What’s Up With That?

Laughter, at its most basic, is the physical experience of being surprised. You gasp and then you let the gasp out and there you have it: a laugh. Lots of things accomplish this: puns, Mark Twain, John Cleese, and the bored people who make window displays in charity shops in San Francisco, south of Market, where things are always a little more interesting.

A lot of what surprises and intrigues me has to do with the roles we play in the world, and how those roles are subverted. That’s why this window, the one with the two weirdly medical mannequins made me laugh. It’s a display that calls out for a feminist reading, but all I could do at the stoplight when I saw it was take a picture of it and file it for later thought.

For a long time, feminism was the tool I used to figure out my response to what I was reading, to things I’d see in the media, and to the world of the law I was just entering. I can’t put my finger on when I stopped articulating these ideas and applying them to the things that surprised me. But I do suspect it was when I got tired of being a deadly serious feminist. My work in this area didn’t make me laugh.

I know that sounds frivolous, and maybe it is, but it’s my working theory, so bear with me. It’s just this: if laughter is surprise and maybe even a little delight, then we’re going to stick with things that deliver laughter. I simply never looked for that and so never found it in feminist thinking. It’s not that it isn’t there to be found, and it’s not the case that feminism must be deadly serious, without any wit or playfulness. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the image of the deadly serious, scary feminist is one that deserves to be picked up, and looked at and given a good, healthy shake. I think what I’d find is that this image is there to make you stop thinking.

When Emily recently dropped the anvil on Abercrombie & Fitch, my response was “what she said.” Not much more than that — I’ve gotten out of practice seeing the world through this lens.

But then Emily proposed a kind of group blog, a notebook really, for people to record their thoughts about 21st century feminism. And I realized how much fun that might be. It’s a place to put pictures of mannequins, and don’t you think the world needs something like that? Litlove, and Dorothy, and Courtney and the Hobgoblin were there for that conversation, so they’re going to be posting some things, along with Emily and me. I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

It’s called What We Said: Reflections on 21st Century Feminism. It’s not meant to be a weighty project for anyone — it’s a notebook, a place for anything anyone has to say about feminism. If you want in, email me or leave a comment here. I’ll add you to the site and it will become your very own moleskine also. Or come by and comment at some point. We’ll see what happens. I’m pretty sure, at a minimum, there will be things said that surprise all of us.

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18 thoughts on “What’s Up With That?

  1. I think it’s going to be extremely interesting and often eye-opening, BL! I’m thrilled that you’ve managed to set this up and looking forward to posting.

  2. For such a long time, I also read my world through a feminist prism. I can’t quite put my finger on when and why I stopped doing that. Anyway, I would like be involved in this conversation – would you add in me in please?

  3. I could contribute some thoughts every now and again…

    I used to be a very angry feminist but I’ve mellowed a lot as I’ve gotten older. I think being older myself and not dating or socialising with obnoxious boys in their late teens and early 20s has a lot to do with it.

  4. I like the idea of the blog being a notebook or moleskine. I usually do relatively long posts at my own blog, but I like the idea of a place to leave some brief thoughts now and then.

  5. Litlove, What you said! (I mean, me too.) Mary, Charlotte, Selene, Ms. Make Tea– Happy to add you. If I need any extra information, I’ve sent you an email. Give me a day or so to get it together and then post away. I’m with Dorothy — brief thoughts, every now and then, the way you’d scrawl something in your own notebook — or if you’ve got something longer you’ve been working on, maybe a link to your blog? Or maybe just whatever strikes your fancy. The pleasure of a group blog is all the different voices. And don’t forget pictures, I do so love a good picture.

  6. Thank you so much for all of your work on this. I have So much rattling around in my brain right now about this – I expect I’ll be posting there often once I get some of my ideas and thoughts organized. Right now it’s all a useless jumble. But you and Emily and Litlove and Dorothy are really helping to elucidate some ideas I’ve held dormant for years, and I need to figure out why they’ve been dormant, and what to say about them.

    I think this is going to be a very, very interesting endeavor.

  7. Hey Kate — That’s wonderful. I’ll get you signed up. Courtney, You’re most welcome. I think it’ll be fun and interesting to have a place to put that jumble. And it’s okay if it is a jumble! xo, L

  8. If you believe a frenchman can be any use to the feminist cause, count me in. I might write short reviews on books by Elisabeth Badinter I read: “L’amour en Plus”, “Fausse route”, “L’un est l’autre”, “XY”.

  9. I’ll anxiously await the results.

    Love the window dressing! Such are the little joys of living in the Bay Area! Always creativity popping up on every corner…

  10. LK — It’s so true. I love how wild people get (especially around Halloween!). Sometimes it works, sometimes not — but I admire the spirit of experimentation. xo, L

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