GUERRILLA GIRLS: Women in their twenties have mothers in their 40s and 50s who could have been heavily involved in the feminist movement or who may not have been. This might play a big part in how they view feminism.
LYNN FLIPPER: I was really young for the feminism of the '70s, so I think of it as the mainstream - Gloria Steinem - so that wasn't part of my peer group or culture, you know what I mean. I learned of it rather than experienced it. I think that for lesbians and lesbi-culture there was a sort of androgynous way of being equal, having a balanced relationship, and we don't have role playing and we don't play around with anything that's heterosexual, and being butch-femme in that community is sort of banned in a way, sort of disregarded in that time. Even though it existed previous to that, it was barred and in an underground scene. I think there was a sort of rejection of that and a lesson that we are all equals, which is nice stuff, but there are ways of having relationships that are equal but don't have to be this sort of "look the same, act the same" kind of thing. That's what Tribe 8 was spoofing, and it was sort of like pointing fingers, "well, them over there, they think this."
MARIA DAMON: Much of the buzz around "postfeminism," aside from the warped "Republican feminism," which others here have made short shrift of, is, I think, a generational struggle. "Feminism" as an ideological imperative can be as bullying, exclusionary and prescriptive - as maternalistic and matriarchal - as any paternalism or patriarchy, and can be as cruel, damaging, and blindered. In 1988 I coined the term "hegemommy" to refer to this generational fealty I felt expected to pay (and resented). (The term hasn't caught on yet beyond a coupla colleagues in my dept, but you heard it here first!) The critiques of "second wave" feminism can be as incisive and sophisticated as those mounted by bell hooks, Ruth Frankenberg or Judith Butler or as shallow, self-serving and mean-spirited as Camille Paglia's and Katy Roiphe's.
CAE: There are people across the spectrum - from the extreme right to the radical left - who are tired of feminism.
LYNN BREEDLOVE: A lot of people tend to not want to use the word "feminism" because to them it means a bra-burning liberation.
DEB MARGOLIN: When I visited a campus lately, a young woman said, "I'm not a feminist." Young women turn it into a dirty word.
DEB MARGOLIN: I said, "Do you respect yourself?" "Yes." "Then," I said, "you're a feminist." It's very simple. When you are a member of an oppressed group, your self- respect gets a name. When you're just some white man who respects himself, you're just a dude who don't take shit from nobody. When you are not supposed to have it, your self-respect gets a name.
CAE: It seems as though we were headed toward a liberated way of thinking, but as time went on everything, including feminism, became more restricted.
LYNN BREEDLOVE: To say that feminism is over and that postfeminism means that we don't have to fight for our rights anymore since it's all cool now because we're equal is wrong because we're not. Feminism is not over. Therefore, I don't think we can be letting go of it. It's definitely not over. It doesn't show any signs of being over. Women are really not considered as important as men - they're not. This isn't a revolutionary thing to say, but it might be a kind of wake up call. Nobody gives a damn about it. Nobody even notices us.
CAE: It's a living.
MARIA DAMON: I definitely don't think that the need for a basic grass-roots lets-be-on-our-own-side-for-gods'-sakes feminism is obsolete; continued patterns of inequity in the workplace, and economic inequity across the board (the world's poor, as well as the inhabitants of homeless shelters in the US, continue to be disproportionately women and children) bear this out. While "women" have made progress in some areas of artistic expression and professional accomplishment, it's important to remember Walter Benjamin's caveat that to give the "masses" an opportunity for self-expression without a corresponding economic and social equity is a characteristic of fascism. We can see this in the contemporary US, where a cultural passion for "diversity" manifested in humanistically oriented institutions and in the fashion world is dramatically at odds with and accompanies increasingly harsh governmental and business policies toward designated "have-nots," who tend to be the same folks that the humanistic institutions champion at the representational level. So, as far as "feminist" as a pro-"underdog" descriptor, the "feminist" battle is far from obsolete. At the same time, to the degree that "feminist" describes an exclusive focus on one particular underdog, that myth has got to go. First, there is no generic "woman" (some would even argue that there is no such category as "woman," period), though all "women" to some degree suffer from sexism; second, to claim that women suffer socially AS women more acutely than they suffer under other denominators that mark them as socially "less than" or threatening - or that one's primary allegiance/identity should be as a woman in solidarity with other women - is shortsighted.
GUERRILLA GIRLS: I truly believe that a solution is in the changing of society from a patriarchal one to a more expansive one where the power is not in the hands of white men, the power is across the board. Whoever deserves the power has it on merit, on capability. However, it's really hard to change in American because white men rule American and what is held high, what is great beyond what white men do, that what is considered great, genius, needs to have a broader definition.
GUERRILLA GIRLS: I and the Guerilla Girls feel that as artists we want women and artists of color to achieve the highest level of achievement that artists can have in the world, and why should we settle for less? And to be a part of art history. Why qualify this? To be a woman's artist or to be women's art history or have to go to a special book about women's art history to find out what went on? This is all going on simultaneously.
DEB MARGOLIN: And I see a return to feminism in the women who I went to high school with, who were always rolling their eyes at my political fervor, and they are now suddenly waking up to it. There's nothing like the present situation to awaken you. When you see a bunch of recidivist right-wing evil men in government, it makes people wake up. I mean, we relaxed, and we are paying for it.
LYNN BREEDLOVE: There are a lot of young women who call themselves feminists. And a lot of women at that age call themselves riot girls. Like Kathleen Hanna, they'll say that it's ok to call them separate. The patriarchy has forced us to separate for thousands of years, and that was to separate us by generation, and not pass down the implications of oppression. We have to reach across the generations and honor those who have been working on it before, instead of saying "You're an old lady, fuck you. I'm going to recreate my own world. I'm better than you."
LYNN FLIPPER: In '70s mainstream feminism, there were things like, "If you engage in this kind of sex, how can you call yourself a feminist?" or "If you're a sex worker, how can you call yourself a feminist?" There's a lot of economical class stuff going on. Feminism was defined as pornography and all the fighting against that and yet this excluded some of the women who were the toughest, strongest feminists.
CAE: I suspect that some of the people who buy into postfeminism would say that feminism was a big hassle they couldn't work out in their lives for various reasons. Part of the reality of women who don't believe things can change.
LYNN BREEDLOVE: Feminism is a fight for women's rights - power rights. Now we're writing things about it, and we're a punk rock band, so we're yelling about it and thinking about it, and if we can make it better, we do. We're still fighting for it, so feminism still exists.
EURUDICE: What's new about our feminist agenda is that there's no agenda. We don't hate pornography, we don't place value judgments on butch vs. lipstick lesbians, we unequivocally encourage radical bisexuals, dominatrixes, slaves, and celibates to be themselves and join our ranks. We don't apologize, and we don't even much remember.