There is a special face-shaped dent in many a feminist's desk thanks to the writings of Katie Roiphe. She's at it again today ("it" being a short-sighted, wrongheaded take on modern feminism) with her latest article, "The Mockery Feminists."
Among many problems with this obviously trolling opinion piece (and yes, I know I'm doing exactly what Slate and Roiphe want by commenting on the article but we should still call out this kind of bullshit when we see it), Roiphe posits that feminists are funnier nowadays than our oh-so-serious forebears, and she name drops approximately three famous white women to prove it.
In contemplating the rise and fall of various feminist tomes recently, one can't help wondering if the era of earnest popular feminism is over. Are serious, straight feminist figures less in vogue than the ironic, the funny, the hard-drinking, the wisecracking?
IT IS ONE OR THE OTHER YOU GUYS.
The tone [of these "various feminist tomes"] is less urgent and more queenly. It contains the idea that feminism is cool, and that it will mock you like a cool and impressive girl at the lunch table if you are in violation of its principles. The idea is to make fun of your enemies, not preach at them.
Forgive me if this sounds too "queenly," but here are just a handful of things I find wrong with this piece:
- It assumes that feminists are either funny or serious. What person could be both?! Roiphe can't imagine such a nuanced being.
- Tina Fey, Caitlin Moran, Naomi Wolf, and Jezebel make up the whole of Feminism with a capital F. Apparently all feminists are wealthy, white, cisgendered, able-bodied, and famous (no they aren't).
- Roiphe labels Jessica Valenti and Rebecca Traister as "dead-serious feminists full of straightforward old-fashioned indignation," the exceptions to her rule that feminists must be hilarious nowadays. What?
- Humor must go hand in hand with drinking. If you're being ironic, it's because you are drunk.
- The piece ignores the Internet in general, as if technology played no role in this "vibrant, chattering feminist blogosphere." Maybe feminists seem funnier now that we did 20 years ago because there are more of us online, being funny? If the Internet isn't an ideal medium for the type of "mockery" Roiphe's talking about, I don't know what is.
- It assumes the funny feminist is still an oxymoron to most people.
- It reduces decades of feminist activism to having, "energized and animated a pretty jaded and busy generation or two for a few minutes on the train on the way to work."
Ah yes, because that's really all we feminists aspire to, funny or not. Forget about gender inequality and patriarchy and the War on Women and racism and ableism and homophobia and every other shitty thing feminists fight against, this is just about having a great train ride and a few LOLz!
There are funny feminists out there to be sure, and serious ones too. And laughing on the way to work is a good thing, but it's not everything. Feminism is as multifaceted, problematic, awesome, hilarious, important, frivolous, and sad as the people who identify with it. And lots of people who do social justice work don't identify as feminists, and a big reason for that is articles like this one that privilege a few famous white women and make infuriating generalizations. So thanks for that, Roiphe.
Read the full article here, but don't say I didn't warn you about that face-shaped dent in your desk.