last 40 years. BUT* I respect the hell out of them and have spent hours reading about their times and the restraints they grew up with, rather than just blowing them off as irrellevant. The feminists of the 50’s were not where *I* was in the 70’s- but the idea that it was OK to just take what they worked hard for, lost families over, and were beaten in some cases for, and then dismiss anyone that wasn’t as “enlightened” as I was just blew me away and was something I felt could not go without comment. When someone writes that I should “get off my “arses” and just *be* and I will find it’s not hard”, their lack of either reality checks or respect or even any basic willingness to think about the ramifications of it is so mind boggling that failure to point out their narrow views would make it hard for me to like myself.
    It’s so nice to be one of the haves, but looking down on the have nots and making it sound like their *fault* is sooooooo unnecessary. It’s like being a woman who has never been raped and then snubbing a rape vicitim with the old line “well, it’s never happend to ME so I must be doing something right and since it happend to YOU it’s YOUR fault”.
    Short sighted.
    Sigh…. youth.
    I remember when I was that age, and yet, I don’t think I EVER had that kind of viewpoint of the world.

  33. Jennifer Says:

    When someone writes that I should get off my arses and just *be* and I will find its not hard, their lack of either reality checks or respect or even any basic willingness to think about the ramifications of it is so mind boggling that failure to point out their narrow views would make it hard for me to like myself.

    I condone this speaker’s message as both prudent and wise!

    Unfortunately, the arrogance and simple-mindedness of the girl child is entirely similar to mine, at a much earlier age. It is forgiveable, I think, because life alone teaches us some lessons. Also, one is more likely to recover from such lessons if one already has a certain thick-skinned arrogance.

  34. weezil Says:

    The grrlchild is neither arrogant nor simple minded. She’s very smart- she just doesn’t live life spoiling for a fight- unlike some folks.

    If someone puts a boulder in her road, she’s more apt to go through it than around or over it- but that is the fire of youth at work.

    Use extreme care when attacking a child when her mother is within earshot, capisce?

  35. girlchild Says:

    Apologies for my delayed response, I am a busy woman.

    Reading through your posts I can understand where you can draw assumptions about my arrogance, but I make no apologies, this is a material world and I am a material girl. (That means I DON’T CARE)

    However there is one response that puzzles me. I could never see the connection between not aligning myself with *your* type of feminsist ideals, and snubbing a rape victim. Although an interesting comparision, it was completely dumbfounding. For someone who proclaims to not assume anything, you’re doing a pretty good job.

    I am not blaming anyone for being in whatever circumstances they are in, I merely become frustrated by people who complain about their situation rather than doing something to fix it.

    I knew there was a reason I stayed out of this whole blogesphere thing… All you lot ever do is roam the wild world web to find someone who’s opinions differ from yours, and leave your 2 cents worth.

    Enjoy your money squandering, and I’ll enjoy my arrogant, yet equal and proactive existence.

    Peace Out!

  36. Suki Says:

    Sad to see you go girlchild 🙁

    Totally understand your desire to be rather than type.

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