Okay, I used the term “pseudo-feminist” in a Goodreads review, so I feel this compulsion to define it. Because anyone says pseudo-anything without clarifying is, by definition, pseudo.
The idea I was branding with that label was the notion that large-brained women are too busy to think about their bodies. That if you’re smart enough, you will automatically have no use for make-up, pretty clothes or a fetching haircut. Or, to go further out on a limb, adequate and healthy food and physical activity. You might call this the pseudo-intellectual branch of pseudo-feminism. The person in the book I was reviewing was a girl with serious mental health issues, but I know some old-school feminists, lesbian separatists in particular, who hang onto this idea as the One True Feminist Way.
There’s another pseudo that’s always bothered me more, though, the once-common requirement that feminists must have a career. Back in the 70s and 80s, people assumed that you couldn’t be both a feminist and a stay-at-home mom. (Let alone, goddess forbid, call yourself a housewife!) Real feminists were more broad-minded than that, and would say for anybody who would listen that the feminist ideal was for women to have choices, not to cram everyone into a dress-for-success suit. Unfortunately, popular opinion and mass media representations were not so enlightened.
Maybe that’s where feminism got such a bad name as a popular movement, something it still struggles with. How many women want to be treated as idiots, just because they stay home with their baby or wear mascara? Now you hear the younger generation saying things like, “I’m not a feminist, I just want to work as a jet bomber pilot.” Yeah. . . Things which obviously never would have been an option, if we still lived in the world I grew up in, where the listings were divided into “Help wanted-men” and “Help wanted-ladies.”
Still, if you want to have a movement, you’d better keep it moving.