Talk About the Future of Feminism

At 1pm eastern on WashingtonPost.com with Linda Hirshman, here. You can submit questions now. Jill’s take on Hirshchman’s article over at Feministe is wonderful, so go check it out.
Hirshman says,

A movement that uses intersectionality as a lens but banishes white, bourgeois, corporate older women might be a vehicle to glue what remains of feminism together, but it will struggle to achieve social change for women.

Er, bullshit. First of all, demanding that someone make room for you is not the same as forcing them out of the way. And, if your social change only helps rich hetero (etc.) women, your definition of success needs a lot of work.

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9 Comments

  1. Caro
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Agreed… saying that working on issues that affect poor women/women of color/queer women is bad because it will distract from issues that affect “women” reveals a lot about who one thinks “real women” are, doesn’t it?

  2. Posted June 9, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I asked the following question and got the following response in the talkback…
    ‘Austin, Texas: Let’s boil down your main political point as well: Because black women did not exert pressure on Democratic senators sufficient to block Clarence Thomas, they should have atoned in the 2008 presidential primary by voting for Hilary Clinton?
    Linda Hirshman: good question. My interest in atonement is pretty much cashed out one day a year. But as a thought experiment, let us consider if black women would be better off next november without Clarence Thomas on the bench and with Hillary Clinton in the White House.’
    I thought she would have answered with “don’t be ridiculous, I never blamed black women for Clarence Thomas,” but no….

  3. smartorange
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Both articles actually make me sad. One ignores the concerns of lower income or economically depressed woman and minority women in general and the other suggests that corporate disparity and wage concerns are white middles class issues. Really? I mean I am a Hispanic woman AND I care about wages and corporate disparity. I get very angry thinking about it actually. Also, there are plenty of white women living below the poverty belt. Maybe we need a Venn Diagram to help everyone out.
    You could make an argument that woman are losing ground in battles they thought they had already won, like with abortion and wage divide, and understand why older women feel the way they do. Maybe if we engage in understanding our concerns and where we are alike instead of different, we can get more accomplished.

  4. sarey belle
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Smartorange, you put it better than I ever could have and I love the idea of the venn diagram.
    One thing that seemed to resonate across the board is feeling taken for granted by the Democratic party. I am interested in hearing more from people about the best way to demand more respect and attention to (ALL!) women’s issues. We have an enormous amount of power, but I wonder if we’re wielding it effectively. And while I embrace intersectionality, I do wish that it didn’t feel like women are the only ones doing this. I thought Linda’s point about us being the mothers who are expected to look after the well being of the entire family was well put. It’d be nice if other civil rights organizations would cook us breakfast every once in a while.

  5. everybodyever
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    In her bizarre, stream-of-consciousness-sounding way, Hirschman makes sense here sometimes, as when she says:
    As many people have said elsewhere, her reliance on her husband to get started is a compromise almost all of us in her generation have made. But I have observed clearly how men make a movement and their sons take it over (conservatism, hello John Podhoretz, William Kristol, ad infinitum and ad nauseum) without breaking stride. Why is it that women seem always to need to kill (death of the movement) their mothers?
    That’s an observation I appreciate, and I agree that it seems that women hold the movement that seeks to elevate their status to such absurd standards in large part because they have bought into the language of the resistance to it among the powers that be.
    But what the fuck is Hirschman saying here?
    Black women should walk away if the movement does not represent them, but should NOT walk away if the movement does not represent black men.
    Huh? I get Hirschman’s point, but who the fuck is she to tell black women what they should and should not do? Sounds paternalistic to me. And this–
    most of the country is white and middle class, as an electoral movement
    sounds like an out-of-hand assumption for which I’d like to see some stats.
    Also, Hirschman said:
    But the Democratic primary demographic was something like 20% or more African American this year. Winning, as the nominee did, up to 90% of such voters means that he had to win only, which I suspect is the case, about 38% of the 80% of Democrats who were not African American.
    I resent statements like this, because they offer just the kind of divisive statistic-wielding that seems geared toward excepting black voters as outliers, as a chunk of the Democratic voting bloc that must be controlled for in order to reach what Hirschman presumably considers the important numbers. Who the fuck cares if Obama garnered less than half of white Democrats’ votes, if that is even the case? Oh, right, I know who cares–somebody who finds those votes more important than black Democrats’.
    Also, to me, this begs the question: If Hirschman’s preferred segment of the population prone to activism is women, why isn’t she breaking down stats on who men and women voted for, rather than on black voters’ candidates of choice?
    That said, I imagine most of us agree with the part of Hirschman’s response to that Salt Lake City question which calls bullshit on the backlash tendency to shame feminists for not focusing on “life-and-death” problems — rather than, you know, the inability of a middle-class woman to do as she pleases with her body or to get that promotion. Likewise, questions like that asked by the woman from southern Maryland ring fucking hollow by now. If one must really write into a forum on feminism to insist that one’s own alleged personal happiness must mean that women are all equal… well, why bother unless one has some doubts?

  6. Lucretia
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    If you look at census stats the US is still predominantely “White.”
    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/files/racehisp.html
    and you’ll also see that in 05 12% of the pop was below poverty http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/files/income.html
    so strictly speaking her stats are right. The implications of that I don’t know for this debate, but to be fair, her stats are correct.

  7. Posted June 9, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting and thought provoking.

  8. everybodyever
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Lucretia, thanks for the links. I meant more that the “middle-class” bit seemed an assumption — in part because the meaning of that term seems, certainly lately, to fluctuate so freely. How does Hirshman define that?
    (Also, I just noticed that in my other comment I repeatedly misspelled her name. Oops.)

  9. Linda Hirshman
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Feministing
    thanks for continuing the conversation. The comments had a lot of good, probing analysis and exchange. Jen, do you normally introduce a debatable and important topic like this with the useful “er, bullshit?”
    Don’t you think your thoughtful and impressively civil community deserves something better than that? (Although they seem to have done quite well without it.)

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