This is a post I published in February, 2014. Since we’re on the threshold of nominating a woman to be the Democratic Presidential candidate, who identifies as a Feminist, I think it’s important to examine what Feminism represents in 2016: who it serves and who it doesn’t serve.
Having come of age during the second wave of Feminism in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, Feminism was a vibrant, highly visible force. There were weekly protests against sexual discrimination, or lobbying for Abortion Rights, government funded childcare for women at every income level, affordable female healthcare, fair treatment for women in prison, to name a few.
In 2014 the same issues loom, but contemporary Feminists have disappeared into corporate America, turning their backs on the fight for female equality.
Faux Feminism, the dominant form of contemporary Feminism, focuses on whether or not to be a stay home mom or a working mother, or how to advance in the corporate controlled male world, pursuing the advice of “Lean In” written by CEO Sheryl Sandberg. Classism dominates these Faux Feminists who have abandoned the true Feminist agenda, which once championed equality for low-income mothers, who don’t have the luxury to agonize over whether or not to work once they have a baby. Poor women’s struggles to find jobs and the money for health care, food and housing, let along decent schools for their kids, don’t seem to enter the mindset of Faux Feminists.
Women in political office typically call themselves feminists by attaching themselves to important women’s issues without raising a finger to advance these causes.
Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, publicly advocated women’s rights for the women of Afghanistan, while privately denying Afghan women a place at the negotiating table or taking a personal interest in their welfare. On domestic issues Hillary is just as slippery. She advocates improving the lives of women and girls without offering specific programs.
What to do? How do we return to the early roots of Feminism? For starters, Feminism has to be more inclusive.
We have to work to improve the living conditions of low-income women, the rights of immigrant women who if deported, risk losing their children. We have to take to the streets to demand single payer health care, an end to job discrimination, free or low cost higher education for women, while bringing minority women into the conversation.
Feminism run by chasing the almighty dollar must be replaced by a compassionate Feminism that extends itself into the world beyond the privileged.
It’s critical that a new broad based Feminist agenda reach out to young women, supporting their dreams for an equal society, while working to eliminate their student loans and improve their job opportunities.
A new feminist agenda is too visionary for the dumb-downed neo-liberal Democratic Party. To succeed it will have to be part of a broad based movement that challenges the status quo. My generation of feminists worked from outside politics to bring about change. We need to return to this model to make real feminist inroads, while identifying and supporting feminist leaders who reject capitalist feminism.