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Feminism

Hi Amy, First I would like to say that what you do here is great - this type of open discourse is a very positive thing. I am a subscriber to MS Magazine and have also read some of the things you have written and it is really refreshing to see someone so dedicated to women in such a positive way. I am a 29 year old woman who has been an HIV nurse for the past 5 years and will be attending law school in the fall. I consider myself a feminist and when push comes to shove, a radical one at that. I am writing to find out what you feel about the current Time Magazine cover story on feminism. When I read the story online (http://www.time.com), I was overcome with a horrible feeling...in part because I felt that as usual, the media had found yet another way to portray feminism as a dying, obsolete movement, and in part because I felt that some of the critiques of the current feminist movement were true.

Growing up in a conservative family, and realizing very early that I was gay, feminism was an important source of support and focus in my life. Gloria Steinem was (and still is) my hero. Feminism encouraged me to focus on myself, be proud of who I was...but more more importantly, it encouraged me to empathize with other oppressed groups, and take an active role in working to end that oppression. I liked the idea of not playing by the rules, because the rules were inherently unjust. What disturbed me about this article is that it reinforced what I have been seeing more and more of lately; feminists of my generation who are self-obsessed, ultra-materialistic and a tad bit elitist. Much of it seems to fly in the face of what people like Gloria Steinem, Patricia Ireland, and Robin Morgan fought so hard for. Is feminism in our generation about changing the patriarchal system and evenly distributing rights and economic benefits, or is it about "I'm a woman and I want what they have"? If it is about the latter then perhaps I missed something. The feminism of the 70's and 80's gave me a strong sense of myself..and also a strong sense of responsibility towards changing the system and realizing how I may inadvertently play a role in the oppression of others.

It gave me the ability of noticing... to be sitting in a classroom and notice that all the students are white, to be at a meeting in the dining room of the Ritz Carlton and to notice that certain people are not welcome there...even if they did have the economic means... I am interested in what you feel about our generation of feminists, particularly as you are a member of the group Third Wave. The Time article noted that feminism had become very glitzy...more interested in fancy parties with celebrities and showing that we are sexual (no kidding) than in addressing such depressing topics as the glass ceiling, health care etc... When I read the NY Times piece by Gloria I almost fell out of my chair...is this what we have become...a PR movement willing to sacrifice certain people and issues as a Thank You for political support? This is disturbing to me.

I do realize that the media only focuses on certain people and certain aspects of feminism (usually those aspects that make it look bad), but I have noticed that many prominent young feminists seem to be very interested in self-promotion and celebrity - as Susan Brownmiller said in the article, "they seem to be making individual bids for stardom." What is your feeling on this? I realize that feminism must change with the times, but I hope we stay true to our core values, which are collective goals, rather than becoming a PR machine that seeks to promote the interests and celebrity of just a few. Heroes aren't elected, they aren't made, they just happen.

Thank you for taking the time to read this...and keep up the good work:)))

Be Well-

Stacy Beam


Thanks for your note to Feminist.com--and for all of your great thoughts about the Time Magazine piece. I, too, felt very conflicted over the piece. Many of the individuals thoughts/ideas I agreed with--but the overall picture didn't sit well with me. I happen to know the writer and I know that her intentions weren't that bad. However, although she was armed with information about what grassroots feminist activists were doing--she chose not to include that in her story at all. Some of that is the fault of the editor and just the way magazine articles are put together--but some of it is also her own for not pushing harder in that direction. I also think that feminists aren't without blame. For instance, much of the coverage of V-Day was silly and some of the celebrity participants don't identify as feminists. Our job as living, breathing, feminists is to make sure that the political link is inherent for those who symbolicly stand-up for the "cause."

That said, I have attached my letter to the editor--and hope that you will be inspired to send your own letter to Time (e-mail to letters@time.com. I think that your letter to me was so honest and powerful that it would make an impression on Time.

The one good thing to come out of this--is that is has encouraged us all to be more united and vocal in our efforts.

Thanks again for your note--and for your thoughts, which will certainly resonate with many people.

Good luck with everything--law school, working with the HIV nurse, and with ups and downs of life - In sisterhood.


Amy


23 June 1998

Time Magazine Letters
Time & Life Building
Rockefeller Center
New York, New York 10020

via fax: (212) 522-8949

To the Editors,

Ginia Bellafanteís "Feminism: Itís All About Me!" (June 29, 1998) ended where it should have began - building on the work of "Old Guard feminists." Bellafante caves into the same media-frenzied feminism that she attempts to critique. It was the Village Voice that claimed the Vagina Monologues as "the most important feminist event," not feminists. If she would have focused on what feminist activists are actually doing instead of on US Magazine, she would know that feminism is still about equal pay, job opportunities and equal parenting.

In contrast to Bellafanteís conclusion that "feminism today is wed to the culture of celebrity and self-obsession" feminism remains committed to social change. For example, the Third Wave Foundation, a national organization for young feminist activists, is not about the Ally McBeals of the world. Instead, their efforts have been to deepen and broaden feminismís roots - in short, to maintain a political movement. Third Wave arms its members with action alerts and information about how to make the political personal - the 90s version of the 70s adage. Third Wave also provides grants to young feminists and to the projects that serve them. Bellafanteís reporting implies that merely being a successful female actress or musician qualifies one as a representative of feminism. In fact, feminism is about being political, deliberate, and responsible in your choices.

The next time Time proposes a cover story on feminism, I propose that you talk to more of todayís thousands of activists than todayís handful of celebrities.

Sincerely,

Amelia Richards

 

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