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Warren DeMontague

(80,708 posts)
Sat Jul 21, 2012, 06:15 PM Jul 2012

On Marissa Mayer, words, labels, self-identification and group affiliation. [View all]

Last edited Sat Jul 21, 2012, 07:23 PM - Edit history (4)

As many are no doubt aware, Marissa Mayer is set to become CEO of Yahoo. This is exciting and good news for professional women, and women in business, because there has, absolutely, been a dearth of female CEOs in corporate America. It beehoves us to celebrate whenever barriers are broken, and we take steps towards a more genuine meritocracy in business and public life.

Yet Marissa Mayer is taking some heat from the professional complaining classes, the full-time 2nd wave blogosphere, among others; her "crime"? Well, she said out loud what a lot of people, a lot of women, a lot of professional women feel: That "Feminist", the label, connotes a whole ledger of negative implications.


What's interesting here is the flexible umbrella of meanings which "Feminist" is held to cover. Not just by folks like Mayer, but by the esrtwhile outraged defenders of the word.

Let's head back to meanings and labels for a moment, shall we? For one, look at the oft-tossed-about "MRA" or "Men's Rights Activist" label. Do I believe men have rights? Men should have rights? Men should have equal rights? Absolutely. And am I an "activist", for equal rights for everyone? Again, absolutely. But do I self-apply the MRA label or anything resembling it? No, as I have repeatedly stated, I do not.

Why? Well, in addition to the other reasons I laid out in threads like this one, the folks calling themselves MRAs say a lot of despicable shit and argue a whole host of questionable, even noxious points.

I think something similar is happening with Marissa Mayer and the word "Feminist". Perhaps she reads stuff like this and doesn't want anything to do with it.

Now, let me also add that I do consider myself a Feminist, in the traditional sense of the word- I support equal rights for women, as well as everyone else. I wholeheartedly support reproductive freedom, etc. I will fight with every fiber of my being against the Religious Right, Republican War on Women. I promise.

And if "Feminist" was really thought, in the general public mind, to equal these things, I have no doubt that MM would not distance herself from the word. Marissa Mayer may not be aware of the schisms and divisions that have taken place in Feminist thought over the past few decades, and certainly may not realize that the 2nd wave authoritarians who, to many of our minds, were responsible for the tarnishing of the Feminist brand, have been rapidly losing influence and relevance.

As long as we all understand that "militant" and "chip on the shoulder" are euphemisms for "willingness to challenge sexism directly, even though it means that men will yell at you," it doesn't get more clear than that.

But, doesn't it? Perhaps when distinctions of Feminism were muddied by the folks who teamed up with the likes of Ed Meese to advocate censorship, under the guise of "challenging sexism", that was when pro-freedom and anti-censorship yet pro-equality forces started to tune you out. Let's be clear: Marissa Mayer is going to be CEO of an internet company. The internet has, as one of its core linchpins, the free and open exchange of information. The 2nd Wave forces who have steadfastly tried to claim they "speak for all Feminists" for the past many years, holed up in isolated enclaves like the Smith College Womens Studies department--- who regularly denigrate dissenting women as being "funfems" or sellouts to the Patriarchal penis-plot or worse, they have made a central point of their agenda (really, at times, it seems the ONLY point) railing against the free exchange of information, decrying as "problematic" all the naked digital breasts flying around cyberspace, and generally dragging their heels as the rest of the world moves into the information age.

Because it is very hard, if not impossible, to stop people from watching other people fuck on film, in the information age. The same internet that allows folks with fringe beliefs on matters of sexuality and gender politics to communicate with each other between, say, the Australian Outback, the wilds of Arizona, and a fortress of Solitude in Canada, allows people to easily view things like pictures of consenting adults having sex.

So why would Marissa Mayer, newly minted CEO of an internet company, want to align herself with a label that has been claimed, repeatedly, as the sovereign and sole turf of pro-censorship authoritarians? She wouldn't.

What's funny is, the "Feminists" outraged about this, in this context, all of a sudden want to make "Feminism" about things like choice, which most of Silicon Valley, for instance, agrees with. But the other 23 hours of the day, they have no problem kicking out or otherwise denigrating Feminists who are dedicated to choice, when that "choice" comes with all sorts of ideas about "problematic consent" and behaviors they don't agree with.

Here's my advice: Make Feminism-the-word about things like choice, freedom and yes equality, and stop denigrating and ridiculing women who don't think heterosexual sex or pictures of naked people are inherently oppressive. That's the way to rehabilitate the label. Otherwise, again, it's the express train to irrelevance, as indicated by folks like Marissa Mayer.

And for fuck's sake, leave her (and her so-called "sensible 3 inch heels", which frankly -and I know a lot of professional silicon valley women- no one wears) alone. She just got made CEO of a company which essentially has no business plan, no product, and no revenue generating mechanism. She's got enough to worry about without the professional complaint class sniping at her.
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