FeminismMexico

It’s a Shame Mexican Author Valeria Luiselli Thinks Modern Feminism is Boring

An article caught my eye this morning, as I was scrolling down my newsfeed and psyching myself up for a busy day. The title of the El Informador article read ‘El feminismo actual me produce bostezos: Valeria Luiselli’ (Feminism nowadays makes me yawn: Valeria Luiselli). I didn’t read the piece immediately, instead making a screenshot to remind me to go back to it later and find out why one of the best Mexican authors of the moment, Valeria Luiselli, thinks modern feminism is boring. And that I did.


The piece talks about her El País column titled ‘Nuevo feminismo’ (New feminism) which, according to El Informador, sparked a ton of debate online when it was published almost two weeks ago now. It discusses a few of the phrases in particular that caused this seemingly instantaneous outrage, including gems like ‘cuando lo oigo venir, me predispongo a una sordera selectiva’ (‘when the topic of feminism comes up, I’m predisposed to selective deafness’). However, the piece also mentions the comments Luiselli herself has made in response to her critics, claiming that her text is not anti-feminist, rather that many have misunderstood it. In light of this, I read the original piece and you should too. Here you go.

modern feminism is boring

Modern feminism as seen through graffiti | © KylaBorg/Flickr

Brief, to the point and as well written as anything Luiselli does, in the piece she parallels the feminist movement of the present with the feminist movement of the 60s. She talks of WASPs sewing pink pussy hats, women marching to defend their reproductive rights and her students claiming intersectionality in class (she’s a lecturer at a university in New York). She goes on to claim all the intelligent, brilliant women she knows have given up free and complex thought and reverted to marching with banners in the street. Her closing lines state that ‘Me queda claro: el nuevo feminismo vendrá del espacio exterior. No será ideológico, sino muy material, micro-meteórico, lunar y colorado.’ (‘It’s clear to me that new feminism will come from outer space. It won’t be ideological, but rather tangible, micro-meteoric, lunar and colourful.’) In short, she appears to imply that modern feminism is boring.

modern feminism is boring

Feminist marches are what leads Luiselli to the conclusion that modern feminism is boring| © Cody Williams/Flickr

On the one hand, I feel like her points are valid. Feminist discussion has stagnated. However, that is because women’s rights continue to be sidelined by many. Just this year, a president took office in the US and immediately began hacking away at reproductive rights, trans rights and, generally, human rights. Women around the world face repression on a daily basis, both in the US (where Luiselli is based) and further afield. In fact, in her native Mexico, seven women a day are still killed by men in acts of femicide for no other reason than that they are women. I agree that the discussion has stagnated but that’s because the progress has too. How can we move forward in the things we talk about and the rights we fight for when far more basic ones remain out of our reach? Therefore, her apparent rancour towards women protesting about ‘the same old topics’ seems misguided and short-sighted.

modern feminism is boring

Another women’s march banner | © Guido van Nispen/Flickr

Her reference to an Afro-American friend scoffing at the reproductive marches strikes me as inflammatory, insinuating that black women aren’t interested in their reproductive rights. Seemingly her intention was to show that black women have far more of a struggle on their hands than white women, but really, does claiming they’re tired with fighting for reproductive rights best demonstrate that? Furthermore, I actually think the fact so many women and men mobilised to march in support of reproductive rights was incredibly important and the banners that got so much traction on social medias on helped to spread the feminist message further. That’s no bad thing.

modern feminism is boring

I don’t like the insinuation that black women aren’t in support of the reproductive rights marches | © Jonathan Eyler-Werve/Flickr

Honestly? I’ll let the pussy hat comment slide, because do I find that ‘activist’ side of today’s feminist movement a little twee and distracting, taking attention away from the actual matter at hand. But still, I wouldn’t actively criticise the women coming together in the name of feminism, because it strikes me as, dare I say, anti-feminist?

modern feminism is boring

Pussy hat sporters at a women’s march | © Aimee Custis/Flickr

Overall, I can see why this piece has been misinterpreted. I don’t believe that Luiselli either intended to or did entirely write an anti-feminist article. She makes good points about the stagnation of feminist discussion but only demonstrates that her response to that isn’t to understand why the conversation has stagnated, but rather to roll her eyes and write a thinkpiece about it in a national newspaper judging women who actually are engaging with the movement. This is bad, mainly because the last thing such an already so hugely misunderstood and misrepresented movement needs is an influential, prevalent and, above all, articulate woman writing in contra to it.

modern feminism is boring

Valeria Luiselli is hugely influential; here she is on the 2016 Neustadt Prize panel | © World Literature Today/Flickr

One key thing to note though is that feminism is not referred to in and of itself as boring. Instead, she calls the preoccupations and tactics of the feminist movement boring and I don’t entirely disagree – I’m also sick and tired of hearing the same old arguments over and over again, and of having to defend my feminist views to students who think I’m a man-hating weirdo. Even so, I’d argue that the really boring part about feminism is actually the amount of people who are still so apparently confounded about why it needs to exist, rather than the apparently endless marches Luiselli finds so tedious.

modern feminism is boring

Grumpy cat disagrees | © Jonathan Eyler-Werve/Flickr

Having said that, and taking into consideration all the misinterpretation this article admittedly lends itself to, I still think it’s a shame that a successful Mexican author like Luiselli would deem the feminist worries of the day and activist activities as ‘yawn inducing’. As a writer, you’d think she’d know just how readily people misunderstand and misinterpret, and as someone with the status she has, you’d also think she’d know just how many of those people would be ready to blindly accept her opinions, misconstrued or otherwise. That’s why it’s really such a shame that she called feminism ‘boring’.


Is modern feminism boring? Women's rights. Mexican author Valeria Luiselli. Female empowerment, feminist blogging. Is modern feminism boring? Women's rights. Mexican author Valeria Luiselli. Female empowerment, feminist blogging.

10 comments

  1. Jackie 4 March, 2017 at 18:19 Reply

    I have so many opinions I want to voice about her opinions but I\’m going to keep them to myself and just say that I disagree with her on just about, nope, on all of her points.

    • Lauren 4 March, 2017 at 18:28 Reply

      Interesting! Please, voice some opinions, I\’m intrigued!! 🙂 (and thank you for taking the time to comment)

  2. The Wayfarer 9 March, 2017 at 14:50 Reply

    Honestly I thought this article was very tongue-in-cheek. The tone sounds similar to a lot of her fiction writing so perhaps that\’s why I interpret it not quite literally. I thought she meant that feminism is boring because we\’ve been sucked back to the past (thus the references to Nixon and Sputnik) and we are still fighting for the same things women were fighting for back then. Like, instead of being able to freely exercise our intellect, we have to spend our time making posters and marching so we don\’t lose the progress of the last 50 years.

    • Lauren 9 March, 2017 at 15:03 Reply

      That\’s actually a really interesting perspective that I hadn\’t considered when reading it – it didn\’t immediately strike me as tongue-in-cheek but I\’d definitely like to go back and reread it with that idea and see what I think! Even so, I think given that a lot of her writing is based on real life experience and events, I don\’t know if I would take just the fact that it reads like her fiction as a dead on indication that she wasn\’t speaking seriously. Thanks for reading and commenting though! 🙂

      • The Wayfarer 12 March, 2017 at 05:06 Reply

        I think she veers more towards the fantastical realism, and that heightened sense of strangeness in reality is what I pick up in this piece. Plus there are a lot of legit criticisms of modern feminism; it\’s not uncommon to find women who support women\’s rights and gender equality but have issues with the modern feminist movement and the current uses of the word \”feminism\”, for example: http://themuse.jezebel.com/a-frank-talk-with-jessa-crispin-about-why-modern-day-fe-1792367458

        • Lauren 12 March, 2017 at 07:19 Reply

          Yeah I totally get that, I wouldn\’t claim to see it as not problematic in any way – there are issues and some are legit. I mention that in the piece though. But it\’s more her way of communicating this that I criticise, like, if she was writing in a similar style to her fiction in an attempt to come across as tongue in cheek I don\’t think she succeeded.

  3. kad8585 15 March, 2017 at 09:44 Reply

    Interesting read and definitely made me think about what the modern feminist movement means to me. And this is an important issue today, especially in the United States where I am from. But to some extent, I can see the author\’s point of view as many feminists here tend to speak out only when it is convenient for them. To me, I wonder where many of these feminists are on a day to day basis when the government threatens our reproductive rights. I don;t judge, just wonder how informed most of these women are and their real motives behind their actions.

  4. GirlAstray 28 March, 2017 at 09:29 Reply

    I haven´t heard of this author, but I think perhaps she forgets that what has been going on for a long time in some parts of the world, is a new thing in other countries that have been closed before. (Not talking about pussy hats but rather about ideas.) And many times, the message comes because of viral banners and notices about demonstrations.

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