The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

It's Just Lunch....or IS IT??

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

RIP: Susan Sontag

I was raised by a feminist (my mom), and all the other women on both sides of my family are strong-willed and don’t take crap from anyone. My mom’s friends were either lesbians or radicals and I never really experienced “traditional” wives and mothers. My friend’s moms who might be more “traditional” seemed to be either ignorant or naïve. So, I never understood the retrograde douchebags in my conservative suburban hometown who worried that feminists were going too far…cause none of this stuff ever bothered my dad.

Then I started dating and loving women and realized that many, many of them want to be pampered and have stuff fixed for them (sometimes?). My first reaction- that ain’t me babe. Then I started to accuse these women of betraying feminism. After many slaps in the face…usually instigated by me arguing that women can’t have their cake and eat it too…I have realized that lots of smart, intelligent, and strong women sometimes want to be treated like the ladies of Little Women. I’m starting to learn that nowadays women can be truly feminists and expect to be treated a certain way. I don’t get it, but I’m learning.

But, what I’ll never understand is the way women denigrate first-wave feminists like Sontag. We are one generation removed from a time when women who wanted to work were expected to be nurses or teachers. We are half a generation away from a time when women with professional careers were expected to also cook and clean. Sontag and a handful of other women broke down centuries of barriers. I can conceptualize why men might have a knee-jerk reaction to this change and accuse all the feminists of being bra burning bull dykes. But, I’ll never understand why many women dismiss these liberators as freaks. The sad reality is that most women my age (26) are not comfortable calling themselves feminists. This may just be a question of terminology, because I know that most of the women I know certainly act like feminists. But, in dismissing the word “feminists” they are also dismissing women like Sontag who fought their entire lives so that we, as a society, can get to where we are today.

Part of the dismissal of first-wave feminists may be that women are not a minority and therefore don’t see the need for a “minority mindset.” That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean that at one point in our recent past women were a functional minority (even as a majority of the population) and that it took people like Sontag to change that. Respecting those that created the world we live in does not mean anything more than that…respect. Its not political, or at least it doesn’t have to be.

So, as much as she was a “high priest of the avant-garde” or “one of America’s leading intellectuals,” why can’t we remember Sontag as, first and foremost, a FEMINIST.


At 5:55 PM, Blogger rfn said...

sing it, sister! while i'm admittedly not a woman your age, you can call me a feminist any day...


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