Glamour Magazine’s White Feminism, Criticism
I photograph weddings for income, and photograph social justice movements and activists for my own pleasure, and to satisfy the demands of my conscience. I came across this article this morning: http://feministing.com/2017/01/05/new-year-same-white-feminism-why-glamours-women-edition-falls-short/ I thought about it, myself and the people whose pictures I take. I shared the following thoughts on my personal page, and my white female friends stayed unusually silent while my black female friends rallied wholeheartedly: “She gets it!” I don’t take any pleasure in having black women approve of my narrative – indeed, it isn’t mine. Women of color have been yelling the same things for decades, at the top of their lungs – different versions on different days, but always the same, and apparently to deaf white ears. All I can really add that is unique, is my photography and sentence structure. And my authority and experience as a privileged white woman who chooses to see reality. I have a responsibility to yell the same story to other whites, in their native language.
I was raised to understand that there are as many hypocrites on the Left, if not more, than on the Right. And as I’ve grown, I’ve observed that most liberals are intolerant of dissenting arguments within their ranks, as evidenced by the backlash against any woman still not supporting Hillary after Bernie was out.
My feelings about Clinton and Dunham haven’t changed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’ve been intentionally harmful to women, as the article suggests, but certainly willfully blind to their own privilege, and publicly so. I use Clinton and Dunham as examples in this text, because they best represent the two generations of women that this letter addresses. Maybe blindness is worse. Because expecting to be championed as a feminist for going after glass ceilings is great, when feminism is noninclusive, the effect is an expression of entitlement to a following from all women, which in the 2016 election didn’t happen. And that is exactly why white women were shocked by the result of the election. If you think that is unfair, consider: we are not talking about private citizens, but public figures whose fame and income are realized by promoting notions of social responsibility, women’s rights and equality under the law. To those that suggest that criticism or judgment of a particular kind of feminism in favor of another is anti-feminist, I disagree and don’t care.
I could never support Hillary because I could never convince myself of her credibility – objectively qualified and remarkable in her accomplishments, to be sure, but inherently political. That to her, the means (flip-flopping and saying whatever was clever at the moment to curry favor with the audience of the day), always seemed to her, to justify the ends (becoming president). But the means matter, as is now hopefully evident. I have the identical problem with Dunham. Although she is apparently constitutionally incapable of talking about anything other than herself and her perceived sexual and physical attraction to men, under the premise that she accepts herself as she is, I have no doubt that she would wave a magic wand and wake up looking like Megan Fox in a heartbeat, if ever possible.
Let me be blunt: In 2017, the fair market value and earning potential of my educated brain is still vastly less than the black market value of my pussy. I’m speaking of dollars and cents. And I know it. Trying to stress the importance of academics to my very young daughters with that fact lingering like Reba’s “Fancy” in the back of my mind, is distracting. Those of us, like Dunham and myself, who were raised by well meaning baby boomers, expected more. We felt entitled to more. More value from our degrees, an easily purchased American Dream, and most of all, because of the incessant praise on which we were raised, for the world to continue to revolve around us after we left the nest. And now we have a fraction of all that in this generation of white women. Some of us recognized reality for what it is and adapted, and some of us still rely on our parents’ good name and success to fund, in one way or another, our adult selves and ventures. Perhaps they’re not mutually exclusive, but I’ve seen few examples of those that use such resources sparingly and as a last resort. Blame for that is less relevant than is our awareness of it.
And yet we expect women whose legitimate earning capacity is, at best, a minimum wage of $15 an hour (in 2020), minus any meaningful government subsidies, to praise Dunham for championing the fact that her “cellulite wasn’t airbrushed” on the cover? What an adolescent celebration. It’s as excruciatingly shallow and as one would expect from someone who had the nerve to write a memoir in her mid-20s, for which she was fronted millions by Random House. I’ll refrain from criticizing the book itself, since it’s already been appropriately critiqued for the self-indulgent drivel it is. Meanwhile, while an unremarkable well-off white girl graduated from Oberlin shows her thick thighs to the world, reveling in her newfound self-acceptance, a grown-ass woman down the street can’t afford a school lunch for her kids. And the thickness of her thighs, or yours, never crosses her mind, because she has known forever, that they would never be the obstacle to her success. Thighs thick or thin don’t put food on the table tonight. And sorry, Ms. Dunham, as other women learned long ago, most men don’t care anyway.
I was raised with privileges strikingly similar to those of Dunham and her “Girls,” and I was as properly self-conscious about it then as I am now. But I cannot focus on that, or let it get in the way of work, because it’s not about me. We haven’t been girls for many, many years now and what may have passed as an explainable limited teenage perspective, is inexcusable as adults. We’re not girls anymore; we’re women and it’s time to act right – to use our privilege by acknowledging it for what it is and challenging other whites to do the same. To get off our asses and take the burden of social progress on ourselves, instead of letting the victims of injustice and stagnation yell to deaf ears. To pick up all women from the floor and their knees by advocating some semblance of a society that supports equal opportunity and equal treatment under the law. And if we fail, we sure as hell can’t rationally expect the other (and numerically superior) women in this country to give a fuck about our pantsuit ambitions.