in which Wordwrestler considers waves and fishnets.
Since the name Fishnet Bluestockings was my idea, I felt like I should explain a bit about what it means, and what it doesn't mean.
The Blue Stockings Society was led by Elizabeth Montagu in 1750s England. She wanted a salon where members of her social circle could discuss higher-minded activities than gossip and card-playing. I suspect a fair amount of gossip took place nonetheless, since the ever colorful Samuel Johnson was also a founding member. We at FnBs wish to discuss both high-minded and low-minded topics, as long as they interest us. In fact, our interest in topics might make them high-minded. (Arcadian, are your ears burning yet?)
Though the Blue Stocking Society was open to both men and women, the term bluestocking quickly began to be applied predominantly to women. Enterprises begun by brave women are often subjected to scorn by fearful men and women. The readiest way Western society knows to show such scorn is by denigrating the beauty or sexual appeal of the transgressors. (This still goes on. If you doubt that it does, take five minutes to read comments on any news site, no matter whether they're about Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin.) Being a bluestocking quickly changed meanings, from being an intellectual, to being an intellectual with a large side order of frumpery.
I wanted to reject that implication, that with brains and the will to use them come a failure to own one's sexual power. Hence the fishnets. But that side of the formula carries its own negative charge.
I'm a bit older than the other authors here. Not much older, but old enough to remember the Mondale/Ferraro ticket, and hearing my teachers expound on how Mondale's choice of a woman as a running mate was only a symbolic gesture, since he couldn't hope to win anyway. I am old enough to remember an accountant suing and winning because she was fired for not being feminine enough. And so when Arcadian's mom commented, "Wow. That is such a third-wave feminist name," I knew just what she meant.
When I proposed the name, my co-bloggers did engage in debate about it. They were worried that it might seem exclusionary to potential male readers and guest posters. Not one of them echoed my own worry as a child of the second wave; that we'd be diminishing our intellects by including a suggestive element in our name. Their lack of anxiety on this topic makes me cycle between prideful hope, and mother-henish-ness. I am delighted that they own themselves so fully. Shouldn't I warn them not to be so naive? That we risk drawing what my own mom still calls "the wrong kind of attention" by using this name?
No. I don't have to warn them at all. They know that society's expectations often still seek to limit them, but they deny the power of those expectations. And because they do, I can.
We are sexy. We are smart. Neither of those things is for the sake or use of another. We just are. And I will no longer ask anyone to hide a part of herself. Not even me. Welcome to our society.