Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Feminism’s Blurred Vision for 2015

Recently actress Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting became the latest female celebrity to incur kneejerk outrage with the casual comment in an interview that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. She joins a growing number of American women who are distancing themselves from the label because they don’t feel represented by what feminism has become – a misandrist movement at war with itself and obsessed with identity politics and social justice.

Back in November, a writer for Time magazine playfully attempted to retire the term “feminist” along with other annoyingly overused words: “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade,” she urged. The ensuing outcry caused Time to issue an apology: “the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban… We regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.”

But it was less of a distraction than a revelation that feminism no longer feels relevant to, much less inspires, women in the American mainstream. It has become marginalized into the domains of academic theory and minority activism.

As evidence, look no further than a recent Washington Post piece in which Ruth Tam asked 16 of the year’s “most influential” feminists what they hope to accomplish in the coming year. In soundbites of one or two sentences each, these “influential” voices reflected a very narrow, race-obsessed, radically politicized perception of feminism.

These leading feminists didn’t address issues of import to the majority of American women: single motherhood, abortion, pornography, domestic violence, prostitution, and sexual slavery, for example. Much less did they take on urgent international problems like female infanticide or female genital mutilation (a ghastly practice that has found its way into European communities). Instead, they focused on those who are “gender non-conforming,” LGBT, and leading “intersectional” lives. They didn’t even necessarily address women’s issues; two of the women state that their priority is police brutality. While that is a legitimate concern, it is not a women’s issue per se.

Instead, this is what they found critically important for 2015. Getting publications “to include the voices of women, gender non-conforming people, and people of color.” Establishing policies for restricting hate speech on social media. Enabling “queer and trans people of color with radical social and political analyses…[to] centralize and control our own narratives.” Opening up gaming development to women. Combating “digital dualism.” Addressing “the incarceration of our people.” Ensuring that “black women, especially black queer and trans women, are playing a strong leadership role in the growing movement for black lives and black liberation” (liberation from what?).

Speaking of which, ten of the sixteen women are black. “Black women are the portals to the future,” declares one whose claim to fame is that she co-created the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. Imagine the chorus of heads exploding if a white feminist proudly asserted that “white women are the portals to the future.” This hints at the racial divisiveness that plagues contemporary feminism.

“I hope for a movement that is fighting for ALL black lives,” writes another co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter. Does that include the black lives lost to abortion, 16 million since 1973? Last year a report revealed that more black babies were aborted than born in New York City, which has the highest abortion rate of any city in the country. Black children accounted for more than 40% of NYC abortions. Is she fighting for those black lives?

The resolutions of these sixteen leading voices swam in unfocused language. What, for example, does it mean in practical terms to “centralize and control narratives”? It means nothing. It’s the kind of airy jargon produced in academic circles that has no real world impact.

Where in this Washington Post article were the feminist voices addressing issues faced by the majority of American women, not just the tiny minority of “LGBT, intersectional, gender non-conforming, queer and trans” elements? Why did the list exclude mainstream voices like those of, say, Kay Hymowitz and Christina Hoff, or the independent, provocative intellect of Camille Paglia? Where was the diversity?

Feminism is eating itself. It’s stridently radical voices are now more intent on arguing internally over racially divisive hashtags (e.g., #solidarityisforwhitewomen), on sneering at middle-class women working for “the capitalist patriarchy,” and on protesting the police than on making an actual difference in women’s lives. Is it any wonder that, like Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, fewer and fewer women want to be associated with it anymore?

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 1/12/15)