populism and unconventional politics
December 11, 2003 02:58 PM

Have you found feminist or women’s health issues being addressed in real life in places similar to this? I will say right here that I think it is necessary to get beyond academia and traditionally elitist and/or primarily white middle-upper class mediums as the main source of information and connection. How do you think this can be carried out? In what other places would this hybrid of a salon/health center work?

This is Kerri's question on WHB this week; you should read her whole post as well.

My own hair salon is very much of this casual "everyone talks to everyone about everything" vibe. We read offensive bits of women's magazines aloud and dish them. We talk loudly about gay marriage and perms and aging and fat activism and Buffy. It's a relatively white, middle class place, but it's still an opportunity to educate each other on our various backgrounds.

I agree that we have to go beyond the "traditional" milieu of feminism in academia and upper middle class life. I think, honestly, that feminism is already outside of that milieu, and it is only those of us who don't step outside who can't see it. Could there be more? Hell, yeah!

That said, I think there is a very fine line between making feminism accessible and talking down to one's audience. It is entirely too easy for white, educated, American women to take on the patronizing attitude of deciding what feminism's "message to the masses" should be without, say, bringing the masses in and involving them. Any message will be massively more relevant and powerful if comes from a source the audience can trust.

So, one vehicle for this is television. One is music. One is celebrities. Popular media are incredibly influential for many people. I don't mean public television, or Ani DiFranco, or celebrity political endorsements. What I'm thinking about is analogous to what a friend talked about as the human element of a political story - the way some media can be implicitly, not explicitly, socially conscious. The sort of "woman power" implied in shows like UPN's "The Parkers", for instance, subtly transmits politics but is really about a story (UPN, by the way, does this "featured link" thing on their website that connects people to health and human services sites - a cool thing I discovered when I went looking for a link to the show), much the way Wyclef Jean is about rhythm and celebration but also about pointing out some of the problems poor black people face.

The hair salon, church, barber shop and community center (in urban areas) also all tap into another vibe, the safe comfortable place vibe, for a lot of people. It seems to me that those have always been places where you could get information about health and other big issues (at least, when your hair salon isn't one of those sterile white-and-chrome places), so it would feel natural to expand that. It would be weird for an outsider to come in and start up a new program, but I think one way privileged feminists could reach out would be to learn to talk to salon owners and ministers and owners of community centers, laundromats, and other places people gather - those are people who might be most effective at reaching out directly to their communities.

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your wicked thoughts

"That said, I think there is a very fine line between making feminism accessible and talking down to one's audience. "

I'm glad you mentioned that. This is the exact point that I find troubling because usually when people start talking about making feminism/any movement accessible to let's say a non-white populace, there is this really close encounter with imperialist (small "i") or condescending attitudes.

these are the thoughts of Kerri on December 11, 2003 09:12 PM

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