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Feminism: 90s vs. Now

Updated on May 26, 2017

Sometimes, I think I'm not really not a feminist, I'm just not a current year feminist. My feminism is rooted in progressive messages from TV, comic books, anime, etc. from the 90's through to the mid 00's. Since I was born in 1990, my formative years were spent with awesome, heroic female icons like Buffy, Xena, Bubbles, Blossom, Buttercup, Sailor Moon, Wonder Woman and Hawk Girl in the Justice League, Starfire and Raven in Teen Titans, and so on. My heroines were not women who cowered from "microaggressions" and retreated to "safe spaces", they accepted that being strong meant being prepared to handle danger, and being able to do so without relying on men was a sign of good character.

Well, much like the X-Files or Firefly, it just seems like that kind of "you go girl" feminism was just too good to last. So what the hell happened?

90's Positivity Gave Way to 00's Cynicism

When 9/11 happened, I think it marks a cultural turning point I call the Age of Cynicism. No longer was it cute to have bright-colored spandex-wearing happy people fight crime; we had realized that crime was deadlier and much more real. In the 90's, crime and poverty were declining, people were starting to survive AIDS and actually talk about the problem, the Soviet system was breaking down, apartheid was ending, and charities were getting bigger and bigger. We had every reason to think that the conditions of the world were only going to improve, so shows like Friends and bands like The Spice Girls made total sense.

But the planes hitting those towers, and subsequent wars that turned out to be futile in terms of serving justice for the attack, woke everyone up to a grim reality. And this sudden change was reflected in our art at the time. Bands with bitter messages who were underground before this, like Green Day, rose to prominence. Eminem abandoned the wacky celebrity-bashing shtick and made his bitter album "Eminem Show", containing cynical songs like "Square Dance", "White America", and "Cleaning Out My Closet". We looked differently at superheroes, because our real-life heroes had failed us. This bred the unforgettable "brooding 00's action hero" who came to dominate cinema. There was no room for something campy and fun like the old Power Rangers we watched as a kid. We wanted to see that being a hero and saving the world were really complex, hard things, not to be overcome by a mere positive attitude and some silly costumes and catch phrases.

How did this affect gender? Well, Islamic terrorism is patriarchal. It's political, anti-Semitic, economic, and anti-imperialism, but it's also unapologetically, 100% patriarchal. It is an attack on Western women for being liberated in a way that Muslim women might want to emulate, breaking down traditional male-dominated power structures in the Middle East. People who hate women's liberation and women's education, who want to even deny rights it's unthinkable to deny women here, are the ones also attacking innocent people throughout the West. Now, people are even saying more restrictions on women are necessary. They're saying that the culture that dominates women wins, by controlling the means of reproduction. In this climate of fear, there's no more place for Jems or Starfires. You don't get the luxury of being naive about gender. It's become a much more serious game than we would have ever imagined.

Obama Era Madness

In the 2000's we began to see culturally something of a backlash against "girl power" feminism. But it wasn't just Bush-era conservatives who were going "why don't those angry chicks put their guns down and bake a pie?".

Feminists themselves criticized it for not going far enough. The ideal feminist 90's action hero was too white, too masculine, too pretty, too violent, too thin, too athletic, too (usually) straight, or if lesbian, lesbian in a way that *gasp* might turn men on! I call this fun little phenomenon the "liberal crusader treadmill" wherein something seen as a desirable end goal by one generation of activists is seen as repressive and backwards by the next. It was no longer that they wanted a female James Bond. It was that the female James Bonds they had were too sexy, supposedly putting off "real women" from thinking they could be like her. Being sexy made them question if those characters were created for women or for men (while nobody thought about how Bond's sexiness might have been just to sell movie tickets to women?).

Over time, I have seen increased insanity and animosity in feminism and liberal activism; the rise of the SJW or "social justice warrior", a campus-stomping soapbox Sadie, often with stereotypical attire such as chopped up unusually dyed hair, piercings, tats, and fake nerd glasses. The aim of the SJW is to be loud and unpleasant. She combats what she perceives as a toxic, white, male system that oppresses minorities not by humbly begging for God to help the outcasts, but by going around and angrily confronting everyone who isn't in a "marginalized group". The 90's action heroine is not compatible with this model, because while characters like Xena and Buffy got angry, they still had loving hearts. There is no feminine tenderness in new feminism. It's about vengeance and destroying men, not women's liberation.

Why? Well, I think it's because most goals of women's liberation have been achieved, leaving gender studies professors and professional activists in a bit of a bind. Ever notice that feminism never used to focus on issues of race, transgender people, homosexuality, etc.? Yeah, that's all because feminists who used to focus on women "saw the light" of "intersectionality" which basically means white women got all the things they were fighting for for themselves, but their movement was too successful. So now they find no fault in speaking on behalves of people whose experiences they know nothing about. Remember Rachel Dolezal, the woman who donned a blackface disguise for years to be a leader in the NAACP? That's modern feminism and its embarrassment known as intersectionality. It's good in theory for privileged white women to use their platform to try to get justice for minorities, but when they talk over the voices of those minorities (should they happen to deviate ideologically from the new SJW cult dogma), they're not really serving justice. They're serving their own need to be seen as important and to be moral victors.

I think that certain liberals simply got high on power during 8 years of Obama's presidency. They became smug. Oh sure, there were smug liberals during the Clinton years too, but during the time of Dubya, I remember it being cool and edgy and courageous to be a liberal, atheist, or feminist. It was underground, like being a fan of Daria or anime.

But like anime, it became mainstream overnight, and not only mainstream, but fashionable, and now so many celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon that it's uncool not to be ultra-liberal anymore. Remember when the Dixie Chicks were booed and ostracized for making "unpatriotic" statements? Country music is more conservative than pop music, sure. But, that reaction reflected the soaring patriotism of the Bush years; to be unpatriotic then was as uncool as it is to be not a feminist now. So basically what I think is, liberals got out of control because 8 years in power gave them a trip they're just now coming down from.

Losing the Election

And now, they've come down, pretty violently. Elections in America are not about political issues anymore, so much as they're about indicating what general cultural direction America is going in. By electing Trump instead of SJW/feminist darling Hillary, the American people made a statement about what they want from culture in the future; the times they were a-changin', and it's not looking so good for the SJW's, who are now a bit less confident that they're going to be "on the winning side of history". Now, the rise of the anti-SJW YouTuber who dares to voice the truth has caused some of them to even rethink their original positions. Since society seems to be going in a more conservative direction, media attention whores are jumping off the sinking ship of Tumblr feminism. Who knows what could happen next? I never thought I'd see Laci Green, Francesca Ramsay, or Milo Stewart being open to dialogue or apologetic. Hell hath indeed frozen over.

Can We Make Feminism Great Again?

Well, feminism, as in the "girl power" feminism of the 90's, was achieved in that we now have more female fighters, more female cops, more females in the military. But, that also forced us to come to terms with the biological reality behind certain gender roles we thought were just tired old stereotypes. Feminism has two problems right now, it ignores science's perspective on sex, and white women are claiming to speak for every minority group they are not a part of, instead of letting those groups form their own internally arising activists. Much like a 16th century nun going off to tell the Aztecs to stop sacrificing people to their false gods, feminists now are busy whitesplaining and womansplaining to different groups how they should feel about "harmful" things like football mascots or Halloween costumes. Largely this is because they have nothing better to do. Women in the west are not being oppressed and having their rights taken away by western men, generally. Who we should be defending women's liberation to are extreme conservative Christians, patriarchal immigrants from different cultures (Indian for example), and above all, radical Islamists who hate western women's freedom. If someone has a problem with you baring your midriff, it's not likely to be someone who is an easy target anymore. It's going to be someone likely coming from a different land, a different culture. Feminism does have an important fight for women's progress worldwide ahead, but attacking western men, the least sexist men on the planet, is not productive to that plan.

We have to acknowledge that certain western values really are superior. It might sting to hear that, but that's the plain truth. Western science cures diseases and puts people on the moon. Eastern mysticism has you eating the dick of an endangered animal just to feel good. Not all cultures are equal. And if Western culture can handle scrutiny and pressure to change, so can Islamic culture, so can Chinese culture, etc. I personally believe we will see a future where the best parts of many cultures are adopted globally, while the worst practices are discarded. There will emerge one dominant world culture, a perfect fusion, that's the next phase of cultural evolution. Resistance to "cultural appropriation", "color blindness" and "white washing" is resistance to cultural assimilation towards a post-racial future, which is progress.

Can feminism be great again? Maybe. But it has a long way to go.

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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      Xena warrior princess most definately 1990's feminism era however Xena still has a strong fan base and at 49 still has the classic good looks. She admitted in her last interview she gets a thrill some males are afraid to approach her.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 3 months ago from California, United States of America

      I think Feminism is inherently divisive and based in hate, though what existed in the 90s, you're right, was a pleasant departure from its origins. But I was around in the days when Feminist were pretty much all sexually repressive and directed a lot of hatred toward men and boys, so what is currently happening with it, to me, is just a return to what it really is, after the brief period of re-branding it under-went for a period of time in the 90s. One thing I know for certain; human beings need a better approach other than insulating ourselves into divided groups where we relish in being separated from each other by forming these silly identities and ideologies that ruin the world.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 months ago

      "Elections in America are not about political issues anymore, so much as they're about indicating what general cultural direction America is going in. " - Very true!

      In all honesty feminism has always been associated with liberalism. Any movement that wants to change "tradition" is usually seen as a "liberal movement" whether it's "civil rights", "marriage equality", "equal pay for equal work" or pro choice". Generally "conservatives" are not in favor of those.

      In America what has affected feminism the most is (women).

      Essentially they are divided into two camps.

      1. Progressive (Demand equality, independence, & options)

      2. Traditionalist (Happy with things as are, more religious)

      Some women don't believe a woman can be "pro-life" and be considered a feminist. Some feminists have been accused of looking down on women who want to be stay at home wives and mothers. Ultimately true equality means having the ability for individuals to make their own choices without being judged.

      A while back one feminist said: "All men are rapist!"

      It's always the extremist in any movement that destroy it.

      With regard to Hollywood and "superheroes" it always comes down to what makes money! Today more movies with women as the hero are being released such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Wonder Woman, and Ghost in the Shell. In fact there's talk about releasing a "Batgirl" movie. Scarlett Johansson is a major character in the Avengers and Captain America movies.

      These women aren't waiting around to be "rescued" by men. They're taking names and kicking ass on their own!

      If "Wonder Woman" is a huge hit we're going to see more female driven super hero movies than ever before. Money talks!

      One man's opinion! :)