This past week, Leslie Loftis provided a keenly written summation of the aftermath of Second Wave Feminism when she asked the question, “Can We Rebrand Feminism?” Her conclusion, that”…many women will continue to disavow ‘feminism’ as the label for a life of work. As women plan for more in their lives, the term will diminish and fade, an ignominious end to a once-powerful historical label,” is far more nuanced and thought-provoking than most conservatives would permit in their black-and-white world of Left versus Right. Which is exactly why feminism must remain a part of the conversation.
Loftis is fully correct in her observation that feminism has become the property of “wealthy, elite-educated,white women, who are closest to perfect [boardroom] parity”. But, to turn our collective back on the real oppression of women that exists in this world because of the ideological failures of Barbie-esque dilettantes is as effective as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In a post-denominational era where religion has been replaced by cause and community has gone from neighborhood to global, better to rally effectively than disperse into isolationism. What feminism needs isn’t dissolution, but evolution out of the boardroom and into the real world.
While American feminists engage in Dunham-esque debates over their penny-ante problems, over 500 girls in Britain are “estimated to have undergone the procedure of female genital cutting” common in African culture. According to a recent BBC report, “It is estimated about 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.”
In her book They Must Be Stopped, Brigitte Gabriel explains:
“One of the most devastating practices to young girls in the Islamic world is female genital mutilation. Young girls have their clitoris removed without anesthesia to eliminate their sexual drive and preserve them for a life of sinless purity. As so much rides on a woman’s honor, including the livelihood and community standing of every member of her extended family, the practice is a kind of insurance policy. Female genital mutilation ensures that honor will be preserved because the girl will not have any sexual attraction to boys. It will also ensure that the girl, who is considered a financial burden to the family, will be prime property on the marriage market as a virgin.”
WARNING: Graphic Content
Searches for articles on “female genital mutilation” yielded no results at Feministing.org. An advanced search for “features” and “columns” on “female genital mutilation” at Bitchmagazine.org yielded a 2011 review of AMC’s The Killing due to a throwaway line about “extra problematic layers” (including FGM) within the show. A featured piece on FGM at Jezebel yielded the following user recommended comment:
“…the rhetoric of this piece is a little out of hand. As an American, I find genital cutting to be wrong (I have an issue with circumcision, too) but this outsider, Western “mutilation” rhetoric needs to stop. I do believe that women should be given a choice and not have to do this if they don’t want to, but this kind of language pushes these people into objectified Other territory. Some girls actually want this—but, of course, it should be an option not a requirement. Therein lies the rub about many global feminist issues.
All in all, do some research about cultural relativism and language use before you begin writing about issues like this.
ETA: The word “mutilation” also suggests that a girl who has been cut is permanently marred for life and less worthwhile than someone who isn’t. Think about how that would feel.”
Littered with the abuse of language that has come to define today’s politically correct feminism, this anonymous comment illustrates exactly why the feminist movement is in desperate need of evolution. Whether the cause be FGM, honor killings, or any other threat to women, if feminism doesn’t exit the territory of privileged navel-gazing moral relativists, it will become a powerful weapon for the justification of female abuse across the globe.
Forget marketing a movement to privileged adherents. Throw the outdated Left versus Right battle into the nursing home with Gloria Steinem. Young women need to pour their passion into a cause greater than themselves. It is time for feminists to parody the famous phrase and demand: Ask not what feminism can do for you, but what your feminism can do for women around the globe.