Feminists should fight the hairy-legged lesbian stereotype because it alienates the young ones, says Monica Dux, the co-author of The Great Feminist Denial. I say the problem with Australian feminism is not hairy lesbians, but the movement’s penchant for replacing them with suburban mums.
If it seems feminism is a bit old hat – or that it’s losing more of its battles – perhaps it is not because the average girl-child is scared of hairy legs, whether belonging to a lesbian or not.
Perhaps it is because the type of girl-child inclined to be feminist finds it difficult to get excited about work/life balance, or equitable housekeeping, or any movement that would call her a girl-child.
I, for one, will scream if I have to sit through another panel discussion about how this country devalues mothers and motherhood. This country thinks motherhood is the most important thing in the world. It’s so important, we ensure women do it despite discrimination, inequality, financial dependency and abuse.
What is devalued is women who do other things than just raise the next generation of consumers. Where despairing feminists such as Dux go wrong is to assume the average young woman would be a feminist if feminists looked just like her. But the average woman, young or old, has never identified with feminism and isn’t likely to any time soon.
Feminism is a movement of revolutionary change. It demands women take full responsibility for their lives, financially and emotionally. It requires the personal to be political, which means the good of the community, the world, our fellow women and each other’s children may demand that we give up individual desires that are in conflict with this larger good.
Feminism is not easy. Perhaps that is why many women, young and old, find it difficult to rally around it. But making it easier by limiting women’s choices – mainly whether to work or not while raising a child – dangerously dilutes its power.
What is the point of attracting young women to feminism if feminists become simply a bunch of waxen, anorexic, botoxed mannequins, with badly-behaved children, complaining their husbands don’t do enough housework?
Arguing the Western media undermined feminism by narrowing its field to a misrepresentation of the radical feminist is hardly new, and it seems awfully like accepting the imaginings of a misogynist mainstream than a fight against them.
Ditching the hairy-legged lesbian not only capitulates to a culture that requires the traditional family unit to uphold the inequalities of contemporary capitalism, but it also ditches a core message of feminism, that a woman’s value should not be in her beauty, proscribed femininity or heterosexual availability.