Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Like a fish...

by Laura Pedersen

The fish poster hangs just to the left of my bedroom door. It lurks surreptitiously, waiting to reel oblivious visitors into a discussion. 2’ by 1’, it features a block-print goldfish astride a bicycle, pedaling beneath the caption, “A WOMAN WITHOUT A MAN IS LIKE A FISH WITHOUT A BICYCLE.”

I encountered the poster my first week of classes, and in a burst of feminist boldness slapped it onto the wall above my dresser. It was an apt location, I decided, since any male who ever entered by room would have to pass under its threatening, marine glare. It would be a testosterone test, weeding out those unwilling to be associated with a feminist.

I had not considered that one of those subjected to its accusatory gaze would be its new owner.

After a few days of staring at the pouting profile of this goldfish, its marine stare began to make me nervous. Doubts multiplied. Could I myself stand by the exclusively independent feminism my fish was advocating? I believe in equality, not an inverse gender imbalance, yet the poster suggested otherwise.

The poster had always given me a giddy feeling of uncertainty that now made me wonder exactly whose feminist mettle the poster would be testing.

I considered pulling the poster down. Too much, perhaps?

I am still challenged by the female-only feminism my for which my fish advocates. But I’ll keep it where it is.


At November 26, 2008 at 11:22 PM , Blogger lareprise said...

I appreciate the point you make about the lopsided message that your fish-on-a-bike poster presents. But the statement can go just as easily, "A man needs a woman like a dog needs a computer." Ok, I'll admit that my counter statement is not what the originators of the poster or the phrase had in mind. But we could reclaim the meaning, non? Perhaps it's not the necessity for the opposite sex that we should concentrate on, but on how we can be useful to each other. A very innovative fish might find uses for a bicycle. A slightly innovative woman, I'm sure will know what to do with a man.

In the end we all need each other, don't we. Men aren't bicycles, and women aren't computers. And men don't exist, and women don't exist. So a non-existent woman cannot need a non-existent man. The construction of gender simply promotes the Us vs. Them mentality that we have come to understand as feminists. I think the "conflict between men and women" on the poster explains your worry about the kind of feminism that the poster advocates. But the identity politics that this kind of feminism grounds itself in is one that I, personally, find archaic. Maybe the fish on his bike can serve as a reminder that not only can feminists be funny, but that we've come a long way in redirecting our efforts away from unnecessary conflict towards greater congruity with our male-bodied supporters.


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