by Inga Muscio
Feminism is an expression of oppressed people, but it has, like everything else in America, been commodified. Why ever in a million years would feminism somehow remain the lone bastion of integrity and strength, boiling away, as it is, in a seething 500 year old brew of buying, stealing and selling stew?
The United States of America is a country based on buying, stealing and selling stuff. We became a nation because we did not want to pay taxes to England. We stole Indian land because we did not want to pay folks for what was — through sense of entitlement and ecclesiastical white supremacist racism — rightfully ours. We became an economy based on the stolen lives of slavery because we did not want to pay for the labor required for the costly infrastructure on all the land we stole from Indians. We abolished slavery because we found that machines are less expensive than slaves. As an added bonus, the materials required to make machines could be easily stolen from the earth and transacted into fabulous, fabulous profits. The oldest and most respected families in the U.S. are largely descended from said thieving stock.
On and on it has gone: rape, war, death, love, family, entertainment, art, music, health care, transportation, food, clothes, shelter, religion.
You name it and the United States of America has found a way to commodify it. We’ve even found a way to commodify our pattern of commodification. It’s called The American Dream, and globally, we’re quite famous for it.
Every expression of oppressed people has, of course, become a commodity. Jazz, the blues, rock n’ roll, hip hop, Native American art, artifacts, sacred burial grounds and chick-rock n’ flicks all manage to bring great wealth to people who wouldn’t know oppression if it came up and slapped them across their ecclesiastically entitled faces.
Of course Mama Grizzlies are honing in on feminism. Learn history, recognize the patterns repeating themselves in our daily lives and move on that knowledge. Elvis (Costello and Presley), the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and Eric Clapton couldn’t take a piss in the morning without first jacking the genius of Sister Rosetta Tharp, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thorton or Robert Johnson. Many feminists get all shook up and have a whole lotta love for “classic” rock n’ roll. You can selectively embrace the entrenched commodification of everything on the planet if you want to, but you will end up running around and round in circles.
And yet, in our 21st century frenzied feeding fest of profiteering, some oppressed people have managed to gain human and civil rights by fighting our asses off every step of the way.
I asked my 14 year-old god daughter to tell me what core feminist values are. She said, “Like, my core feminist values, or my family’s or the culture’s or what?” I gave her my computer and scrolled down to a blank page and said, “All of it. Write it down for me, will ya?” Here’s what she came up with:
“I don’t really have core feminist values, even though I care very much about how women are treated; I have core everything values. I think that everything, people, animals, trees, religions, choices, buildings, deserve respect, unless it does or is something that hurts something else in a serious way. But for people who do have core feminist values, I think their values are things like: women should hold the same amount of power as men, we should not be treated differently in any situation, and we should be able to be whatever we want — all of this without getting a bunch of shit from people who don’t see women and men as equal. It bugs me when people have core feminist values but don’t have values for other things, like animals or other people’s choices. My core value is to respect and be considerate of stuff, and females are included.”
Like jazz music, feminism exists in the heart and soul. It is easy to wear a t-shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like.” It is not easy to love, respect and value ourselves and those lives we encounter during our inevitable march towards the ultimate transformation.
Oh, no, it is not easy.
Not in our cultural milieu, where divisions, denial, hidden agendas, racism, gossip, rumors, competition and the greedy, desperate pawings off the master’s table mark the daily consciousness of our lives.
It is not easy to love.
Conversely, love and creative genius are, and always have been, our most potent weapons against those who seek to commodify the planet.
January 10, 2011
Inga Muscio is the author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, and Rose. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and has an extensive lecture schedule across the nation.
Also see The Rise of Enlightened Sexism by Susan J. Douglas in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.
See “Three Habits of the Heart and Mind To Spark Cultural Awakening” by Arlene Goldbard in the Spring 2010 edition of On The Issues Magazine.