author – activist – faculty – mom
There’s a lot of room in my feminism. I have room for sex workers, and Amber Rose’s Slutwalk, as well as women who are critical of the sexual objectification of women overall. I have room for white women and women of color and trans women and old school so-called 2nd Wave feminists, and young women who like Twilight and any woman who hates Twilight, regardless if the vampire is a boy or girl, and lipstick wearers and stone butches and girly girls and even reclaiming the word “bitch” in the name of feminism, even though I’m old school and it never feels right in my mouth. I can also make room for spiritually devout women who personally believe abortion is murder, although they can understand why it’s important for all women to have the right to control their own bodies and wouldn’t get in the way of women’s right to choose. In some ways, to me that is the epitome of feminism: even if it’s personally uncomfortable, we have to support the freedom of women as a whole. Which is exactly why aspiring Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, along with Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter and Michele Bachman are not and will never be feminists. Some, like Donna Brazile in the NY Times are more generous than me. I just can’t.
To use an analogy from African American slavery in the US. It’s as if the black overseers on the plantations decided that they were the spokespeople for black liberation. Weren’t they shining examples of black success? Black visibility? Black leadership? Indeed not. These black people rose to prominence precisely by investing themselves in the continued subjugation of black people as a class within the society. The only way we can be confused into thinking that these conservative white women are feminists is if we invest in the deeply flawed notion that feminism is primarily about individual choice. This was the big problem with Lean In feminism—we can’t celebrate the very limited success of a few extremely privileged women as a win for the whole team.
To be sure, individual choice is a big tenet of feminism. Part of the vision is that each woman gets to decide how to live her life, to be free from economic exploitation and abuse of all kinds, to decide whom to love, how to express her sexuality and gender, to have the final say in deciding yes or no to sex, if and when to have children, what type of work to do, and to be equitably compensated for that work, just to name a few key areas of feminism. Personal success and becoming a individual with power and influence can be included in this vision. However, to narrow feminism to equate it with success is an attempt to co-opt the movement. Period. These women are applying to be the enforcers of women’s subjugation. They are positioning themselves as the exceptional darlings of the patriarchy in a system where they agree with our systematic exploitation and oppression. They would have abstinence only programs where girls grow up in shame, ignorance, and misinformation. They are the yes-women of male domination—the female faces who validate the slut-shamers, rape jokers, domestic violence apologists. They are the cheerleaders for those who kill doctors, bomb clinics, terrorize vulnerable women, and call themselves pro-life. We won’t even begin to talk about their stances on issues that relate to race, class, nationality, sexual/gender orientation that would torpedo any possibility of them being considered an intersectional feminist.
According to Ms. Magazine, Fiorina has “argued for a redefinition of feminism to be inclusive of conservative women.” They manipulate the language of women of color, queer, international, and economically disadvantaged women who have fought for—and in many cases won—a more inclusive vision of feminism. We have a long way to go, and examples of ignorance and privilege pop up every day. But to define the movement by the shortcomings of privileged white women would be to ignore the century plus of work that women of color, poor women, queer women and others have been doing. We have put in work. This is our movement, as well. And I’ll be damned if I let a bunch of conservative white women try to manipulate their way into our movement by equating the historic marginalization of less privileged women with their exclusion based on the fact that they getting rewarded for kissing the ass of the patriarchy. Oh hell no. I don’t personally wish them ill, I just wish them political failure. And I will keep fighting for their right to liberation, because my feminism is about all women.