[BOOKS] The Failures of the New Feminism

2014+18woman's mag

From across the pond, by way of Arts & Letters Daily, this item: Even Germaine Greer, that curmudgeonly old feminist (her words!), has found cause to rejoice: Glossy women’s magazines are on the wane..

For The New StatesmanGermaine Greer writes: The most curmudgeonly old feminist has got to be glad that in February 2012 two young women set up a blog raging about the insidious nastiness of the women’s press and got seven million hits in its first year of operation.

“Feminism in Britain has had two strands: as a media phenomenon and as an academic discipline. The vast realm of reality that lies between remains unaffected by either.”

The hope springs up that there might be sufficient angry women out there and they might be sufficiently angry to bring about actual change. But then we’ve thought that before and before any difference could be made to anything, we were told that it was over and that feminism was a dirty word again. Feminism in Britain has had two strands: as a media phenomenon and as an academic discipline. The vast realm of reality that lies between remains 41D9Lko6VIL._SL110_unaffected by either.

[Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s book The Vagenda is available from Amazon.com]

Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who set up the Vagenda blog, have now uttered a book of the same name. The title was meant to be an ironic version of the portmanteau words adopted by the lower end of the women’s press – a compound of “vagina” and “agenda” – but, like much of the wordplay on the blog and in the book, it doesn’t really work, being neither amusing nor informative. 51zLKh6TlpL._AC_SR98,95_“Vagina” is a vile name for any female orifice, because it means “scabbard”.

[Germaine Greer’s most recent book is White Beech: The Rainforest Years]

No feminist could in conscience adopt it despite the never-ending afterlife of the ghastly Vagina Monologues. A similar insensitivity besets The Vagenda, the book. The jacket design is as offensive as anything ever seen in print. It is based on the logo for the blog but with a hideous refinement; the image of a nude female from waist to nearly knee, now photographic, has a chunk ripped out of it, extending from hipbone to hipbone to below the mons pubis, forming a gaping black triangle, in which appear the words “The Vagenda” in Barbie pink. The page book-everyday-sexismdesign is almost as brutal as the cover.

[Check out Laura Bates’ book: Everyday Sexism at Amazon.com]

The writing style of the book takes its cue from the hyperbole of the magazines that are under attack and struggles to outdo it. Baxter and Cosslett (who also write the V Spot blog on the New Statesman website) tell us that, in their personal experience, “Losing your hymen is about as pleasurable as having someone rap your knuckles with a frozen veggie sausage.” Do they seriously wish us to believe that their hymen somehow got lost and that they were aware of its getting lost at the time? That is no more likely than that someone, anyone, would have rapped them on the knuckles with a sausage of any kind, much less vegetarian, much less frozen. To refer to a first episode of penetrative sex as hymen loss reveals a level of ignorance that is positively medieval. Read the rest of this entry »