So according to the outside world (feminists live inside a stormy bubble filled with hornets and smoldering bras), feminism is either TAKING OVER THE WOOOOORLD WITH IT’S RADICAL AGENDA HIDEYOURPROTONZZZZZZ or, according to the CBC, totally boring, unhip, and overrun with rich white ladies.
Now, I am as titillated as the as the next feminist to hear the word even acknowledged by mainstream media and when I heard there was going to be a WHOLE MOVIE about my one true love, I was more than pleased. Alas, the film did not do us justice. Nor did it really ‘do’ much of anything aside from remind us that EVERYTHING STILL SUCKS. And NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Except Naomi Wolf.
Last night, the CBC aired The “F” Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist and, while on one hand the film made a concerted effort to show us exactly why feminism was still necessary in Canada; pointing out that, according to the Gender Gap Report, we have gradually fallen from number 7 in terms of equitable treatment of women among countries around the world, to number 20, just behind Latvia and, indeed, now, behind the United States (*gasp* but we Canadians are sooooo progressive!), as well as showing us the myriad of young faces who don’t want to actually call themselves ‘feminist’ (you remember that backlash? Yeah well it worked); on the other hand it presented a view of feminism that was not at all relevant or in touch with what is actually going on in the movement.
If the film was meant to inspire us to action (us, one would gather, being those young white women who supposedly think feminism is about birkenstocks and rejecting razors, which is, as far as stereotypes go, SO TIRED), I’m not sure that it will acheive it’s desired impact.
First of all, if we are trying to make feminism seem engaging and relatable and useful and relevant, it probably, as noted by several frustrated commenters on the CBC’s doc page, shouldn’t have left out just about everything that is central and important to feminist activism and debates in Canada today. Namely, the BIGGAPINGHOLE left where Canadian feminists could have been (this was a Canadian documentary was it not?), the continued marginalization and oppression AND activism of women of colour, and, um, like, oh right, FIRST NATIONS WOMEN, their work, their activism, and the issues that impact them, as well as the vast amount of work that is, in fact, being done by young women (the film did include a brief section on Jessica Yee, who is doing some really great work which you should all check out, but after a string of older, white, middle class, liberal and conservative feminists, it was very obviously a last-ditch effort at faking inclusivity), and a look at real life issues impacting women and feminists in Canada – the Missing and Murdered women, poverty, violence, prostitution laws, social housing, rape, pornography, domestic abuse (which was mentioned briefly, though without depth), you get the picture.
Is feminism all about seats on corporate boards, glass ceilings and Hilary Cinton? Where was radical feminism? Where were LGTB activists? Where were all the women fighting poverty and racism and violence on the Downtown Eastside (and across the country)?
As much as I do believe it is so important to remember and respect all the work done by our First and Second wave sisters, this film appears to be framed as a look at today and what is happening with women and in the movement in the here and now.
As far as that OTHER F Word (yes, we do realize we do not have the most original of names, le sigh) is concerned, feminism looks like this:
But mostly this:
So, I wonder, were I not very familiar with the movement (all waves included), how would I answer the filmmaker’s question? Who does want to be a feminist? As far as I can tell, a few middle of the road, non-radical, older, academic white ladies. What, exactly, was the purpose of this doc? I mean, WHO are these people; Judy Holm and Michael McNamara, who felt qualified to take on this issue? Have they ever visited feministonia? Do they have any interest or knowlege or background AT. ALL. in the feminist movement?
Michael McNamara seems to have had little involvement in the movement since watching from the sidelines a few decades ago saying: “When I heard about the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, myself and my business partner Judy Holm started talking about it, assuming feminist issues had really improved. We were surprised to learn they haven’t.” and that their goal in making the film was “to look at women in three key areas – in the home, in the workplace and in the political arena – so we sought out those who could speak to those areas although of course there are a lot of other areas.” This just doesn’t strike me as the opinion of someone who is actively engaged, at the ground level, in feminist activism.
Judy Holm is quoted in The Vancouver Sun as saying: “As a middle-aged woman who came of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and ’70s, I was surprised. Back then I assumed everything would be fine, that there would always be an awareness of women’s rights and that they would continue to be paramount in people’s minds. I was wrong.” Ok….So where have you been all this time?
I would like to know why these people, specifically, were funded to make this film? What expertise did they have? Could we have not found folks who could present a more accurate, a more representative, a more knowledgeable perspective? I, like many viewers, I imagine, have many questions. But mainly, I would like to echo that which commenter ElizabethP wrote: WHATTHEHELLCBC.
If you are interested in watching the doc, it airs on CBC tonight at 10pm (PST). Or you can watch online here: