I agree with much of this piece by Helen Razer in The Age – “Destroying the point”. But overall, I wonder where her conclusions lead us.
”If you want to politicise someone, here’s a thought: talk to them about politics,” I wrote a few months ago. ”You need to read some macro-economics, bitches,” I said.
Yes. But speaking as someone whose degrees are in economics I will issue a gentle word of caution on the call for feminism to be more pragmatic and strategic, less emotional and personal. Feminism is an incredibly challenging philosophical movement aimed at achieving economic, political and social rights for women and also, changing the way these same systems of oppression are structured against other disadvantaged identities. As a movement, feminism is calling for the redistribution of power on a global level but in doing so we are being required to question and evolve the most intimate aspects of our lives. Feminist action shouldn’t feel easy, and given the intersections, it probably shouldn’t be easily branded, both are indications that feminism has been captured and diluted.
In this battle for change, which is long and demanding, there is much to be said for any feminist action that manages to ignite passion. For a movement like feminism to succeed, the emotional and personal are just as necessary as the calmly pragmatic. (Indeed, Razer’s own contributions to feminism, which I don’t want to diminish, can be measured more in arousing important debate than in leading practical, targeted, grass-roots campaigns). Destroy the Joint might not be savvy enough to counter the sly opportunism of certain advertisers but telling a movement to curb its outrage sounds suspiciously like taming. In her article, Razer extensively quotes a man in advertising who was drawn to Destroying the Joint only to find himself later sidelined and disillusioned. Much of his criticism is about the branding and tone of feminist action. Some of his frustrations I can relate to, but really, a man in advertising, is that the best measure of whether Destroy the Joint ‘works’?
Because to be frank, it wouldn’t hurt those of us working in economics, finance and advertising to open a book on gender and cultural studies from time to time either. What we will find when we do so is that a good deal of the problems we think are new – like, the branding of feminist action and feeling sidelined as an ally – are actually well-trodden paths with very comprehensive solutions. And if we read some gender studies we might learn that some of these problems are about us, not the movement. What we may also find is that passionate outrage and radical ideas, far from being naive and chaotic, are often very rational forms of thinking. We may even find such thinking useful for furthering our understanding of economics.
Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.