Thursday, June 11, 2009

The New Agenda is the same as the old agenda

Amy Siskind has written an article for the Huffington Post entitled "Sexism Against Conservative Women is Still Sexism". It was mildly interesting, but I don't think she has expressed the problem nearly as others have. She's still stuck on the idea that sexism is the ultimate problem we need to face.
When is sexism acceptable? The answer should be never. Yet for many feminists in our country, only certain types of women have been worth defending. When a conservative woman is the target of an attack, many so-called feminists stay silent. This "selective sexism", or speaking out against sexism on a case by case basis, does not advance our national dialogue on women's issues. Rather, selective sexism allows a dangerous level of permissible sexism to live and breed in our country. The only way for the women of this country to truly move forward is to unite and speak out against all forms of sexism regardless of party or the source of the attack.
I disagree. I think that bigotry is the problem and that sexism is just one expression of this kind of hatred. While groups like The New Agenda claim to represent a different kind of feminism, they really don't. As long as they are willing to engage in bigotry, they aren't any different from the sexists that they complain about.

Notice what the women that Siskind mentioned have in common. Many womanists have pointed out how neither the Republicans nor the Democrats tend to address the bigotry that women of color and non-Western women experience. White, Western feminism is white, Western feminism. It's still the same no matter what you call it, no matter what you name your group. Until the white, Western, mostly middle-class feminists (that make up the majority of what people in this country consider "the movement") learn to de-center their experiences and see that other people have problems that are just as significant as theirs, it's going to remain just as unsuccessful as it always has been with regards to uniting folks.

You're not going to get Democrats and Republican and Independent women to all support your goals if you aren't working on their behalf, too. There's a reason why so many women and equality-minded men don't want to identify themselves as feminists these days. Siskind represents a dying, unsuccessful model. She's trying to put a new face on an old idea. As a result, women and equality-minded men don't have much of a reason to unite under a "feminist umbrella". Instead, you mostly see conservatives complaining about conservatives who are subjected to forms of bigotry, while the liberals mostly speak up when liberals are subjected to bigotry, et cetera.

As long white, Western feminism ignores the fact that many people think that other forms of bigotry are just as important to fight, then how can it be anything other than what it is? It's stagnant. The majority of feminist progress isn't being made by people like Siskind. It's taking place in other countries, where activists have come to see that feminism is just one facet of the social justice movement. Meanwhile, Siskind is just playing whack-a-mole.

1 comment:

Zippa said...

You raise an excellent point.

We tend, as a society (or collection of societies), to divide the questions into their tiniest fragments without addressing the whole problem. It's a lot like blowing up a rubber glove and then pinching one fingertip at a time. The air just goes somewhere else for awhile.