Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Citizen Girl

I just finished rereading one of my favorite books, Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (who also wrote The Nanny Diaries). The book deals with a young twentysomething Girl who is just out of college, and I highly recommend it. The book's conflict centers around the recent changes in the feminist ideal... and while I haven't taken a Gender Studies course, I do think, and watch media, and look around. Feminism has really changed: it's portrayed as an eye-rolling, bra-burning, embarrassing thing for a woman to proclaim herself to be.

It's not like we haven't always portrayed feminists as something that was better swept under the rug, but the sweeping motion seems to have changed. I think Citizen Girl does a great job of portraying the change: now we have girls who proclaim to be feminists, but who fail to see the irony in claiming that feminism allows them to be sexual. Girls in this generation seem to confuse sexual freedom with feminism.

I'm tired of movies that deliver the message both ways: girls, stand up for yourselves and be feminists, but please sell your looks in a way that will attract the right kind of audience! I applaud McLaughlin and Kraus for representing the real issues in gender roles in a smooth media package. It's about time.

I'm not sure that I've explained myself clearly, so I'm going to include an excerpt from the book:

"How many of you call yourselves 'feminists'"?
The same four hands stay extended...
"Why?" I ask. The unraised arms remain clamped across chests, firm in their postion. "Why wouldn't you call yourself a feminist?"
"We don't hate men," says one with a shrug, speaking for the group.
I blink at them, my head filling with a dozen extraordinarily un-neutral tacks. "It's not at all about hate. Or an enemy." I grapple unsuccessfully for nonleading language. "It's about every one of you walking out that door, graduating, and leading a life where your gender doesn't determine your salary, your welfare, your health care, or your safety. And ther's no reason that has to be at the expense of anybody else. Or your sexuality. It's not a negative movement... It's a positive one."

McLaughlin, E. and Kraus, N. (2004). Citizen girl. New York: Atria Books.

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