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The Failure of Feminist Languages: Exposing Patriarchies in Discourse through Art and Activism
Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Conference (2014)
  • Liz Linden, University of Wollongong
  • Jen Kennedy
While of course we recognise that patriarchy is endemic to capitalist culture, we also find evidence of patriarchy within the power structures of feminism itself. The continued dominance of certain feminist languages and practices employed in the 1960s and 1970s is evidence of this fact. Recently we have been told by a number of prominent feminists from various generations that feminism is dead. We are troubled that this is their perception when we see so much life in it still. In an effort to resuscitate feminist discourse, we have organised a number of interactive artworks to explore the question, ‘What does the word “feminism” mean today?’ So far, these experiments have taken place at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Art-in-General, all in New York City. At the CSAA conference, we propose to present a paper that explores the contradictions and strengths implied by this critique of inflexibility as a patriarchal blind spot in feminism.

It has become nearly impossible to talk about contemporary feminism in a way that doesn’t tie it to an historical moment. It is ironic that today we find ourselves hampered by the richness of our language at hand, which has not been diverted from its historical roots and imperatives. It is a strange paradox that this richness has become our present poverty, anchoring us in a patriarchal inflexibility preventing us from moving forward. We must teach ourselves to be critical of the tools we have inherited and to adapt them to our conditions to make them useful to us now; what we cannot adapt, we should reinvent, making a new feminist lexicon customised to suit our moment, flexible enough to incorporate the next.
Publication Date
December 5, 2014
University of Wollongong, Australia
Citation Information
Liz Linden and Jen Kennedy. "The Failure of Feminist Languages: Exposing Patriarchies in Discourse through Art and Activism" Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Conference (2014)
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