Debra Dickerson can't leave well enough alone. After painting all young feminists as lazy, uncommitted, pole-dancing, hard-drinking exhibitionist sex-bloggers, she says they can't be trusted... but she loves them.
Dickerson's post is titled "Don't Trust Any Feminists Under 30," and I have lived (thus far) to the ripe old age of 31 a state in which I can apparently be trusted to be sufficiently committed to the cause, respectful to my elders and disinclined to pole dance, post drunken pictures of myself on Facebook or blog about my sex life.
Ms. Dickerson feels that all the criticism of her piece stems from the fact that young feminists are insufficiently humble and do too little to honor their elders. She knows this, of course, because when she was younger, she spent her time mocking one of her older, slightly-disabled co-workers.
He'd recently been forced off active duty due to a weird heart glitch unlikely to flare up, and he was miserable about being forced out of uniform. I, on the other hand, was a total gym rat and fashion plate with an unlimited military future. I worked out so, I had to have my uniform sleeves tailored for my sculpted, Michelle-kiss-my-heinie arms. I monitored everything that went into my body and everything that went into anybody's body around me. I subscribed to magazines like Muscle and Fitness and would have competed in bodybuilding competitions had I not been too busy going to school at night to get ahead. Jim, with his Homer Simpson gut and comb over, got winded just using the copier. One day, he came in wincing and limping. He'd actually hurt himself stretching before one of his infrequent attempts to exercise. I laughed and laughed. Thought it was the funniest thing in the world, and only realized in retrospect that he was not sharing the joke.
According to Ms. Dickerson, any critique of her piece, in which she painted all young feminists with the broad brush of uninformed skankhood, is exactly like mocking a middle-aged man with a heart condition. She wishes she could apologize to Jim - since deceased - the way that those who dared critique her will someday apologize for having the hubris to be offended at the suggestion that all young feminists are doing is "pole-dancing, walking around half-naked, posting drunk photos on Facebook, and blogging about your sex lives." Yes, we'll be apologizing.
All of that to say this to the young feminists so offended by this elder's critique: One day, you'll have your own Jim story to tell. One day, when you've lived through more of this bitch called life, but without all that youth and vigor, you'll hear yourself saying something like, "These young women today just don't get it. Not like we did." When you've made hideous mistakes you know were because you talked the feminist talk but didn't walk the feminist walk. When that day comes, if I haven't keeled over at my desk, please have the grace to call me up so we can laugh together at youth's callow overconfidence and refusal to listen with respect, if not agreement.
To translate: she still doesn't believe that today's young feminists are doing anything worthwhile.
And she's got some other advice, too:
But wait! I started it, right? I was disrespectful first, no? Grow up, girlies.
I find it more than a little annoying that Dickerson is demanding our utter respect and adherence, but has no intention of addressing us mythical pole-dancing, sex-blogging, hard-drinking young feminists with even a modicum of it.
Ms. Dickerson then launches into a list of all the famous African-American writers she read before writing her book The End of Blackness as a way of justifying her position:
I've earned my bitchiness and I've earned the right to be taken seriously.
You don't "earn" bitchiness of this sort, and you don't "earn" the right to be taken seriously by being bitchy. Dickerson certainly has the right to criticize young feminists, but if her goal is to be taken seriously by them, shoving herself into a conversation, insulting everyone else participating in it, and belittling everyone as "girlies" and "chicks" isn't the way to earn or maintain anyone's respect. The writers on this site — as well as many of the other blogs out there — aren't exactly running around defending virginity-auctions or Girls Gone Wild, as she suggests.
Your generation just seems so complacent, la la la there are no abortion providers in most of the country but I'll just go auction off my virginity and flash my thong with pride. I'll excel from kindergarten through Harvard Law, then mommy track myself for a man who is not my equal. Then I'll breastfeed for eight years, not because I want to but because I'm a bad mommy if I don't.
Dickerson complains that critiques of her smack of "ageism" even as she belittles an entire generation of women — many of whom don't identify as feminist — and their choices to get educated and yet try to find a work-life balance that involves time spent with their children. (God forbid some women choose to take advantage of the choices feminism and flex time have offered them.) And, for a piece entitled "Don't Trust Any Feminists Under 30," it is bizarre, to say the least, to accuse young feminists of breastfeeding their hypothetical children for 8 years out of mommy-guilt, which would seem to me to be more of an affliction of women of my advanced age that Dickerson's hypothetical virginity-auctioning, thong-flashing, pole-dancing, hard-drinking under-30 sex bloggers.
Dickerson says she's simply scared that we'll make all the mistakes of her generation; that we'll live with too much hubris and too little humility, criticizing people with something to say without ever taking the time to research them or their positions on issues. (She really does live in an irony-free zone!)
Unfair, but from love. You don't hear me criticizing the Jews or our missile defense policy. I care about the groups I belong (or belonged) to: the working class, blacks, women, and the military.
So, you know, have a little respect and a hell of a lot more humility.
For my part, I find it difficult to love without knowledge. And by painting young feminists with one small brush as over-sexed, over-exposed, unintellectual feminist charlatans, Ms. Dickerson has proved that she lacks some basic knowledge — so I'm hard pressed to buy her argument of love.
Don't Trust Any Feminists Under 30 [MotherJones]