The Death of Feminism

Two columns in the Sunday papers provide further indication that feminism is at its ebb. Naomi Wolf laments the media attention paid to the Paris Hiltons, Lindsay Lohans, and Anna Nicole Smiths of the world as a “counter-reaction” to the “tremendous positive growth in women’s roles and opportunities.” Barbara Ellen the proliferation of pink accessories is “Horrifying” and “infantilising half the population.”

When a movement’s self-appointed leaders need to focus on trivialities, it’s a pretty clear indication that the goals that spawned it have long since been achieved.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    A couple of things, James. Feminism and the feminist movement aren’t identical. IMO feminism continues to be relevant and has yet to achieve its legitimate goals. The feminist movement was, is, and always has been about power and it jumped the shark when movement feminists continued to support Bill Clinton.

    The Wolf column is a headscratcher. I can only conclude that the woman doesn’t know a great deal about history. One small point: in the 19th and early 20th century the most ardent feminists were also those who espoused the notion of the vital and unique role of women that Ms. Wolf decries. Check G. B. Shaw for an example.

    The Ellen article is just dopey. Why is there a lot of pink stuff out there for sale? Because to stay multi-billion dollar companies multi-billion dollar companies have to keep selling stuff and they’ve harnessed the full weight of popular culture to their marketing effort cf. Legally Blonde. It’s not about politics. It’s about merchandising.

    When they’ve sold a bunch of pink stuff, they’ll sell green stuff. Or black stuff. Or something.

    And another puzzling lack of knowledge of history. For many years pink was a color primarily worn by heterosexual men.

  2. It’s not the triviality that bothers me. It’s the elitism.

    By that I mean: No one is forcing people to pay attention to Hilton and the other pop tarts. No one is forcing anyone to buy pink stuff. The movement feminists you quote are upset, not because these things are being forced on women by an evil patriarchy, but because women are ignoring the “wisdom” of the movement feminists to eat these things up.

    Dave,

    There may be goals of feminism that have not been realized, but perhaps it’s because those goals were unrealistic or contrary to human nature in the first place. For example, lots of women really do want to have babies and take the primary role in nurturing them; it’s unrealistic to think that this won’t reduce their comparative advantage at other economic activities.

    But, if women don’t choose that path, they have both formal legal equality continually reinforced by court decisions, and practical opportunity. You no longer have to be a man to be extended the opportunity to put the ratings of a major network’s news program in the toilet, or to wreck what used to be one of the finest manufacturers of computational equipment in the world. Women in this country now have opportunities to massively screw up that are unlike any they have enjoyed before.

  3. Tracy says:

    Well, we’ve still not accomplished equal pay for equal work. That’s one goal that I don’t think is unrealistic or contrary to human nature. But, then again, maybe it IS contrary to human nature. Because all the legislative mandates and lawsuits in the world don’t seem to be able to fix it. As a matter of fact, the men I’ve discussed it with really have a hard time wrapping their brain around it, even when it’s happening right in front of them.

    And you’re right there are many more opportunities available to us now. A great big THANKS to all the ones who walked before me. I appreciate it ladies.

  4. Eneils Bailey says:

    Feminism and the Feminist movement have not died.

    They are suffering from PMS, Post Maturational Syndrome. Like socio-political movements that have come into existence with good and noble goals and have to some extent accomplished many of its objectives seem to fall into a detached state of mind from the average person who supported the cause.
    An analogous situation is the civil rights movement, that from it’s onset and progress of improving the plight of blacks in this country has spun its leadership into the cesspool with leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    Feminism, driven by hardcore feminist will bring them to the point of of rejection by a segment of the population that Jesse and Al managed to do in their movement. Charlatans that see themselves staying in power for the sake of themselves will see their support erode.

  5. SJ Reidhead says:

    I have laughingly been writing about a bias against pink for sometime now. I don’t mind admitting it is my favorite color. I think it takes a degree of self confidence for women to now admit they like pink. Feminists and anti-pink bigots (which include my mother, sister, and oldest niece) don’t seem to grasp the fact that the actual color pink is considered a variation of red, the color of strength, power, and courage. Until the middle of the past century little boys were dressed in pink because of that fact and little girls were clothed in blue, which was considered a passive color.

    SJ Reidhead
    The PINK Flamingo

  6. Well, we’ve still not accomplished equal pay for equal work. That’s one goal that I don’t think is unrealistic or contrary to human nature.

    If you mean that, say, female English teachers aren’t being payed as well as male English teachers with equal experience, yes, that’s a problem, and, no, it’s not unrealistic to think it can change.

    If you’re complaining that female basketball players aren’t being payed as well as male basketball players of equal experience, you’re being unrealistic.

    I also think there are fundamental problems with the concept of “comparable worth,” because of the known difficulties of comparing apples to oranges. The solution is not to equalize pay between traditionally male and female professions, but to open these professions to those of the opposite sex. That’s pretty much happened.

  7. Tracy says:

    Yes, I was talking about English teachers and us average folks.

    But now that you made me think about basketball players, why, exactly, is it unrealistic to think that females of equal talent and skill would receive the same pay (and attention) as the males?

    What exactly do you mean by “apples and oranges”? Biological attributes? Types of skills that are more prevalent in one gender or another? The fact that young women are still drawn to particular jobs, like teaching and nursing?

    …The solution is not to equalize pay between traditionally male and female professions, but to open these professions to those of the opposite sex. That’s pretty much happened….

    Yes, it has happened…so why do we still have a problem? If that was the answer why hasn’t it fixed it? And why does the gap INCREASE when a woman gets a college degree?

    I’m gonna share something that makes me a little nuts… whether you want me to or not :). I work in agriculture. When I give information/advice to men they often don’t accept it until they get the SAME information/advice from one of the men in my office. It’s not overt. Nobody has ever looked at me and asked, “Is there a man here that I can talk to?” I don’t even think they realize. It’s unconscious. They just hang around until a man wanders through. And it makes all this stuff a little personal to me.

    I think that’s part of the battle. I think that loads of people are no longer aware that there’s a gap. And that the people who perpetuate it do so unconsciously, because as a society we still think of men as The Providers.

    I really DO think we’re getting there, though. Statistically we have more households where wives earn more than their husbands than we used to have. And there are lots more powerful well earning women now, too. But we need to stay aware and keep working toward the goal.

  8. James Joyner says:

    But now that you made me think about basketball players, why, exactly, is it unrealistic to think that females of equal talent and skill would receive the same pay (and attention) as the males?

    Right now, females with inferior talent are making more than males. Not a single woman in the WNBA could make an NBA squad yet they’re all making a living playing pro ball.