So, the new feminist dust-up is about the Obama cover of Ms. Magazine. It’s gone so far as to become a headline story on CNN this morning — with the familiar trope of trotting out two competing feminist women to duke it out.
The Question seems to be two-fold:
1. Is it okay for a man in a Superman pose to grace the cover of the iconic feminist magazine (insert disgruntled argument about Wonder Woman being on first Ms. cover)?
2. No matter how feminist Obama is, shouldn’t the icon of “what a feminist looks like” be a woman? (AKA: Hillary Clinton)
Maybe I’m not a good little feminist, my instincts on this do not match my fellow feminists. While I agree, we can never have enough strong, feminist, intelligent women shown positively in the media (be it in Ms. or any other outlet), I feel like it is a bit of a knee-jerk to summarily trash the Obama cover. (And ENOUGH with the Hillary worship! While in the Senate, she has not always voted for women’s issues because she could play more to the center in prep for her prez bid. So she’s not perfect either!)
I thought the point of feminism was not to institute a matriarchy or trash men because they’re male. I thought the idea was that we were fighting for equality. To celebrate that our next president is a feminist who just happens to be a man seems like a very positive step in the movement to me. And I think the world could use more examples of men being feminists.
And let me add to this point that I am disappointed and irritated that the discussion about this cover has less to do with the quality of Obama’s feminism (e.g. is he feminist enough to be claimed an icon?), but settles much more squarely on his gender. That is the base level to argue about. To me, someone’s gender should be irrelevant in a discussion about whether or not they are feminist, especially considering the consequences that might have on the transgendered community. It is the quality of their character and the actions they take that should define a person as feminist or not.
I’m sorry, but my definition of feminism does not include “required: breasts, vagina and uterus.” (Which, by the way, would leave out some biological females due to cancers and hysterectomies.)
Now, if the debate where about whether or not Obama is the most feminist politician or if he is indeed a feminist at all, that would be a worth-while discussion. In fact, I do not feel like I know enough about Obama in that deptment to say if I think he deserves this mantel.
But this is not the playground. Feminism is not a private club.
Let’s break this down even further. Feminist mothers out there, don’t you hope you are raising feminist sons? Feminists in relationships with men, don’t you look for feminist men? And yet, implicit in this Ms. Magazine hubabaloo is that in the world of feminism it is men who are the second-class citizens. You could never be the feminist I am because I have ovaries!
And let me just add that I don’t think we need to take orders from Ms. Magazine on who or what a feminist looks like either. I don’t even read that magazine anymore. To me it clings to very old-school and slightly regressive constructs of feminism and the women’s movement. Not to mention that it tends to leave out anyone who is not a Baby Boomer White Woman. Even if Ms. anoints someone a feminist icon, that doesn’t make it so. But I’m sure it will do wonders for their bottom line this year.