Saturday, July 8, 2017

Is the white girl moment over?

Back in the 1980s one of the women's magazines, I can't remember which one, got roasted for saying that breasts were "in". The obvious rejoinder: When are breasts ever not in? ... and yet ... there are cultures, mostly in Africa, where women's breasts are not highly valued.That said, white girls have hardly suffered from lack of attention over the years.

Some have argued that there are genetic reasons for this. That men will prefer lighter skinned partners for genetic reasons. Maybe.

Whatever the case, being desired and being taken seriously-as any teen-aged girl can tell you—are clear different things.* There was a moment that started about twenty-one years ago when white girls made a pitch to be taken seriously without ceasing to be terribly girly in a very white way. I say about twenty-one years ago because that was when this pop song became a major hit. It's a very white-girl song and that fact was underlined by having one black member in the group.

Notice how much more womanly and sexual the black woman first known as Sexy Spice and then as Scary Spice is than the terribly girly white girls with her. It's not just that she has amazing breasts it's that she puts them right in your face. This is all third generation feminism but she's going for a direct sexual vibe while all the others are going for girly. She's a Samantha Jones in a crowd of Charlotte Yorks.

That comparison is anachronistic as Sex and the City comes two years after this single was a hit. But it works because it was very much in the air. This was the moment when second wave feminism was challenged by something new. Katie Rophie's The Morning After had been published just two years earlier.

There never was a theoretical foundation for third wave feminism. I say that with such bluntness because it wasn't an academic movement. You can trace second wave feminism back to some very serious academic writing. The third wave was characterized more by a whole lot of white girls who didn't so much criticize feminism as break free from it. Whatever it might have lacked in theoretical foundation, the movement was a real cultural moment and you could see it everywhere you looked.

In that sense, the video is perfect. This is rebellion but exactly what they are rebelling against is not at all clear. The upper class as portrayed in the video had long ceased to exist by 1996. These girls revel in the role of rebels but they don't want to threaten anyone.

But they were threatening to feminists. At first, the second wave feminists thought they could simply drown these girls the way people used to get rid of unwanted kittens. It didn't work. They ended up coming off grim and humourless compared to these new girls. Next, second wave feminists tried the old trick of rushing to the head of the crowd and pretending to be leaders with laughable nonsense such as the Riot Grrrls. That didn't work either.

Sex and the City itself was an attempt to respond. Carrie Bradshaw is set off against three foils—women who are her friends but are all a little too too much in one aspect or another. On the one hand, Carrie is opposed to two third wave women, the too girly Charlotte and the too slutty Samantha. On the other hand, she clearly isn't the dour Miranda either.

It didn't work though. SATC was a huge success among women but anyone who was paying attention when men were in the room quickly noticed that not only that we vastly preferred Charlotte but that we actively disliked Carrie and Miranda. And no one is going to marry Samantha. I know, that's not supposed to matter anymore but reality really is the thing that won't go away when you ignore it.

The suicide pact

The rest of the left decided feminism wasn't helping the cause anymore. If the white girls of the third wave had proven anything it was that the influence of second wave feminists on, you know, actual women was far less than they had imagined it to be. Feminists could browbeat women into tugging their forelocks like good little peasants but they couldn't get them to actually live differently.

After a series of increasingly pathetic attempts to gain any real traction, progressive feminists decided to try a suicide pact called intersectionality. The notion behind it was that all oppressed groups were interconnected. You might reasonably wonder how that could possibly be (it can't) but you'd be apt to miss the menace it holds. For intersectionality can be weaponized. If all oppressed groups are interconnected, then anything peculiar to one cause is illegitimate. Thus we have the staggering spectacle of feminism disembowelling itself to accommodate trans women. And you have the increasingly aggressive attacks on "white feminism".

I don't see how feminism itself can possibly survive this, which is why I call it a suicide pact. I don't think the people behind intersectionality particularly care. They never saw feminism as anything but a short term goal in a larger game whose real goal is dismantling free market economies and liberal democracy.

They feel confident enough now that they have been attacking white girls for a while now. The increasingly savage attacks on Coachella, Adele, Taylor Swift and "white feminism" are evidence of this. But will it work? After all, attacks on white men got us President Donald Trump.

My suspicion is that white girls will respond not by getting behind a person as they will get behind a way of living. The universities will be interesting to watch. Currently, university is seen as an end in itself. Sometime soon, I think women, who now make up the majority of university students, are going to start asking themselves some hard questions about how this fits into their larger lives. They are going to start thinking of it as a short-term goal in a larger game. When that happens, look out.

* “A subject and a sovereign are clear different things.” —King Charles I words to the crowd from the scaffold immediately before he was beheaded on January 30, 1649.

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