September 16, 1999
editors of Bust and of
BUST GUIDE TO THE NEW GIRL ORDER
Debbie has written for George, the Village Voice, and Ms., she pens a column about women and pop culture called "The XX Files" for Shift Magazine. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University.
Marcelle is a director and award-winning producer (Lifetime, Fox, HBO). In addition, she contributes to Spin, Details, and Jane magazines, writing about the zeitgeist of girl culture.
SuePhD asks, "Debbie, you have a Ph.D in psychology from Yale. What did you observe about how women function as grad students? What advice would you give someone just starting out in her first year of grad school?"
Debbie: I looooooved grad school, and I'm sure you'll have a great time, too. As for your other question: Women and men function pretty much the same as grad students--in fact, exactly the same. Whether you have a penis or a vagina, it still takes forever to write a damn dissertation, so don't sweat it.
Marcelle: We call it "reclamation." And it isn't something that just came up with third wave feminism; it's something the second wavers were big on, too. Remember that during the second wave, there were so many factions of feminist activism: there were radical feminists, lesbian feminists, etc. And, in fact, one of the things that the lesbian feminists were huge advocates of was reclamation: taking terms that were once derogatory and turning them into vehicles of empowerment (slogans like "gay is good." etc.).
Debbie: The ever-righteous queer movement in the 1990s and the riotous grrls were also very instrumental in this reclaiming movement. I guess the strategy's a little like, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em;" only this way, we get to beat 'em at their own game. It's also a little like, "I'm rubber and you're glue..."
Marcelle: Ally McBeal has a stylist and is looking for ratings. Most feminists don't have that.
Debbie: Ally McBeal has a clueless stylist! Those mini skirts are so 1997!
Marcelle: This leftover stigma of the 70s continues to plague 90s feminists. And it's not just the Bible belt where this sort of thinking is so prevalent; it's here in NYC too. My mother, in fact, thinks that a woman without a man is not like a fish without a bicycle; her whole family thinks I have gone batty. What people forget is that no matter how independent you are, everyone needs a little lovin'. I think often times people equate independence with Greta Garbo's "I vant to be alone" mantra, which really isn't what independence is about; rather it's the ability to sustain yourself without relying on someone else to do the job for ya. The other leftover F-word stigma is that feminists don't believe in marriage; this may be true of some of the 70s feminists who thought sex was bad (Greer), that pregnancy was the patriarchy's tool of oppression (Firestone), and that having a man in your life was just bad. In fact, having a bad man in your life is bad, but having a supportive, good, feminist man is not. In any case, this is all stuff we are constantly put on trial for, still, to this day. A healthy way to combat all of these stereotypes is to reinforce the importance of one's goal in life. If you are focusing on your career, then that's been your choice. Because if we aren't making our own choices, then feminism has indeed failed us.
Debbie: Also, you know, the single independent woman is experiencing a renaissance, of sorts. Witness Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones, and, especially, Sex in the City. You get HBO in the Bible Belt, dontcha? If all else fails, you can always move to New York, where you'll be surrounded by tons of kick-ass single sisters.
Marcelle: Well every culture has a catty corner. I wish we could all just agree, too. That Andrea Dworkin and Nina Hartley could be friends. But then we would all just turn into Stepford people, wouldn't we? I would love it if all feminists could join together to battle those who still sneer at feminism. In our book, I do try to point out that we all don't need to be fighting each other, that this thrilla in girlvilla is so frightening on so many levels.
Debbie: Oh Ethan, Ethan, Ethan. Of course the girls are pissed at (some of) the guys. I really think if a guy spent just one day in the body of a girl, he'd understand -- there's plenty to be pissed about. But we love men -- in fact, some of my best friends are men. And if the guys are mad at feminists, I understand that too -- they don't want to share their toys. I'm not gonna be a wimp-ass feminist and say something like, "oh, don't worry guys, we all love you," cause it ain't true: there's as much ambivalence on the girls' side as there is on the guys'. But I think, eventually, we'll work it all out. I think it's all a part of changing the world. No pain, no gain.
Marcelle: Well that's the point isn't it? ...so that you'll keep trying harder and keep buying next month's issue to see what else you need to do to look better, be better, feel better? The whole trick of mainstream women's magazines is to fool you into thinking how desperately you need them so you will remain loyal to them. By convincing you that you are not good enough YET, they keep you coming back for more reasons to feel bad about yourself and to feel inadequate. It's a great mindf*ck formula.
Debbie: Naomi Wolf has the best answer I've heard on this, which is that we can't stop reading women's magazines even though they suck so much because they are one of the few things in pop culture that are all about us. They are mostly written by women for women and about women, so we keep going back to them, 'cause no one else will have us. It's like an abusive relationship. And we gotta get out NOW!
Marcelle: What? Who are these people? Get me their names and numbers and I'll send them a BUST. Sheesh.
Breakup Girl created by Lynn Harris & Chris Kalb