Women’s Studies Victims

I take the title of this blog from an Of Montreal song of the same name, and while the song lyrics from it have nothing much to do with this blog, the sentiment is within the same vein. It’s the idea that got me started thinking about things, and has inspired enough material to form a lengthy blog post. Here’s the question I got stuck on last night: can someone be a victim of a women’s studies student? I think so. As much as the feminist needs to be heard and the issues addressed that they speak to, I think we can alienate and drive away would-be supporters with an offering of a  fist where an open hand would suffice. 

Consider this scenario…I was killing a few hours in the bookstore last night, and found myself in the women’s studies section. Haunting the bookstore on an almost daily basis for the past three years, I honestly had never run across this section. And why is this? Am I just the pretentious sort that thinks I’ve got a firm enough grasp on the issues within to not need any more source material? Perhaps, but I’m going to cite some other reasons why I think I haven’t found this section, and why others are probably not bothering to waste the effort on this category. I’ll also get to the bit on the “victim” part of my title, so hang with me. 

So…here’s the Women’s Studies section…

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It’s five shelves and, due to the limited number of titles (I guess), one of these shelves is used to display a couple of titles that may be of interest to readers of this section. It’s located in between the “Sports” section and the “African American” literature section. This is probably why I didn’t find the section for so long. And it’s my first gripe about the section. There’s four five shelf fixtures devoted to sports and only one to women’s studies and African American titles. It’s not even really subtle that the minority reads have been pushed back into this corner to die.

Further embarassment for this section comes from only a cursory inspection of the titles. Two of the four shelves that are “full” are actually the subsection of Gay Studies titles that have been lumped into the overall heading of Women’s Studies. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a full supporter of gay rights, and well…rights in general for everyone. But the connection between the LGBT community and femminism is something that sometimes backfires in the campaign for both issues. I can’t tell you how many times that mentioning feminism has led to the discussion of preference of sexuality or outright questioning if I am a lesbian. Putting the titles on women’s rights and gay rights under this heading is convenient perhaps, but irksome all the same. Even more frustrating for all involved in this scenario is that 75% of the titles under gay studies are erotica. It’s hard to be taken seriously in a cause when under the section’s literature it’s all titles of this sort. Those looking for factual information on the issues facing these minorities are not neccessarily going to be willing to wade through these titles to find something that gets to the struggle beyond the bedroom. (Sorry, puns…eh) But these are the titles that sell, because that is how the stock of bookstores works.   

Looking closer at the two shelves that are truly the women’s studies section, there’s some pretty raw farce at play here too. Three titles jumped out at me right off the bat. These are pictured below…

 

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The first  picture shows, side by side, two of the titles that first envoked my ire and set me in motion to blog. The one of the left is titled “Mistress,” and is a history of “the other woman” throughout the ages. Awesome. When I send someone to the Women’s Studies section, the first thing I want them seeing is NOT a book on how a  few bold broads commandeered other women’s husbands. Not even touching on the fact that these women probably were not fully at fault in their extramarital endeavors, it’s just not really something that screams empowerment and women’s rights. Quite frankly, it’s the opposite, and it’s almost catty to have it in this section. When I think about being a strong and independent woman, I don’t feel the need to look at another woman’s man. Being a mistress or a cuckold is not something to really get enthralled with. 

And then there’s the book beside “Mistresses,” and here’s where I’m on a bit of ground less firm. This title is called “Sexy Feminism.” I’m all for the adjective “sexy.” When someone tells me I look sexy, I take it as a great compliment, and it makes me feel pretty badass. Because “sexy” is a charged word, and it’s something that women are seeking (sometimes shamelessly I’ll admit) to add to their definition. I also identify with the title of feminist. I take exception though when I see a book called “sexy feminism” because it implies that there is such a thing as “Unsexy feminism.” I’m not trying to be overly sensitive here, but my thought is that feminism CAN be sexy and it CAN be about feeling appealing in your own skin, but it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. If you want to be a feminist and do something decidedly “unsexy” like…I dunno, eat four or five cookies in one sitting, then you should be able to do that. I’m just thinking this title was a “how-to” guide on how to get to being a sexy feminist. It’s like you don’t have to work to get to this. If you say you are a feminist, I’m not going to question your sexiness. The two are separate entities, and coupling them works to damage both terms.

This being said, I think I may have been guilty of creating a “women’s studies victim.” I was having a discussion via text, which was my first mistake on expressing anything like this without running the risk of misrepressenting and not expressing ideas in a tidy fashion. And to the friend I was having the banter with on my thoughts about this women’s studies section, I felt later that I was being a bit of a “bra burner.” That is to say, I think my effort to represent feminism and be proud of the ideas I think compose it, turned into a tirade with what I think is wrong with it’s perception and limits. I’m frustrated when feminism falls short, and things like rape happen or a woman’s choice to make decisions about her body and her mind are blocked. I think this is why I get a little preachy when I see the roadblocks, and thereby I ignore that support or good elements that may underlie these. This friend of mine is a supporter of women’s rights (and that’s pretty sexy too, by the way), and I was not helping the cause by nitpicking on a statement he made that asserted that he thought feminists were sexy. So, I acknowlede his support and say that I don’t take back what I said, but I do agree feminism is sexy.

Even this feels badly articulated, and thus I admit my limits on explanation are sometimes reached. So I leave the question and topic open…how do we make the message of feminism heard, and not ostracize the supporters? How do we have rational discussion on the topic and not lapse into the complaining of what is wrong with the movement? I really would like to find out, because I enjoy talking about feminism, but I don’t want to be the person who can’t have a talk with someone about something unrelated to feminism and end up coming back to feminism faults. I’m trying to say, feminism is not my life, but it is my life. I’m hoping my co-blogger on this topic can flush this out a bit more, along with her throughts on the women’s studies section. I’m sure she can also speak more to the “Suicide Girls” featured title in this section, and why this gets us all riled up as well. Look for her upcoming rebuttal and such at brandidrown.wordpress.com    

And then there’s the last title from this section that really made me do an eye roll.

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The book is called “The End of Men,” subtitled “The Rise of Women.” UGH. NO. The “rise of women”will not happen when the supposed reign of men ends. It happens when you stand up for yourself and you make your own choices and are not only allowed but respected as well. And my brand of feminism at least is not about dethroning anyone, certainly not about “ending” men. I love men. (Shocker? Were we not paying attention back in the gay studies parsing part of this article? ha) I think having a book like this in the section is the most disturbing thing I encountered. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: men are our greatest ally in attaining equal rights. The rights of one group should not come at the expense of singling out, destroying, or working against another group. Besides that, it’s just idiotic to think that women would be better off in a world of no men. A loving, supportive male partner to assist in your goal attainment and as someone you can support in their endeavors is a wonderful thing indeed. I look forward to the day that I can not insult a male ego by taking a guy out for valentine’s day or in some way put some role reversal on the “female privlidge” of the code of paying for a lady’s date and it not be something unheard of. 

 

I conclude this with the disclaimer of sorts that this is not in any way, shape or form meant to rail against the bookstore in question. The bookstore did not choose the selection of books within. The title list is dictated by sales. Sex sells. Ergo why there are several of these titles in-section. If customers would order-in other books and the demand for titles of more weight was called for, then I think the section would improve. This is where the consumer voice should come into play. If you go into a bookstore and do not see what you want, request they order it in. The people who read Duck Dynasty, Heaven is Real, and Glenn Beck sure do make their literary muscle known through buying power, and so should the other half.  

Well, this was enjoyable. Look for my co-blogger’s response at brandidrown.wordpress.com and please share your thoughts. I say with absolutely certainty that the only thing I know is that I don’t know. Meaning, I’m not the authority on this or any other subject and would love for someone to challenge me and change my mind. With only the slightest trace of sarcasm, I say: enlighten me. 

-Anna R. Kotopple

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