Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fifty Shades of Fourth Wave Feminism

I haven't blogged in a while and I thought I'd return to my analytical deductive reasoning routes, but don't worry not too much so it won't be boring I swear. Ironically I feel comfortable in that arena considering how much I hated it with a passion. What is fourth wave feminism? There isn't such a thing, not on paper and in textbooks anyway, but it's definitely rearing it's head in our culture. To examine it, let's firstly quickly and efficiently define the first three waves. 
First Wave Feminism - dates back to before the turn of the century in what we call as the 'suffrage movement' when women campaigned among other things, primarily for the right to vote, and the right for equal pay, the right to wear pants, basically think of Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey (2011 - ) If you honestly didn't pay attention at all in high school.
A poster from 1911 from the Suffrage movement.
Second Wave Feminism - names like Gloria Steinhem and Simone de Beauvoir come to mind. It grew out of the counter culture movement of the 1960's particularly in the United States, when though there was dramatic apheaval against the status quo, government, and the powers that be, the opposition itself still functioned under 'men first' principles, so the women's movement grew out of that, demanding equal treatment in these cases, leading to the most profound advanced in women's rights which was the legalization of birth control, a campaign that had actually been fought for since the 1900's by anarchist Emma Goldman. But by Roe v. Wade, it had finally become a reality. 
Joan Baez and her sisters on an anti-draft poster from 1968.
Third Wave Feminism - primarily took place around the 1980's and died out just as quickly. It was by fart the most cantankerous, shocking, and militant movement out of the three which celebrated not only women being equal to men but women being superior and men being biologically unnecessary. This was of course the most radical view of the movement championed by Warhol hanger-on and general psychotic Valerie Solanas and her book the SCUM Manifesto (SCUM standing for Society for Cutting Up Men) which stated that men were a biological mistake that should be eradicated...so you get the idea. It was also centered around the idea of sexual politics and what became known as 'gender violence', explored in a lot of art during that time in particular 'The Vagina Monologues'; basically projecting that not only is a woman just as good as a man, but biologically and scientifically speaking, she was absolutely integral to the functionality of society. 
Valerie Solanas on the cover of her infamous book, first distributed underground then republished and now available at selected bookstores. BTW she was the one who shot Warhol.
Which brings me to Fourth Wave Feminism, even though it hasn't exactly been put on paper, there is movement creaking into pop-culture that could be defined as a new type of feminism. Though we believe all rights for women to be essentially won to us (ironically now they are being slowly and slowly taken away by the powers that want to be) but in terms of attitude we are averting the creative outlets significantly and turning them into powerful socio-political statements. In the media, this is becoming more and more transparent, particularly in television. Whereas there were shows that were about women that were written by men, now we have shows skewing the male gaze by writing about still successful women by women, and not just on Lifetime. Park and Recreation (2009 - ) is a perfect example. And let's just skip right on to what everyone expects me to talk about Fifty Shades of Grey, spawned from the wildly popular Twlight series, also written by a woman. With the addition of these two literary phenomenons to the scope of literature, we can consider both to be game changer, as poorly written as both were. Particularly with the latter, we can explore why we deem to call it 'feminist' at all considering the female character is the submissive in the relationship she's in and is forced into degrading and punishing situations every single day. If this book was released during the 80's at the height of the third wave it would be burned in effigy and considered deviant slander. These days, it's empowering. 
Women reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public, in a Walmart in fact.
Thousands of women are going on television saying that it saved their marriage, taught them how to be more assertive, and regain their libidos which had been lost in a sea of boring missionary sex and sub par orgasms. We can see Fifty Shades of Grey as being an empowerment manifesto for women not only to openly enjoy sex but to take control of what they want in the bed room, if it be handcuffs and chains so be it. It is the female equivalent of a man watching an old DVD out of his porn collection in the middle of the night in his basement, only it is empowering women to do it out on the open, devil-may-care. Thereby, it funnels the sexual power from the male to the female when it is read, though the story plays out in the opposite manner. As silly as it may be, Fifty Shades of Grey is a sexual game changer, and I don't mean just in the BDSM dichotomy, but in that of where the gender power and sexual prowess reaches a congruency, and for now, it seems as though women are on top...no pun intended. The book dictates that not only should women enjoy their orgasms but take pride in them. They should not be afraid to express their most unbridled desires and force their husbands into submission to them rather than the other way around. It's a shift in power that begins with popular culture and mimics itself in the art and media idioms. What's most important and vital to it's relevance is that it's controversial. While the third-wave feminists discouraged pleasure in sex in that it gave men the power in giving them pleasure, fourth wave dictates that pleasure should be embraced and harnessed (again no pun intended) by the woman. Once the movement loses it's cache, things will even out again as they always do, in fact there will probably be some kind of conservative backlash, as there usually is, that's why feminism always comes in waves.
Some clips below, basically for some comic relief.

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