As I was browsing in a store earlier today, I came across the newest issue of Bust magazine, that fun-feminist load of crap that may work for women who are just getting acquainted with feminism, but offends the senses of a radical feminist blamer like me.
Although the magazine is usually interesting, but ultimately posits ideas with which I do not agree, this issue was different. It’s a yearly issue entitled “Men We Love,” in which the magazine puts some attractive man on the cover and devotes the entire magazine to various men in pop culture, literature, and the like who are inspiring. Although some of the choices are men I admire (David Sedaris, Errol Morris, and Ira Glass) the whole concept is just off.
These are men that one would find in a mainstream (read: malestream) magazine, who I’m sure get lots of coverage in friendly liberal media sources. Errol Morris has won a fucking Oscar, for the love. Why does a supposedly feminist magazine devote one of their six issues a year to men (and the cover subjects seem to be chosen just for being good-looking, i.e. last year’s pick, Justin Theroux, and this year’s picks, the men from Flight of the Conchords and Elijah Wood) when 90% of the media out there is already devoted to men - and if they are not devoted to men, they’re devoted to telling women how to act properly subservient to men?
There’s also the fact that I really don’t like those guys from Flight of the Conchords. The musical parody numbers are funny enough, but anytime female characters are featured it’s in some plot about how these poor bumbling Nice Guys ™ can’t manage to get laid, with said female characters having the personality of a cardboard box - because, you know, they can’t be portrayed as actual people.
What about featuring Paul Campos, the author of The Obesity Myth, Gavin de Becker, who wrote The Gift of Fear and is dedicated to making women and others aware of what abuse and abusers look like, or Michael Kimmel, or just any man who publicly identifies as a feminist? Maybe the “Men We Love” issue is the one that brings in the most money, and they have to do it as some sort of awful compromise in order to print their usual radical feminist, hard-hitting, scathing exposes of the Patriarchy. Oh, wait. They don’t do that anyway. Instead, Bust magazine seems to want to constantly remind us that “Feminists love men! We really do! We think they’re swell!” and come off as not one of those feminist publications/blogs/people that are not warm and fuzzy and easy to digest.
Here’s the deal. Radical feminism means questioning the things that are at the very root of our society. It means everything from criticizing the role of the family in perpetuating sexism and misogyny, in the style of Firestone, to at least noting the misogyny of having no female characters in a popular TV show (Flight of the Conchords) that are viewed as anything other than possible nameless receptacles for some man’s dudely bodily fluids. It’s not fuzzy, warm, or capitulating. It’s not vibrators, stripper poles, and spangly tassles attached to nipples. It’s harsh, uncompromising, and makes you - including myself, a white, educated, straight, able-bodied, affluent women - uncomfortable.
That discomfort is not because radical feminism is wrong, it’s because you have unearned, unexamined privilege.