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Double X Thinks Feminism Is Both Dead and Hurting Us. ZOMBIE FEMINISM!

We're exhausted here at Bitch headquarters today by all of the weirdness that's happening on Double X, the new online women's magazine that is a version of the eponymous Slate blog. Apparently, the folks over at Double X don't want to identify as being feminist, but they sure love talking about how feminism is dead. And out to get us. ZOMBIE FEMINISM!

fm477_night_of_the_living_dead1.jpg

Since Double X launched yesterday, it's been chocked full of infuriating, Backlash-y articles like "Whine, Womyn, and Thongs: How feminism has failed", and "How I Got Bored With Feminism".

We don't know about you, but we're disappointed. (And we also need to figure out the best way to fight off this new undead feminism before it eats our brains.)

Not because there is a new women's website out there that isn't exactly feminist (that wouldn't be news to anyone), but because somehow Double X is trying to be both feminist and antifeminist at the same time (hating on both sides along the way). In press releases about the site, editors claim they want to move beyond discussions of feminism (they seem decidedly post-feminist) and just be a women's interest site. That's fine and dandy, but as Feministing points out, they are running a series of blogs about Betty Friedan. Last time we checked, Betty Friedan still signifies second wave feminism in a big way. Why is Double X so all over the place?

For example, kickass Bitch contributor Latoya Peterson wrote a great post for Double X on feminism and race. Score one, feminism! However, Slate's Susannah Breslin states that "feminism is dead." Score one, antifeminism! WTF?

And the hating doesn't stop there. Not only does Double X claim that feminism is dead, and boring, and sooo over, they also point their post-feminist fingers at websites like Jezebel, claiming that its brand of feminism is "hurting women." Apparently, the fact that some of the women over at Jezebel have casual sex and histories of sexual abuse means that they are undermining our society's feminist sensibilities. (But wait, isn't feminism dead?)

As always with issues like this, things are tricky (hence our aforementioned exhaustion). While it's great that Double X is recognizing the importance of more female-generated and female-targeted content on the web, it really blows that they are doing it in such an inflammatory way when it comes to the feminist blogosphere. It's as if they are trying to gain blog street cred (as if there were such a thing in this land of nerds) by cutting down a movement that has clearly helped them get to where they are (on a big, flashy, women's website). Are they just trying to start a catfight among feminist blogs in order to disprove their point that "feminism is boring"? It's reactionary, sensationalist weirdness like this that gives feminism a bad name (or no name at all) in the first place.

This situation also brings into question of the value of the feminist blogosphere in general. While we clearly have a vested interest in said blogosphere, it's true that many online journalists are encouraged to write more inflammatory pieces in order to increase hits to their sites. While this is true of print media as well, tracking technology and pay scales based on site traffic (one of the better points made in Double X's anti-Jezebel article) make it even more of an issue on these worldwide webs. (Don't worry; Bitch bloggers are not on a scale like that. Don't let that stop you from reading our posts, though! Also, Gawker Media bloggers aren't paid by their hits anymore, which is probably a good thing.) Is this type of outrageous, sound-bite-y, catfight-y blogging turning former feminist sisters into present-day feminist haters?

And of course, there is the issue of the essentialist name of the website, Double X. By referencing chromosomes in order to indicate that the site is for women, Double X is excluding women-identified people who don't possess two X chromosomes. I guess they think that, since feminism is undead, there's no reason to include trans, cis, or genderqueer individuals. (Don't worry friends, this only means that your brains won't be eaten.)

OK, enough with the zombie feminism puns. What are your thoughts?

image from George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Comments

22 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I just came up for air...

...after reading/skimming a bunch of articles at "Double X". I didn't find it to be a complete feminist-bashing echo chamber. There was LaToya Peterson's piece:

http://www.doublex.com/section/news-politics/feminism%E2%80%99s-problem-...

That said, and I'm sure totally unrelated, I did repeatedly misread the title of that one essay as "White Womyn and Thongs". ;-)

Duh

You totally mentioned LaToya's piece!

This is what happens when I don't read s-l-o-w-l-y...

For example, kickass Bitch contributor Latoya Peterson wrote a great post for Double X on feminism and race. Score one, feminism! However, Slate's Susannah Breslin states that "feminism is dead." Score one, antifeminism! WTF?

Here's how I reconcile that: The brand of feminism LaToya writes about is inclusive of women of color as well as of an awareness of class and global issues.  None of that even registers on Breslin's radar when she's declaring a monolithic feminism dead. Which is LaToya's point precisely--the monolithic feminist movement is tre passe (imagine accents where they're supposed to be)--the difference is that LaToya, unlike Breslin, recognizes that the historical "monolithic movement" doesn't include a lot of feminists of color who are very much alive.

LaToya's journey led her to discover these varied manifestations of feminism precisely because of the kind of myopia Breslin demonstrates in her essay.

Breslin writes: "It seems to me that 'feminist' sites like the aptly-named Feministe are
interested in having it both ways. They want all the power their
feminist foremothers promised them—and the right to play full-time victims of the patriarchy."

And where do, say, women of color, fit into this neat little dismissal?  Our foremothers knew that power wasn't something that they could just promise or hand down to us like a mantle.  We were handed down a legacy that included ongoing struggle, and with it, the determination to stay the course.Their examples are certainly empower-ing, but there's a difference. 

And as far as playing full-time victims of the patriarchy--nice little jab; too bad it's ahistorical and not even close to being an accurate assessment of the real activism of contemporary womanists and feminists of color.

I agree with the observation (can't remember if I read it here or elsewhere) that a lot of what's on the site feels like baiting for the sake of baiting...and page views.  Sad.

Double X is Double White

All of the site's staff are white. And the contributors, so far, seem to be overwhelmingly pale as well. So the answer to your question of 'where do WOC fit?' Apparently they don't. :(

Weird...

How is it that, whenever someone points out that sexism and misogyny exists, that person wants "right to play full-time victims of the patriarchy"? Breslin, in all her wisdom, doesn't clarify anything.

agreed

latoya article is def worth reading

quick question?

If there are still feminists then how can feminism be dead?

(maybe when I get around to reading the articles they'll tell me.)

P.S. I love all the zombie feminism puns.

Bummer.

When I heard about the launch of Double X I was a bit excited, despite feeling wary of the essentialist name. I checked out the site yesterday and I was disappointed with the number and quality of feminism-related articles (not to mention the rampant 'feminism is dead'/'boo feminism' energy floating around). Especiallly irritating is that in the post titled "The Trouble with Jezebel," the author describes Double X as "a symposium on the current state of feminism" (first sentence in the fifth paragraph)...

Also, yesterday Katha Pollitt was listed as a contributor and today she isn't.  What's with that?

 

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

Katha Pollitt

I guess she is a contributor; she just isn't listed on the 'Contributors' sidebar. (Check out her feminist (hooray) post, "Still the Second Sex.")

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

It's like 1972 learned how

It's like 1972 learned how to use the Internet on there.

How do you justify beginning a site that intends to "go beyond" modern feminism in 2009 with a poll on Betty Friedan?

Nothing against Friedan, she was great in many ways. But there is so much interesting conversation being conducted about issues of privilege (not enough, but it's ongoing), and it seems counterproductive and anachronistic to begin with a woman who actively rejected expanding feminism outside of her narrow point of view (white women of class privilege). Friedan is certainly someone to be honored, but she's not presently relevant.

And on Linda Hirshman: I think there are a LOT of feminist issues with Jezebel, some of which mirror the issues with Double X - there's not a ton of significant coverage outside of the concerns of a privileged class. But the way that they treat rape is actually tremendously progressive, and the Moe and Tracie thing happened....quite a while ago. (It's a trend.)

But it's important to fight, even when it gets catty. We're challenging each other, which is a sign of strength and not zombie-ness in a movement or community. We are honestly discussing issues, taking each others' temperatures on important subjects. This will move the discussion forward.

Exception for LaToya Peterson

I should mention that LaToya Peterson did a great job of taking the question of Friedan and contributing usefully to the discussion.

I liked it...

Linked to the articles and read through. I found them to be extremely well-written even if a little bit snarky. I think this kind of thinking, pondering, questioning is exactly what feminism needs. One of the articles talks more in-depth about how superficial our American pop culture feminism seems when women around the world face "serious" human rights issues. That stoning women because they protest rape, requiring them to cover their bodies and faces in fear of death, etc. seems to be a cause that celeb feminism has forgotten about.

I appreciate feminism - especially early 20th century and later feminism of the 60's and 70's that opened doors for me and helped make this country the most liberated in terms of individual rights. But I don't see mainstream feminists doing this kind of work lately (or at least, they're not in the spotlight). It does seem silly to have mommy wars and work/home issues dominate feminist talking points when there is so much more important work to be done.

I think the site is calling mainstream/progressive feminism out a little...challenges like this are healthy and will hopefully inspire us to do better and to do more. We need to be able to take criticism a little better. I too have grown tired of progressive feminism which seems to have narrowed its viewpoints, often makes fun of those who lie even slightly outside those viewpoints, and shuts down thoughtful debate rather than engage in productive dialogue. But I haven't given up on feminism yet!

It's not so bad ...

... but one contributor, Katie Roiphe, often annoys me.

Other thoughts ...

As much as I also enjoy visiting the Feministe (which also took a swipe Double XX so big, it prompted Susannah Breslin to respond herself) and Feministing blogs and find them as essential as Bitch, I think there are certain bloggers at those sites that need to get off of their "high-horses" and engage better in some of the comment-discussions taking place under their entries. It's disconcerting when as soon as I start reading comments in Feministing, in particular, I run across too many egotistical "my way or no way" trolling shout-downs of any viewpoints other than their own, and/or the blog contributors. That site needs to do something about them if they want to promote and engage in healthy discussion, and it can start with the bloggers themselves.

Another contributor to Double XX that might be familiar to Bitch readers is Sandra Tsing Loh She was featured in Issue #16 ... and the back cover of the 10th anniversary issue #31.

LaToya Peterson's piece was right-on and I hope it gave some food for thought to those readers who do not believe that race is relevant in feminist discourse.

To those contributors who think that feminism is dead ... here is our time to "shout out" that it's alive, well, and of many activisms ... long past 1972.

Katie Roiphe...

is a contributor? The same Katie Roiphe who initially gained notoriety for blaming college rape victims in The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism? *groan!*

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

unfortunately, yes

Here is her entry from yesterday.

That book she wrote about 15+ years' ago slamming the rape culture on college campuses, which was very real and of dire urgency at that time, was horrible and I well remember the firestorm over that book.

At the rate DoubleX is going (I also see that former Reason editor-in-chief Virginia Postrel is there, too. What's Reason? A Libertarian mag.), perhaps there should be a section of this website devoted to critiquing DoubleX?? Am already getting a sense that not a day will go by with nary a dull moment there.

How about the "DoubleX Petty Criticism Corner"? I think we have found our new Jane.

I've enjoyed the XX Factor

I've enjoyed the XX Factor blog on Slate (http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/) for a long time. I was super excited when they announced the site, and when Miriam on The Oyster's Garter (http://theoystersgarter.com/) announced she'd be syndicated by them, I nearly inked all over the keyboard. Couldn't wait to get my grubby tentacles on it. What I like about it is its conversational nature and the viewpoints that come from all directions. It's never been the magazine type of discourse, but more like a place for the writers to post thoughts on all sorts of issues as they like. So far it seems Double X is the same kind of content, just dressed up as articles and called a magazine.

I think the slew of posts about feminism was an odd way to go. The new format opened these posts up to scrutiny, making it seem like Double X came out firing their pistols in all directions. I like Susanna's mission statement for the magazine, and think she's right that Double X isn't about discussions of feminism, which made the articles all the more confusing.

Regardless, I really like these writers. They are talented professionals and I'm willing to look past all this weirdness and let them get their feet on the ground.

why didn't Bitch get a shout out....

...for OUR "high-level-of-risk" lifestyle! I am eating chocolate cake and drinking caffeinated tea, motherf***r! And it's past 9pm on a weeknight!!!

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Double XX is a clusterf@#k.

Double XX is a clusterf@#k. There is an insane amount of information on that homepage. I feel like a toddler who adults are trying to pacify by presenting an endless succession of toys. "Maybe you like this?, no, how about this?" Maybe I want to read about feminism, maybe I want to link to the Root, maybe I want to make fun of Kate Plus Eight's hair? WAHHHHH!
I predict that blogs like Bitch will link to Double XX a lot, because they're just posting so much content. But, I can't imagine Double XX has the potential to raise the level of feminist discourse, or even anti-feminist discourse, for that matter. The premise of such a website is that women have enough in common that a single website could serve them all, but this website itself with it’s abundance of sometimes contradictory material, kind of disproves that.

Wow, I am seething

I just began reading Susan Faludi's "Backlash" for the first time, so I found this Bitch blog especially eye opening. The article "Whine, Womyn, and Thongs..." utilizes the very tactics used to discredit the feminist movement that Faludi speaks of. For instance, the blog references the decline of female happiness over the past couple decades without any evidence to support this claim. The article reduces the passionate activism of the 2nd wave to complaints and buys in to the stigma that feminists are sex-crazed heathens. Although a schism exists amongst feminists about whether women working in the sex industry are empowered or abused and objectified (personally I think both), it cannot be denied that the sexual objectification of women in the popular media and the reality of domestic and sexual violence remain serious problems in our country and around the globe.
The third wave of feminism is NOT just limited to the self-serving "facebook feminism" that they refer to. Look at Hilda Solis, the new Secretary of Labor, who has worked for policies that help to fight against the injustices committed against immigrant workers in our country. Or how about Angela Davis, one of the most influential Black feminists to emerge from the 2nd Wave, who has opened our eyes to the prison-industrial complex and how it adversely affects women, particularly women of color.
The blog also reduces women to heterosexual, married, middle to upper class mothers: "Now that they have educations, jobs, husbands, and children, they are finding that doing all of these things well isn’t so simple." They fail to acknowledge that many mothers are single, working parents who have no choice but to juggle parenthood and the stresses of a job. How about holding fathers accountable for taking on the responsibilities of parenthood? Or blaming racism in the criminal justice system and prison-industrial complex for the increasing rate of incarcerated men of color who do not have a chance to be there for their children? How about a reminder that the pay gap still exists between men and women (I think currently it is 78 cents to the dollar?), most jobs do not offer childcare for working mothers, and the Equal Rights Amendment remains to be passed.
XX refuses to critically think about the social forces at work that perpetuate the problems facing our world today. They arrogantly describe feminism as a passing fad. Feminism is alive and well my friends and doing a lot of good for women all over the world. Not to mention that feminism is not a Westernized phenomenon! Grrr!!

Good point...I was also

Good point...I was also thinking about Double X in terms of Fauldi. I just finished "Stiffed." Fauldi makes a pretty harsh critique of feminism. At the end of that book, she explores the idea that the personification of "the man" as the oppressor has been a disservice to men in that we all struggle with oppression of mass culture and the increased commercialization of femininity and masculinity since WWII. I'm sure we could debate all day about Fauldi's arguments about men, yet they are still made with ample respect for the history of feminism as an anti-oppressive social movement. For me, whether a writer wants feminism to evolve or a writer wants to be the first to declare feminism dead, begs the question of how much that writer values anti-oppressive struggles and social movements.

Yawn.

Over feminism, yet extremely concerned with its deleterious effects? The old backlash now has an official webzine in Double X. The best backlashettes operate under the guise of caring so much about the movement, they just have to make a sweeping indictment of it. They often identify as feminists themselves, the better to get published.

DoubleX not so bad

I have to disagree with the anti-DoubleX feelings that I'm reading on Bitch and Feministing (and elsewhere). Feministing and the old XX Factor blog on Slate are both part of my daily media diet. I like to hear from women who explicitly identify as feminist and from smart, engaging women who know what's what in their fields and who believe in equality but don't identify as feminist. Both voices have a place. I will agree that much of their launch week's questions about feminism were obnoxious (well, Susannah Breslin's, Linda Hirshman's tried my patience) but there have also been a number of great stories about women's lives and challenges and some great female-written pieces on the recession. See the stories such as
Rick Warren's church's problems with domestic abuse: http://www.doublex.com/section/news-politics/does-rick-warren%E2%80%99s-...
The On Ramp blog: http://www.doublex.com/blog/theonramp
LaToya Peterson's great piece that was already linked

I get the argument about ghettoizing women's voices in media, but I don't think DoubleX will contribute to marginalization. By expanding out from the Slate blogs into a whole connected-yet-separate magazine, DoubleX has the opportunity to hire more writers, to post more pieces, and to start more conversations. Feminism is incredibly important to me and I treasure its safe spaces and online forums, but DoubleX is a different thing altogether. It is a way to showcase women writers and women's perspectives within a mostly mainstream but new media-oriented format. There are men- loyal Slate/Washington Post/The Root readers- who are neither feminists nor trolls reading DoubleX, which gives it a unique opportunity to present different viewpoints to new people. I am a fan, so far, though I certainly don't love every single article that was posted. Since when is loving every single thing a news source posts a prerequisite for enjoying what it does have to offer and the need it is meeting?

Rosen's article does highlight an important problem

This is something that I'm seeing a lot in today's feminism and something that should be addressed:

"Today’s feminism—a kind of Facebook feminism that elevates personal experience and personal performance above all else—allows everyone from Madonna to Martha Stewart to serve as icons of female empowerment, and is a label largely devoid of meaning."

Feminism absent of structural critique -- that includes class, race, sexuality, etc -- is indeed devoid of meaning. That does not mean feminism is "dead", but it's certainly wounded and hurting others by the insistence of some women that it's either a) whatever they claim it to be or b) a birthright by virtue of having a uterus.

When it is based solely on one's personal experience absent some attempt to connect it to other people's experiences, you get the phenomenon Peterson described: white women don't have to think about race, rich women don't have to think about class, heterosexual women don't have to think about sexuality because blinded by their privilege they can say those things simply aren't problems. In those warped privileged circumstances, even actions that advance one's personal privilege at the expense of other women can still be considered "feminist" because someone will say it's helping themselves as a woman.

Therefore, I disagree with the following statement from Peterson:

"Perhaps it never made sense in the first place to try to corral the unique needs of the majority of the world into one neatly defined little box as our lives spilled over the sides."

I think feminism actually has to become both more inclusive and more rigorous, finding ways to understand the unique needs/dreams of others as connected to one's personal struggle or chosen advocacy. Increasing the rigor of feminism does not require putting everyone into "one neatly defined box"; instead, increasing the rigor requires that feminists acknowledge that there is no neat box and agree to constantly seek a level of understanding about others that is never really attainable. Empathy, determining collective interests, and collective advocacy are the hallmarks of the feminism that black women expressed during the civil rights movement, for example.

Fundamental to consciousness raising groups of the 60s is the idea that you come to an increasing level of consciousness through dialogue and seeking an understanding of how gender matters in our society by understanding how it matters to others. The Combahee River collective called for the same thing. Instead of listening, it seems that feminists have just decided anything goes as long as some woman (e.g. Sarah Palin) believes it's helping her individual situation.

If feminism unreflectively tries to be everything to every single woman, it will become absolutely nothing at all. Some people's personal values based on personal experience simply do not help other women and are in fact alienating. Uncritically accepting them under the umbrella of "feminism" is harmful for the entire project.