The Subconscious Sexism of Today’s Feminist Movement
Good morning, America. All your recent talk of gender equality has only shown just how far from woke you really are. Despite best intentions, the current cultural conversation about feminism continues to perpetuate sexism.
From my perspective, I’m already equal and was born that way in 1972. No need to fight about it now. I wasn’t waiting around for anyone to wake up or make space. Instead, I crafted an adventurous, independent, and productive existence with gusto, moxie, and swashbuckle.
Men never seemed inherently better at anything but hauling hay. So I’m impatient with discussions about gender premised on the assumption that I’m struggling at an imaginary starting line. Inequalities certainly exist, but women have been getting ahead, and doing great things, for a while, in the workforce and beyond. Yet the overwhelming messaging now is that we don’t own our power unless we shout about our woes, and that strong ladies talk a lot about how bad they’ve got it.
That is one way to be a feminist, but certainly not the sole approach. Another way is to just be powerful. Advancing womankind by emphasizing that we’re behind, perpetually viewing our lives, careers, and finances as less than they might be if only we weren’t women, seems to me to do a disservice to all women, especially powerful ones.
Because I am equal, I only focus on gender inequality when others do, or are subconsciously sexist—not mutually exclusive concepts. Disconcertingly, that’s been happening a lot lately. More than ever in this time of alleged feminist awakening.
I’m not sure what all the excitement’s about right now, just that stories which seem to hearten many instead make me despair. Take the cultural embrace of #MeToo—a slogan first created for abused girls, which presumes sexual violence is a positive unifying theme for grown women. The current movement implies that women couldn’t manage our jobs, bodies, or colleagues until Twitter and feisty young ladies were finally born and grew up to save us. The cultural thirst for stories on this topic signals to women that our humiliation is fascinating—especially if it involves rich men and their perversions. All the press only titillates a society already enthralled by sex, violence, money, and power.
We’re talking about women today, yes, but the discussion is still dictated by the male gaze and patriarchal values. There’s little nuance in this conversation, or room for all the different women doing their thing, nor is there recognition of the retrograde messaging being reinforced as progress is claimed. Women must all be victims or support-warriors, singing a single jeremiad. This strengthens dated notions that we’re weak, and that we agree about what we need and want or how feminism manifests—which we don’t.
Consider the conversations about what feminist allies should do at work. Much of the advice strengthens gender stereotypes, suggesting that big men aid little women squeaking at meetings, say. Yet the female leaders and attorneys at the Palm Beach County Public Defender, where I worked, need no such assistance, given that they speak for Florida’s meanest men. Likewise, at Quartz, ladies are avowed interrupters. Incessantly repeating that women are timid and need help getting basic respect on the job confirms a false sense of male superiority and just isn’t true; how will that cultivate strong people dealing as equals? Respectful colleagues are awesome, but patronizing assists are unnecessary.
Read more at Quartz.