Ugh. Feminists on the internet, am I right? They’re everywhere with their bitching and moaning, going on about abortion and how you shouldn’t say ‘real women have curves.’ How we should ‘own our privilege’ and relative experiences. I’m talking about US sites like Jezebel and The Hairpin , and Australian ones like Mamamia and the Fairfax-produced Daily Life, which all to various degrees create a digital space for women to discuss women stuff. Part magazine, part newspaper, part online community, these sites foster discussions about modern life for the enlightened women, in varying degrees of seriousness. On top of these there are also the countless more ‘hard core’ feminist spaces online, often with a direct discourse about modern sexism and/or a particular women’s rights cause. As a young woman who cares about women’s rights, I’ve read a lot of these sites.
And OK yeah, I may have been a bit facetious earlier, when I complained about feminists online. The truth is, I rather like these sites most of the time. Indeed, one of the reasons I love the Internet so much is that there is no finite space allocated for a certain amount of things and sites about women can react to issues in ways you don’t see in traditional media.
But if you’re like me, a middle-class white educated 20-something (i.e. the exact target demographic of these sites), it can get tedious. If you read these sites regularly over a period of time, you’d be forgiven for getting frustrated by the same old topics covered again and again: reproductive rights, body image, relationships, sex, celebrity, beauty and fashion, female objectification, domestic and sexual assault…rinse and repeat.
That’s why projects like Victoria Floethe’s The Desire Project are so important. It’s a website that houses documentary filmettes of women discussing their wants and passions, and it’s exactly the type of thing this young feminist loves to see. Instead of being a direct reactionary response to the frustrations feminists confront every day (still), The Desire Project takes control of its own story and sets the discussion around something that has not been explored in the public sphere as much as it should.
So often ‘desire’ is something we see from the masculine view. We are constantly reminded of what men want to see and have. They want sexy but not too slutty, the want cute layered on top of sophisticated beauty. There are many variations of the perfect woman. Men’s desires are written everywhere, and it’s believed women want to see this too: When narrative wants to turn up the romance, it has the man voice or enact his love and passion, which persuades the woman. What women want is depicted sparingly, and when it is it’s often skimmed over or a cliché.
The Desire Project is clearly made for the same crowd as the sites I mentioned above. It’s very New York, with its deliberately diverse interviewees and the carefully crafted descriptions of lifestyle. There is a lot of ‘recognising relative experience’ going on. As there should be, there is nothing wrong with the hyper-aware and always-qualified statements of the 21st century feminist (it can just get a bit tiresome sometimes, as any cause can). But what appeals to me is that The Desire Project lets go of talking about feminism and just does feminism. It doesn’t qualify itself, it just is what it is: A digital space for women to talk about desire.
And it really does talk about desire in a sophisticated and honest way. Episode 2, for example, addresses the very-common phenomenon of early desire manifesting from children’s cartoons. It has women talking about their first cartoon crushes, including Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid, Trent from Daria and even Simba from The Lion King. It’s shining a light on a common story that does not get told in the usual places.
There will always be a place for websites for women. The reactions to mainstream patriarchal discourse need to be published and discussed. But I love stumbling upon gems like The Desire Project on the internet, which remind me of what websites for women are fighting for. Our space to tell stories.
The Desire Project is an ongoing web series and can be followed: http://desireproject.com/