The short answer? Because they're fighting the last war instead of the current war. I keep hearing military critics and historians say that one persistent problem is that we always fight the next war using the lessons of the last war and that we make alot of mistakes because of that.
The longer answer is a matter of how the movement itself has become a parody of itself, a shameful parody of what it purported to be. I read this toxic piece of garbage from the longtime, respected feminist writer Katha Pollitt and to me it embodies everything that has gone wrong with feminism.
I came of age during the formation of the second wave feminist movement of the late 60's and early 70's. I went to Barnard College at Columbia University starting in 1970, a school which was a hotbed of liberal and radical thinking and a place where much of the political fomenting of the age was occurring. I had already been deeply politically involved, and it was natural for me to have fallen hard into the women's movement as it was developing at the time. You can read more about that in my last post. I came to revere the Gloria Steinems and the Betty Friedans and the other heroines of the time. We were going to live a life that our mothers and grandmothers could only dream of if they could bring themselves to even think like that. And together we women linked arms and willed in a new era of opportunity for women, equal opportunity. A world where women would have the same opportunities to make a great living, go to school and study whatever profession we wanted, have legal protections against crimes against us. We were going to hold at least 50% of the CEO positions, 50% of the legislative positions, and we were going to elect a female president of the United States. At least that was what I thought was going on.
We women went out into the world and lived our new feminist lives, working, achieving beyond our mother's wildest dreams. But something happened along the way that caused us to be completely stalled. The feminist movement got embroiled in the politics of the right and the left against each other and battle lines were drawn. We became divided, we women, one side against another. We demonized each other. We went into our trenches and the two sides fought a protracted civil war. We put all of our eggs into a few facets of the fight and both sides won a few and lost a few. And in the process, all of our progress stalled. The women who were involved in this battle lost sight of what they were fighting for.
Another problem that has emerged from that time is that we somehow thought that we were doing better than we were. We won some enormous battles that all women regardless of side they were on could celebrate. The doors to an equal education became open to all women, right or left. Women could make a decent living especially if they found themselves alone to support themselves and their families, a condition that affected women both right and left as the divorce rate rose. The list of achievements was a long one. But the problem is that women took about a 30-year victory lap and didn't take stock of what we had left to do to finish the job for our daughters who we had promised could be or do anything, a claim that in face of the facts, is a bit of a fantasy.
For those who haven't heard the list, we have alot left to do. We make only 75 cents on the man's dollar. We have never had a female president. We rank #70 in the world for female representation in government. We hold 2.7% of the CEO positions in the Fortune 1000 companies. We have approximately 24% of the state legislative seats and hold only 6 out of 50 governorships. Women hold 20% of senior management positions and 38% of companies have NO WOMEN in senior management at all.
So when a feminist like Katha Pollitt writes a piece of drivel like "Michele Bachmann, Wife in Chief?" I just want to scream!! What in the heck is thinking like that going to do to help us break all of those glass ceilings left to break?
For starters, the whole idea of the liberal feminists is passe. Liberal feminism is fast becoming a very exclusive club that only likes certain women and all of the rest of womendom be damned. When did all of that begin? And it really doesn't matter because as the years have gone on, the exclusiveness of that club has become smaller and smaller and afffected fewer and fewer women's lives. The worst part is that for the women who get shut out of the club, they are marginalized and minimized. Since when was getting ahead only applicable to certain women and not all women?
The explanation is that the feminists are fighting an old battle. They have gotten the Christian right mixed up in their politics to such a negative degree that they have morphed into exactly the opposite of what they purport to be. They've become a bunch of mean bully girls. Now I understand the battles that the feminists fought with the right over abortion and over the ERA. These battles are apparently the holy grail upon which everything else is going to be judged. And like George Bush----you're either with us or against us. A line in the sand. The problem is is that that might have been fine and necessary to fight those battles. But how has that helped break any glass ceilings?
Worse, the battle by the left against the Christian right has become a mockery of liberal values. I read an article by noted left wing author Michelle Goldberg about the plot of a strain of right wing Christianity called dominionism to take over the country. According to Goldberg, the dominionists include Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, and Goldberg spins the wildest fevered nightmare fantasies of what these evil dominionists will bring down on the heads on the rest of us. Goldberg claims we will lose all of our rights and become slaves to these dominionists. Pollitt weaves this same theme into her piece.
I am Jewish, and for millenia, these kinds of yarns have been bandied about about us, that the Jews are plotting to take over the world. We know how all of those horrible rumors ended up for the Jews. To be starting this same fearmongering about another religion is paranoid at best and evil at worst. I live in flyover country here in Columbus,Ohio. We're one of the classic swing states because we have a near perfect mix of left and right and everything in between in my state. We all live and work side by side all of us Democrats, Republicans, lefties, righties, Jews, Muslims, Christians of all stripes. It is very hard to demonize people who you live next door to, work with, attend school with, have your children go to school with, and in my case have as customers. I listen to the religious intolerance that Pollitt and Goldberg and their ilk have towards anyone different from them and it scares me. What has the left devolved into? We're going to demonize different religions?
Let me say that I know lots of Christian conservatives. I've even attended their churches. They are really no different than the rest of us. I know women who like to say that the man is the head of their home. I know couples who are of a more liberal persuasion. And guess what? In both types of marital arrangements you will find women who work, women who stay at home, women who are less dominated by their husbands and women who are more dominated by their husbands. And guess what----I know lefty marriages where the women are battered and righty marriages where the woman is the sole breadwinner and the man the stay-at-home parent. What I'm trying to say is that these lefty feminists must not get out too much. They need to meet a more diverse group of people. If they did, they would stop being so scared of being dominated by the conservative Christians.
The last war is OVER. The winning generals have all been awarded the highest awards and much esteem. Thanks Gloria, Betty, and all of the others for what you did. However, we have new battles to fight and we're certainly not going to win them by segregating ourselves into the battle positions of the previous war. By staying static, the feminists have made themselves irrelevant. I think we all need to just let the bad bad past go, join arms once again and let's figure out some tactics we can agree on to get those glass ceilings shattered once and for all. If we don't, we have lied to our children. We can do better than that!!!