Now cross-posted at the Overland Journal blog.
One Dimensional Woman is Nina Power’s 69-page treatise and call to arms, articulately railing against contemporary portrayals of women. Power’s anger is at the narrow confines within which women must locate themselves, and the “trademarking” of feminism for a range of projects that are harmful rather than liberatory. Acutely sharp in places, and humorous in others, it speaks frankly as it winds its way through issues from vintage porn to the rise of the “uber-feminist” Sarah Palin.
Power discusses some of the historical and contemporary feminist staples, such as pornography and social attitudes to the wearing of the hijab, but in doing so breathes fresh air into these questions. Her discussion about violence in pornography and its relationship to changing attitudes of young women to what is expected sexual conduct is illuminating, highlighting that issues of sexual behaviour and choice are not historically unchanging but socially constructed.
Her discussion takes place within an analysis that is conscious that the term “feminist” (and indeed the wider feminist project) has been stripped of much of its sharpness and liberatory potential. For me this underlines that the feminist project is not a movement that exists outside the confines of a state attempting to shape and modify it (not that any social movement does). Rather it is a movement that ruling elites have successfully co-opted, taking its agenda for their own ends, perhaps more extensively that has been the case for other progressive movements. Feminists may have stormed the corridors of state and political power, occupying high-level governmental and bureaucratic positions, but in that process the cause of women’s liberation has reached a dead end. And, as Power highlights, the circumstances for many women outside elite circles have actually moved backwards.