The new feminism’s focus on the body is a step backwards.
What does it mean to be a feminist today? Women’s liberation used to mean believing that men and women were equal, that women were more than a bag of hormones, and that we could think and act as rationally as men. Women’s liberation movements of the past argued against the biologisation of women, laughing at the idea that periods change women’s behaviour or that appearance defines a woman’s worth. Not anymore.
Behold the latest degradation of women’s liberation: gross-out feminism. This newly coined term seeks to define a new movement focused on women’s bodies rather than their minds. ‘This new movement normalises women by focusing on their bodies, warts and all’, says one supporter. ‘Its goal is to provide a kind of shock therapy to those still harbouring the notion that women don’t have bodily functions, trapped gas, or insubordinate periods.’ Lofty ambitions indeed.
‘Vaginas are so hot right now. If that sentence shocks you, then you’ve been out of the cultural loop’, one commentator writes. And she’s right. Modern feminism is obsessed with vaginas. Take the Guardian’s new ‘Vagina Dispatches’, which claims that ‘there is something particularly damaging about vagina ignorance’. The leaders of the project, two attractive young women, have started up an online hub where readers are invited to draw vulvas and discuss their genitals. They even went out on the streets of New York, one dressed as a vagina, asking people to name the bits.
If you thought that was weird, I wouldn’t recommend watching the fashion brand Monki’s latest series of vlogs. In a video titled ‘Periods are cool. Period’, another attractive woman, standing barefoot in a pool of fake blood, tells the camera ‘anyone around the world who has [a period] can relate. It’s something that crosses race boundaries, cultural boundaries, age boundaries, norm boundaries.’ Forget political solidarity, period solidarity is the new in-thing for young feminists. Other videos include an attractive young woman boasting about the length of her armpit hair; an attractive young woman talking about big girls looking good in clothes; and an attractive young woman, in knickers, talking to women about the importance of masturbation.
Remember Charlotte Roche’s novel Wetlands? The 2008 book which sought to be as disgusting as possible in an attempt to ‘normalise’ women’s bodies? The book about haemorrhoids, anal sex and farting that was hailed as an empowering breakthrough for women’s liberation? That piece of fiction has become real. From free-bleeding campaigns to the new fascination with body hair, feminism is now, often literally, staring up its own backside.