The Death of Feminism?

Griselda Pollock addressed a select number of BYU faculty about her current work in feminist scholarship.

we-can-do-it-posterPROVO, Utah (Dec. 2, 2016)“The feminist movement really has made a huge change [in history]. We are shortchanging this by trying to keep moving on,” said Griselda Pollock, feminist scholar and professor at the University of Leeds. “Feminism is one of the most successful movements of the twentieth century. We just want a new brand of feminism, we are tired of the old, much as we tire of the old iPhone.”

In a discussion with BYU faculty, Pollock led a question and answer session about her recent publication, “Is Feminism a Trauma, a Bad Memory, or a Virtual Future?” This essay discusses globalization, the history of feminism, and the tension between different generations of feminist scholars. In recent years, Pollock believes feminism has turned towards hypersexuality as a new avenue to empowerment.

“Us golden oldies of the 1970s look like some sort of puritanical, constraining, denying mothers at the point at which there is a pressure for a different concept of being a woman,” explained Pollock. She continued, noting the importance of considering and incorporating past viewpoints in the face of female hypersexuality. “Without the history, we are just going back to the book and trying to rediscover things that may be already have been discovered.”

Pollock’s essay is an exhortation to the new, fourth-wave feminists to not discount the progress made by their mothers and grandmothers. “The fourth wave is even more confused as to what constitutes freedom” she said. “There is no discourse on democratic policy- we’ve lost the politics in it.”

Pollock argues that at the height of the civil rights movement, peaceful protests of Gandhi, and decolonization, women were given milestones of progress in the form of legislation. Now, in what Pollock considers the fourth wave of feminism, the milestones have become more vague and are no longer based on new laws that will increase freedom for women. In other words, the fourth wave is more confused about what goals they are fighting for.   

“Now when we say feminism, we lose the concept of the women’s collective, the women’s movement,” explained Pollock. “All of that vocabulary is lost in the notion that it is all about individual self-realization and empowerment. . . . Pleasure empowerment has become the dominant discourse and has made less of the discourse about democracy.”

Along with the individualization of feminism, scholars in the U.S. and Europe are giving more attention to the experience of women globally. Pollock, as an art historian, celebrates this globalization and tries to incorporate this into her writing. “There’s a lot of different histories to know, so that’s why I call what I do in art history ‘feminist interventions in arts histories.’ Just by pluralizing it I’ve stopped it being a single story.”  

Pollock closed by expressing a few of her own thoughts about the purpose of feminism and the importance of women representatives in the government. “Feminism isn’t just ‘let’s get women to the top.’ It is actually ‘how will we survive?’ Could you actually imagine your republic represented by a woman without this deep problem of what a woman is?”   

Hannah Sandorf (B.A. Art History and Curatorial Studies ’17)

Hannah covers events for the Humanities Center for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.

Image: J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It!”