I read and then re-read Joan Didion's 1972 essay, The Women's Movement. And while I disagreed with Joan in her case against the manufactured feminist revolutionary -- it didn't matter a bit. As I read, what mattered -- to me and doubtless others -- is her sweeping use of language, her ability to craft an argument resonant with allusion, dimension and colour. In this essay, Didion's observations are cutting, lyrical and unambiguous -- the women's movement is a symptom of misguided ideology that extols whiners.
Didion presses some hot buttons and torches the movement's thought leaders who "failed to make that inductive leap from the personal to the political." The bigger picture: life is hard, so cultivate some character and get on with it: "...nobody forces women to buy the package."
50 years downstream from second wave feminism, Didion could not have foreseen its impact. For one, the normative binary construct is viewed as one possibility in a landscape of diverse gender identities.
But it is Didion whom I have now finally discovered. I can't wait to read more.
While imprisoned by Mussolini’s fascist government, Marxist philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) asked a searing question: why do people consent to be ruled by the powerful? In his “Prison Notebooks” (1926-35) Gramsci expanded on the concept of hegemony (Greek term meaning domination) first developed by Russian Marxists.
Hegemony is political leadership based largely on the voluntary consent of the people. To obtain this consent, Gramsci observed that cultural hegemony must be achieved first – which occurs when people adopt the dominant ideology in society. Through a “hegemonic process” people adopt the morals, ideas, values and views of the individuals in positions of power and influence, the ruling class. Reinforced through cultural traditions, folklore, meta narratives, bonds of loyalty, the dominant ideology is normalized and thus governs individual and group behaviour and actions.
A simple example of cultural hegemony is celebrating birthdays with a cake and candles. Why not a loaf of bread? Gramsci would likely not have had us reject cake but rather he would have asked how the custom was normalized in the first place. We didn’t think up candles on a cake ourselves, it was put into our heads. Cultural hegemony does not challenge the status quo – in fact, if asked to explain why we celebrate with a cake and candles, we might say “we have always done it that way” or "everyone else does it."
Adopting and acting on a social convention without really knowing why demonstrates the power of a ruling class to control the population, to compel us to wrap a gift and blow out candles. And while this is a simple instance, there are so many other and more complex examples of hegemony running through our lives and behaviours: patriarchy, hero myth, meritocracy, binary gender roles and more, and all inculcated by the mainstream media.
The ongoing hegemonic process of shaping beliefs to control actions is a means of maintaining and legitimizing the authority of the state and those in power. Cake anyone?
playing on amidst the chaos
Exploring po-mo philosophy, revisionist history, structures of power, current events and visual culture.