Sunday, November 13, 2016

Big Feminism Fails

Strange the kinds of things you find in The Nation. One expects that The Nation, a leading magazine of left-liberal opinion would be out there railing against Donald Trump. Surely, it is not happy about the election result, but Kathleen  Geier offers a post-election post-mortem that is intelligent and incisive. Better yet, it echoes themes that have appeared in more conservative organs of opinion.

Geier suggests that what she astutely calls Big Feminism has let women down. Having consistently criticized the feminism offered up by Sheryl Sandberg and her ilk I was happy to hear that I was on the right side of the issue, and that, in criticizing the Lean-in crowd I was standing up for women.

Geier writes:

The class divisions between women came to a head in the 2016 election, when Big Feminism failed women, big-time. Mainstream feminists sold women a bill of goods, arguing that the election of a woman president would improve the lot of women as a class. Echoing Sheryl Sandberg’s dubious thesis, they claimed that leadership by women will as a matter of course produce gains for all women—though actually, the social science evidence for this claim is mixed at best. There was also a lot of talk about how having a woman president would “normalize” female power.

But if you’re a woman living paycheck to paycheck and worried sick over the ever-diminishing economic prospects for you and your children, you’re unlikely to be heavily invested in whether some lady centimillionaire will shatter the ultimate glass ceiling. Exacerbating the problem is that Clinton, the person whom feminists blithely assumed that working-class women would deeply identify with (because after all, didn’t they?) was such a painfully flawed candidate. In addition to a political record littered with betrayals of women, people of color, labor, and other key constituencies, she showed arrogance and terrible judgment by giving the Wall Street speeches and setting up her own State Department e-mail server. That was gross political malpractice.

Excellent points. Especially Geier’s rejection of the elitist brand of Big Feminism. It fails, she argues, because it ignores the real lives of real women.

She continues, labeling Lean In as: “pseudo-feminist drivel:”

The feminist movement, too, needs to reorient itself. Feminists would be well-advised to ease up on pop culture navel-gazing and corporate pseudo-feminist drivel like Lean In. They need to shift their central focus from the glass ceiling to the sticky floor, which, after all, is the place where most women dwell. A feminism that delivers for working-class women by addressing their material needs could expand feminism’s base and bring about a much-needed feminist revival. A feminism that delivers for working-class women by addressing their material needs could radically expand feminism’s base. And should feminism once again become a vibrant bottom-up mass movement instead of a top-down elite concern, there’s no telling how far it could go.

Geier continues that Hillary Clinton did not play well in the Rust Belt because those states had suffered the most from Bill Clinton’s policies. One expects that she is thinking of NAFTA, and certainly the issue played well for Donald Trump:

The destruction that Bill Clinton’s policies wrought in now-depressed rural areas in battleground states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania came back to haunt Hillary. The residents of those regions, who are largely white and working class, have been ravaged by the abandonment of major industries and the social and economic ills that followed in its wake: record low levels of labor-force participation, downward mobility, drug epidemics, and more. In his reporting from Rust Belt cities in southwestern Ohio and eastern Kentucky, the journalist Alec MacGillis has described “the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied.” The social and economic unraveling in these left-behind places is particularly acutely felt when compared to America’s coastal cities, which are soaring ahead. Rising regional inequality was surely one of the driving factors in this election, as it was for Brexit.

Geier is not alone in suggesting, correctly, that media contempt and hostility for many, many citizens played an important role in swinging the election toward Trump. I and many others have said it by now. Geier says it well:

Since the election on Tuesday, all over social media and the mainstream media, liberals have been issuing hysterical denunciations of the white working class. But their tantrums over the “deplorables” will only help feed the monster of right-wing populist backlash. As Alec MacGillis tweeted, “Can’t overstate how much anti-big media scorn’s driving this [support for Trump].” The white working class is keenly aware that liberal elites despise them, thank you very much. And one thing elitist liberals overlook is that the white working-class racism they rightly abhor is itself exacerbated by a failing economy (studies have shown that racism flourishes during bad economic times).


Trigger Warning said...

Interestingly, leftist navel-gazers like Geier have come up with a new strategy: move farther left; become even more extreme. Ya know, Boinie woulda won! Da Paaty's futcha is Boinie and Lieawatha!

Yeah, well, go wid dat. Pleez.

JPL17 said...

A feminism that delivers for working-class women by addressing their material needs could expand feminism’s base and bring about a much-needed feminist revival.

Geier's prescription for simultaneously helping feminism and working class women is exactly wrong. The only thing feminism can possibly do to "deliver for working class women" is to die. This is because second-wave feminism has always been for elites only, and has always despised and always will despise the working and middle classes.

Indeed, from its inception, second wave feminism is nothing more nor less than giant statism harnessed to promote universal abortion, promiscuity, fatherlessness, welfare and socialism, and to demolish family, religious faith, fatherhood, masculinity, femininity and capitalism. None of those goals will make life better for middle or working class women. Hence, Geier's prescription for winning middle and working class women with feminism is doomed to fail -- at least until the rise of another master deceiver with deceptive skills at the Obamaian level.

The only form a "feminism" that could possibly help an actual middle or working class woman (and here I use quotation marks because this brand of "feminism" is actually anti-second wave feminism) is the libertarian, pro-working and middle class, pro-masculinity, and anti-hate feminism of Camille Paglia. But what Geier advocates here has nothing to do with Paglia's feminism. (Though I admit, Paglia's own politics often have nothing to do with her feminism, either -- which is a major point I can't figure out about Paglia.)

AesopFan said...

Stuart lauds the common-sense in parts of Geier's article, but her other recommendations totally undercut said sense.
She begins like this:
" And if you still question whether racism and misogyny played a significant role in this election, the many frightening acts of violence and harassment aimed at women and people of color that have occurred in the wake of Trump’s victory should quell any remaining doubts."
Were there some crass and crude reactions by the actual racists/sexists who voted for Trump? Probably - but all the ones at the link were isolated, individual, or hoaxes. In the meantime, the Clinton supporters are closing down cities, burning dumpsters, and shooting people.

 "White working-class women appear to be more open than men are to progressive appeals (62 percent of them voted for Trump, as opposed to 72 percent of their male counterparts). That suggests that the most promising path forward would be to agitate for a robust economic agenda focused on women’s needs: a $15 minimum wage, universal child care and pre-K, paid family leave, free college, and tough laws that crack down on wage theft and guarantee fair scheduling and equal pay for women."
No recognition at all that part of the reason women "need" this agenda is because the Democrats have spent 40 years or more destroying fathers and families, and structuring the welfare dependency program so that working single women (or even families) can never get out. Not to mention the economic insanity of minimum wage, the social insanity of free college (without any control of curricula or college spendthrifts), and the practical impossibility of fair scheduling (really?) and the much-debunked "equal" pay that even the Left won't honor.

I dropped out of the Feminist movement in the Seventies when its abortion agenda parted ways with the actual economic and social needs of most women. Looks like they haven't learned anything since then.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

True enough, I was selective. But, the important point is her critique of Big Feminism... because that is what is new for the Nation and its readers. The rest was highly predictable for those living in the echo chamber. If she had not said it she could not have offered her critique.