Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

02 February 2008

NYTimes finds a pretty & fun feminist!

So...days after Marcia Pappas sends out a firecracker of a press release, the NY Times decides to look at the generation gap within feminism. Wow...real cutting edge there folks. Yes, I think that it was a huge pile-o-poop. Thankfully it's short enough that I think I can quickly rip it to pieces:

First - dueling photos. Jessica (of Feministing fame) gets the "I'm cute and have friends!" photo complete with her holding a wine glass. She's refined too! Marcia gets the serious "Don't fuck with me" photo. which in fact is the "Do I have to look into the sun for this photo?" I've had my photo taken for a news story enough to know that sometimes it sucks. There is one story with one photo that I hope every single copy got lost and it never made it to microfilm. But back to the feminist fotos...Why didn't they use Jessica's book photo? At least they would have equal serious shots?

There is a Sun-Times article where I wasn't quoted, but did get my photo in with the headline, "Take a Look at them NOW" and "Not Your Mother's Feminists" on the masthead. Nice exposure, but far too fluffy for me. Hmph...maybe I'm an old feminist in the body of an aging young feminist. Exposure goes only so far for me...I want the substance to be there too.

Jessica Valenti, a 29-year-old blogger from Astoria (by way of Williamsburg), and Marcia Pappas, a 57-year-old life coach who owned and ran a hair salon in Albany for most of her career, might be surprised to find how much they had in common if they ran into each other at a party. (Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine what that party would look like).

Considering that I saw both at the 2006 National NOW conference, I'd say at that party. Can't recall if I saw them both on the dance floor at the same time, but they were at the same party. NOW Cons are parties folks. Come by and you'll see.

(snipping the bio para)
But that’s pretty much where the similarities in their feminist backgrounds and presentations come to a screeching halt. Ms. Valenti’s Web site has video bloggers, and postings under subject headings like “Hot Menses Mess,” and covers pop culture and international affairs. Ms. Pappas’s NOW-NY Web site prominently champions the Equal Rights Amendment, features an online version of its print newsletter and is sprinkled liberally with language like “in sisterhood and equality.”

Ummm...what about issues? Pro-choice? Marriage Equality? Oh, wait, this is a piece about style, I forgot.

Ms. Valenti enjoyed a sparkly moment in the sun last June, when she went on “The Colbert Report” in a tasteful skirt, three-inch heels and fashionably bare legs to promote her book “Full Frontal Feminism.” In between consistent efforts to make the case that most young women are feminists even if they don’t know it, she gamely fielded compliments (only half in jest) from Stephen Colbert about her “hot little bod” and indulged in a little flirty banter about girls gone wild at Mardi Gras.

Ms. Pappas’s 15 minutes of fame arrived this week, when she sent off a press release that declared Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama to be the “ultimate betrayal” of women, and added that he didn’t back Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton because he “can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president.”

On Wednesday evening, she went on MSNBC to defend her position, which had generated an angry firestorm in the blogosphere and within her own parent organization (where senior officers have been considering a demand that she retract her statement). On her guest spot on MSNBC, there was much talk of the grass-roots perspective and women’s anger. Flirty banter was not in evidence.

See...no real dissection of Marcia's press release and what Hillary becoming President means to second wave feminists OR a dissection of what FFF means to young feminists today. Nope, it's all about the flirting & skirts.

(snipping of paras on Feministing dismissing Marcia's press release)
Although she may write in exclamation points — the recent press release had three — Ms. Pappas does not speak in them. When confronted with Feministing.com’s response, she carefully avoided any invitation to complain about the lack of fire in young women or their difficulty in understanding what’s at stake given all their privilege — the concerns so often heard from an older generation of feminists.

“I grew up in the ’60s, so I understand that every generation wants to stand up and say, ‘We’re different,’ ” Ms. Pappas said, adding that she had also received e-mail messages from young women elated by her outburst.


And there ya go...Marcia can be a calm, rational feminist. wow...maybe she's a real person too! Dagnabit, she also has young supporters too. What's next? Lipstick?

(snipping paras on Valenti's non-public support of a candidate)
At the same time, Ms. Valenti had to admit that she was sympathetic to Ms. Pappas. Say something outrageous on a blog, she points out, and you can rein it in on the very next post. Issue a hot-headed press release, and it’s suddenly out there, entrenched, just like NOW itself.

Is outrageous and hot-headed the same to you? It's not to me. Maybe outrageous and controversial? Someone needs a better thesaurus that places words in context.

That’s part of why she believes the future of feminism lies in online activism, not old-school organizations. Young women today don’t need “the iconic leadership of a NOW or a Gloria Steinem,” she said. With online communities like her own, women have access to vast clearinghouses for information, support, even consciousness-raising. “We have each other,” Ms. Valenti said, “and that’s pretty important.”

Yet, Jessica built her reputation and experience in old-school organizations. OK, so this is a critique of Jessica, not the NYTimes, stay with me. Despite all the ups and downs of being an organization as large and as democratic as NOW (members vote on leadership, it is not decided by a board nor appointed by the media), I have to say that it's a pretty good org to be a member of. I have an online network, a NOW network and both overlap - a lot. I think the future of feminism lies in figuring out how old-school orgs can USE online networks to their benefit. It's not either or. It's both. I have my online friends who I can turn to and I have my NOW friends to turn to.


What she still doesn’t have is money. After almost four years of television appearances, magazine interviews, even minor celebrity, Ms. Valenti still runs the Web site on the side, working as a freelance writer to get by. Ms. Pappas, on the other hand, may not write a suave press release, or have the hip credibility to pull in young people, but in four years of fund-raising she’s taken the state chapter out of debt and put it onto strong financial footing.

Slam. Slam. In the end, Jessica is just like any other GenY slacker who can't hold a real job and trying to live off the internet/blogosphere. Nice, NYTimes. Nice. While Marcia is acting like a real adult, keeping her organization afloat in the financials.

The two women should probably talk. Surely, there’s a message board somewhere big enough for both of them. We already know they have a lot in common.

In reality, these two women shouldn't talk - all feminists from all generations should talk.

Technorati tags: NY Times, feminist, Jessica Valenti, Marcia Pappas, NOW

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