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SMC hosts feminist speaker

Kaitlyn Rabach | Thursday, March 1, 2012

Saint Mary’s students gained a glimpse into competing views of feminism last night during the lecture titled “Warrior Women vs. Ragpickers: Divergent Paths in Contemporary Feminism” last night in the Stapleton Lounge.

Mary Caputi, political science professor at California State University Long Beach, explored two camps of contemporary feminism in her lecture and said critical thinking should play a more significant role in analyzing modern feminism. Caputi also taught at Saint Mary’s College in the early 1990s.

“A lot in our culture equates feminism with consumerism, liberation and facile abuses of power. We need to use critical thinking skills to analyze what is really presented in feminism,” Caputi said.

Caputi said the two schools of thought in contemporary feminism can best be described by the nicknames of the “New Girl Order” and “ragpicker feminism.”

“New Girl Order can also be referred to as wake-up-and-smell-the-lip-gloss feminism or stiletto feminism,” Caputi said. “This type is very much centered on the motto ‘feminism is whatever I as an individual say it is.'”

Caputi said this school of thought often lacks the skills of critical thinking.

“This feminism celebrates the neoliberal of current capital and global capital,” Caputi said. “It often lacks the ability to step back and ask why money, power and sex are being offered.”

Caputi said the New Girl Order is based on rugged American individualism. It aggressively uses power and risks buying into models of masculinity, she said.

Caputi said she believes ragpicker feminism, the second school of thought, is the better path in the diverging road of contemporary feminism. This feminism focuses on more than the individual through an analytical lens, she said.

“Feminists should be like ragpickers,” Caputi said. “They need to have their eyes open to focus on what got left out. They need to search for what is part of the mix, but didn’t get a voice.”

Ragpicker feminism aims to help those who are oppressed and specifically looks at economic and sociopolitical political problems within the global community, she said.

“This school of thought wants to use critical thinking to help anyone who identifies as a feminist, whether it be a man or women, ask the question of how power is being used,” Caputi said.

Stacy Davis, associate professor of religious studies and coordinator for the Women’s Studies Program, said it is important to recognize feminism in its multiple contemporary forms.

“On this campus specifically, I think a lot of people believe feminism is something that other people did,” Davis said. “It is often marginalized or diminished without truly knowing the different ways you can be a feminist and use feminist theory.”

Caputi said society needs to practice ragpicker feminism more than New Girl Order feminism.

“It is necessary that we adopt the mindset of the ragpicker because feminism is not an issue only about women, but also issues that concern the world,” she said.