When feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye published her essay “Oppression,” in her collection, “The Politics of Reality” in the early ‘80s during the second wave of feminism, she eloquently equated the oppression of women by society to that of a bird in a cage.
If one were to look at just a single wire of that cage up close, one could not see any reason why the bird could not escape at her own will. Why, there is just one wire holding her in!
But if one steps back, the cage can be seen in its entirety. The bird is “surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers…which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.”
Fortunately, the status of women has improved greatly in this country in the past three decades (we’re not all the way there, yet, sisters) and the public imagination of even the most ardent of feminists has transitioned from the stereotypical olive, drab-dressed political lesbian, to “riot grrrl” and onto, with the help of author and American River College adjunct professor Heather Wood Rudulph and literary partner Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, sexy feminism: a fourth wave, which embraces women’s rights to be sexy, sexual and in control.
Sexy feminism is sex-positive feminism–a brand of feminism where promoting women’s sexuality is central to the feminist cause–with a focus on charging that women should have the right to be as aggressive, experimental and casual about sex as men are.
This is not your old school feminism.
“We really wanted to set ourselves apart from many of the academic feminist texts we so admire, while still drawing on their influences,” said Rudulph in an email interview with The Current.
So while some of the better known feminists (Gloria Steinem, for example) are referenced in the book, the authors also make mention of Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga as modern feminist icons.
By promoting this “pop culture” version of feminism, Rudulph and Armstrong are really writing for young women, who are what they call “feminist curious.”
“The goal is to reach those who have distanced themselves from the word ‘feminist,’ or perhaps don’t understand the depth of definition of ‘feminism’ as a movement, a lifestyle, and an identity,” said Rudulph.
While the arguments against certain trends are simplistic (you can blame most of your beauty woes on the fact that your boyfriend watches too much porn) and some of the feminist concerns might seem a bit superficial (a 20-page discussion about whether or not to wax your undercarriage), at the heart of it all, most of sexy feminism can be boiled down to the basic feminist principles of taking charge of one’s own sexuality, respecting one’s body and giving grace to other women to do the same.
Rudulph will be presenting Sexy Feminism, the book she co-wrote and conceptually developed with Armstrong, at College Hour on Feb. 13, 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Student Center Community Rooms.