Before Caitlin and after Caitlin: eras of feminism as defined by the privileged

In WHAT THE SHITTING HELL IS THIS SHIT ON MY SCREEN of the day, may I introduce you to a turd squeezed out by the lax editorial standards of Comment is Free? Here’s some choice quotes which are entirely representative of the piece, which I would thoroughly recommend not reading.

In years to come, feminist chronology will be separated into BC and AC – Before Caitlin and After Caitlin.

Caitlin Moran’s bestseller How to be a Woman has begun to make it okay again for a generation of women to be feminist.

She’s funny, she’s smart and she explains why it’s important to identify that way without preaching, hating men or using words like “phallocentric”.

Before I start with the fury, can I just say that judging by this article, I fully expect Caitlin Moran to join the Guardian staff within the next few months? Just thought I’d get that little bet in there on time.

Now, let’s talk about Moran. Regular readers will no doubt be aware that I am not Moran’s biggest fan, given she represents the interests only of a very small chunk of privileged women. I find it is no surprise for a puff piece for Moran appearing in a column in the mainstream media which is, after all, entirely dominated by these same privileged people who don’t take kindly to having their interests challenged.

I’m going to be kind to the author, though, and point out that she does have a point in her dire “Before Caitlin” and “After Caitlin” taxonomy. Caitlin Moran has proved to be the flashpoint in a discussion that feminism has needed to have for decades and divided feminists.

On one side we have those who challenge the lack of interest Moran has in broader social justice issues and intersectionality, and her occasional active contributions to oppression. On this side, we see that feminists must actively challenge our own privilege, and make sure we do all we can to avoid contributing to the intersecting layers of oppression. We make it our business to fight for broader struggles.

On the other side, there’s those who are rather comfortable with the way things are, thank you very much.

No prizes for guessing which side I’m on, but unfortunately, many of those with the privilege and the large platform afforded by the mainstream media are on the other. They don’t want to rock the boat too much. They don’t want to challenge their own oppressive behaviour (I note that a rather barbed comment about “frumpy lesbians” is made in the CiF piece).

For some reason, Moran has emerged as emblematic of the problem, despite the fact that feminism is riddled with such one-dimensional thinkers.

I am hoping, of course, that this is merely a transitional stage, and those who don’t care about liberation of those who need liberating will eventually fuck off or start giving a shit. That we will then see our eras as feminism not as AnteMoran and PostMoran, but as “that point where we actually started being able to achieve some shit, and the oppressors started to fear us”. We are actively challenging a system, a dominant ideology. It will send those who like this system on the defensive.

Here’s the thing: we shouldn’t have to make ourselves palatable to our oppressors. Why can’t they make themselves more palatable to us?

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8 responses to “Before Caitlin and after Caitlin: eras of feminism as defined by the privileged

  • anon (ish)

    This might sound nit-picky but I think it is worth stating if only to add to the background around that article.

    It isn’t in Comment is Free – it has been posted in the Guardian Student Blog. I met with the education editor and the intern currently assigned to the student blog recently and they explained the concept of what they’re hoping to achieve. Essentially they want current students to pitch ideas for blogs. If approved then the student writes the blog. They are deliberately trying to use the blogs to attract social media attention (and traffic) to the student area of the site.

    The author of this article will not have been paid for her work or have been given much editorial oversight and guidance (beyond having her pitch approved). Her “reward” is to get a profile page on the Guardian website (and in this case a whole load of angry responses – which from a Guardian POV will just encourage them to use her again – they’re aiming for DM style penetration of “exciting/controversial” articles).

    I’m just a little concerned that this student is going to receive a lot of negative attention for this article – when actually she is being used by the Guardian who ought to receive the lions share of the criticism. I know I’ve been young and outspoken – luckily for me noone sold me a national platform as a sensible outlet.

  • sameolsht

    “Here’s the thing: we shouldn’t have to make ourselves palatable to our oppressors. Why can’t they make themselves more palatable to us?”

    Damn right!

  • superfurryandy

    Two newish (female) friends of mine had received such negative images of feminism from the msm that they fiercely proclaimed they ‘hated feminists’. Pointed them towards more truthful examples (ie; not crass stereotypes) and they’re challenging their attitudes. Didn’t use Caitlin, funnily enough. That Graun piece highlights some of the problems but only within the context of affirming them.

  • shonkystagbeetle

    I wouldn’t take that bet Stavvers.

  • Jessica Burde

    You know, one of these days I need to actually sit down and read Moran. Not because I expect to like or agree with her attitudes, but simply because I consider it a good thing to actually read what a person I disagree with says in their own words.

    That said, I don’t need to read the book to know she is not the kind of feminism I want in this world. I just need to look at some of the stupid things she’s said in media venues to know she isn’t talking to or for me.

  • Vivienne

    The post is naive and stupid. But it’s not on Comment is Free, the section is clearly called ‘Blogging Students’ – this is obviously someone who is just new to the idea of feminism and hasn’t done much research or given anything much thought. Her profile says she’s a 2nd year, so she’s probably all of 19, and is likely to never want to touch feminism again after everyone has jumped down her throat. Give the poor thing a break.

  • M.K. Hajdin

    I can’t stand it when some young, white, conventionally attractive chick is set up to be our new fun fearless leader of feminism by the mainstream media, which is always trying to redefine feminism in ways which shut out actual feminists and replace them with sockpuppets.

    The media would rather not admit that actual feminism is opposed to hierarchy and thus has no “leader”. Admitting that would throw a wrench in the whole name-a-figurehead-who-can-be-discredited-later works.

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