Feminism on the Outs?
It was over one year ago (January 26, 2008, to be specific) that The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, featured an article by Karen Von Hahn, reporting that feminists were a “breed” on the verge of extinction.
Essentially, the article referenced the notions that today’s young women are more likely to relate with Victoria Beckham than Gloria Steinem (that is, if they even know who Ms. Steinem is), that the possibility of a female president is undershadowed by a Britney Spears comeback, and that the feminists of yesteryear have failed to make their daughters and granddaughters well-versed on the historical struggles of women and those of the present and future.
The article (which I have pasted below) is indeed thought-provoking, raising many important questions about the direction in which the feminist movement is heading and whether it serves a function in contemporary societies.
Von Hahn, who writes “we are living in a new era of post-feminism…the young women I know see no great victory in Hillary Clinton's run for the U.S. presidency…” makes it seem as though this younger generation is wholly uninformed on the women’s movement (and its personalities) and the significance of its triumphs.
At 23, I beg to differ. I don’t know what social circles Von Hahn runs in, but I am constantly being introduced to incredibly inspiring and passionate young women who are making a difference in their worlds at all different levels.
With that said, I ask the following: Is feminism a fad that it is now past its expiration date? Was it once "en vogue" but should now be put on the sale racks along with all of yesterday's trends?
I, for one, do not concede with the argument that today’s feminism equates with a "candy-coated world of Spice Girls tunes, pink-feathered purses, and Sex and the City".
What do you think?
It’s Official: Feminism is Out of Style (Karen Von Hahn)
-- The death this week of Suzanne Pleshette - that sassy, sexy comedienne who, along with playing Bob Newhart's better half, starred in the kind of swinging seventies, Love, American Style romps that comprised my inappropriate after-school TV viewing schedule - has me feeling like I should be stuffed and put on display in some sort of museum of women's liberation.
That, and the revelation that came to me while playing a board game over the holidays with my 26-year-old niece and 18-year-old daughter. The game is called Hoopla: You pick a card and act out the person, place or thing named on it for the group to guess. After drawing her card, my hip and literate niece asked whether she could choose another. "I don't have any idea who this is," she said, passing the card to my daughter. "Me neither," shrugged my well-informed Sophie. They passed it to me. The woman on the card was Gloria Steinem.
Whether it's because we've all fallen asleep at our tasks like Snow White, or whether we've been outplayed in a subtle and long-standing culture war, what is clear is that we are living in a new era of post-feminism. That the young women I know see no great victory in Hillary Clinton's run for the U.S. presidency is proof enough. That they also see Barack Obama as the one candidate who represents "change" is nothing less than astounding.
Ever since Clinton and her contemporaries crammed their way into law and business schools, we've been told by everyone from the cheerleading women's business networks to Virginia Slims that we've made it. Turning our backs on conventional feminism and its grinding focus on women's oppression, we empowered our daughters to embrace the more upbeat Girl Power movement. Candy-coating the world in Spice Girls tunes, pink-feathered purses and Sex and the City, we sold them a bill of goods: that women are as free and unencumbered as men, that they can achieve any goal they might dream of - even that the odds are in their favour.
As a result, the girls of this generation, who consider it "lame" to align themselves with a woman candidate on the sole ground of sisterhood, are more likely to tune in to the new CosmoTV digital channel (sample program, Dirty Cows: "Take 10 stylin' British babes, add one cold and lofty barn and a young, rich, handsome farmer looking for love, and you've got a recipe for mayhem, because to win his heart they're going to have to fight like dirty cows") than flip open the 35th-anniversary issue of Ms. Magazine.
Talk about old school: The issue featured Superwoman on its cover. (That's how tired the movement is looking: They had to resort to a comic-book heroine who appeared more than half a century ago to illustrate it.) The hard truth is that we have failed to impress upon our own daughters that women's issues still matter.
As Steinem herself (yes, she is still alive) observed of the Clinton/Obama challenge in The New York Times, gender - not race - is still "probably the most restricting force in American life," adding that "black men were given the vote a half-century before women" and have ascended the ranks of power in greater numbers in advance of women.
With our hands in the air begging to answer, we have outperformed our male colleagues at school only to be slapped hard in the real world. According to an April, 2007, study by the American Association of University Women, despite pulling in higher grade point averages across all majors, women earn 80 per cent of what their male counterparts take home one year after graduation. Ten years later, the figure drops to 69 per cent.
In 2007, just 12 of the Fortune 500 companies boasted female chief executive officers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 14.6 per cent of board seats are held by women, and a scant 6.7 per cent of us qualify among the top five wage earners. The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada are even worse: In our country, women make a measly 64 per cent of what men earn. Which means that pay equity day - the date by which women will reach the amount that men earned by the end of last year - won't happen till May 10 of this year.
At the same time, according to numerous recent global studies, women - even those part of the growing ranks of double-income families - still shoulder the brunt of both housework and child care. And the right to choose, a key rallying cry for traditional feminists, is so taken for granted by today's young women that they giggle along with the hipster protagonists in Knocked Up who aren't mature enough to say the word "abortion" and the wisecracking teenager in Juno who opts to carry her baby to term because the abortion clinic gives her the creeps.
But worst of all is feminism's failure to create true sisterhood. Like mean girls in the playground, we started feeling all warm and fuzzy toward Clinton only after our claws and barbs drew tears. Which, given the current "race versus feminism" question, might help explain why Clinton is doing just about as well with black voters as Obama is doing with women. Because if there is one thing that blacks and women share, apart from their oppression from the white male corridors of power, it is their enduring lack of faith in their own community. --