Speaking as a bitch who has read some macroeconomics

I agree with much of this piece by Helen Razer in The Age“Destroying the point”. But overall, I wonder where her conclusions lead us.

”If you want to politicise someone, here’s a thought: talk to them about politics,” I wrote a few months ago. ”You need to read some macro-economics, bitches,” I said.

Yes. But speaking as someone whose degrees are in economics I will issue a gentle word of caution on the call for feminism to be more pragmatic and strategic, less emotional and personal. Feminism is an incredibly challenging philosophical movement aimed at achieving economic, political and social rights for women and also, changing the way these same systems of oppression are structured against other disadvantaged identities. As a movement, feminism is calling for the redistribution of power on a global level but in doing so we are being required to question and evolve the most intimate aspects of our lives. Feminist action shouldn’t feel easy, and given the intersections, it probably shouldn’t be easily branded, both are indications that feminism has been captured and diluted.

In this battle for change, which is long and demanding, there is much to be said for any feminist action that manages to ignite passion. For a movement like feminism to succeed, the emotional and personal is just as necessary as the calmly pragmatic. (Indeed, Razer’s own contributions to feminism, which I don’t want to diminish, can be measured more in arousing important debate than in leading practical, targeted, grass-roots campaigns). Destroy the Joint might not be savvy enough to counter the sly opportunism of certain advertisers but telling a movement to curb its outrage sounds suspiciously like taming. In her article, Razer extensively quotes a man in advertising who was drawn to Destroying the Joint only to find himself later sidelined and disillusioned. Much of his criticism is about the branding and tone of feminist action. Some of his frustrations I can relate to, but really, a man in advertising, is that the best measure of whether Destroy the Joint ‘works’?

Because to be frank, it wouldn’t hurt those of us working in economics, finance and advertising to open a book on gender and cultural studies from time to time either. What we will find when we do so is that a good deal of the problems we think are new – like, the branding of feminist action and feeling sidelined as an ally – are actually well-trodden paths with very comprehensive solutions. And if we read some gender studies we might learn that a good deal of these problems are about us, not the movement. What we may also find is that passionate outrage and radical ideas, far from being naive and chaotic, are often very rational forms of thinking. We may even find such thinking useful for furthering our understanding of economics.

Cross-posted at blue milk.

Categories: Culture, economics, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, media, Politics, social justice, Sociology

8 replies

  1. What we may also find is that passionate outrage and radical ideas, far from being naive and chaotic, are often very rational forms of thinking.

    It took me far too long to appreciate this, but it’s one of the most important things I’ve learnt during my years of online interaction.

  2. Same tig tog, very much same. I was very arrogant and very dismissive of feminist activism that I saw as too sincere, too angry, too radical, too emotional. It took me quite a while to get the bias I had and how much my feminist framework was lacking because of it.

  3. Yes! This has actually been my biggest struggle with academia – the obligation to be dispassionate. Some issues make me passionately angry and toning down my outrage is not only constraining, it also leads directly to my making less radical arguments.

  4. Nothing wrong with passion, outrage and radical ideas per se – but they are of ambiguous virtue, because they can be associated with tyrannical regimes as well as more benign movements. And they elicit a strong response in others – again, nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it leads to the paradox of people deliberately acting as if they were passionate and outraged and full of radical ideas, partly in expectation of a strong response.

    • bluemilk is arguing against Razer’s apparent position that there’s *no* place for passion/anger, TimT. It seems obvious to be that there has to be a balance with intellectual rigour, but not to the point that the intellectualisation becomes everything: prioritising intellectual objectivity above all else leads to sterility.

  5. Are we really arguing the whole ‘the personal is political’ thing again, given that it is the personal that tends to inspire passion?

  6. I’m going to wade in here without my qualifying wellies, and say that I think Razer is completely full of it. Where “it” is not peach melba.
    The only criticism that she, or Darc, or Clementine Ford in her response to Razer’s piece, seems to be making that will stick is that DtJ doesn’t pick its battles. Well, that’s bound to happen when the group’s goal is to get as many people as possible pitching in with their own, varied perspectives on what matters, and what to do about it. And that is what they do: they don’t dictate, they canvass opinion, curate discussion, and sometimes call for action that individual members can carry out if they choose. Or not, if they happen to think that item is not productive.
    Also, would someone like to remind me where I’ve heard before women being told that being angry will put people off? And this from a woman whose autobiography was called Everything’s Fucked? Is she turning into Paddy “protest was only meaningful back when I did it” McGuinness? Not to mention that I strongly suspect that Darc is not the only person on the team to possess his precious skill set.
    Someone needs to (re)introduce Razer to the birdcage.

  7. And really do we still want to play the game of emotional v. rational. The rational is emotional; it’s just that we don’t categorise those types of emotional responses as passionate in the way we do the ‘emotional’. In effect, it’s just about what sort of responses we ‘authorise’ as legitimate, and that’s all about power – which as we know should never go unquestioned!

%d bloggers like this: