Last week, Leslie Loftis hit the ball back into my court in our ongoing discussion on the future of feminism. Her conclusion is simple, but profound: “Abroad we need action. At home we need to bury the hatchet.” How many on the right would be willing to agree?
“I was troubled to see some comments on my original post wondering why we should care about feminism’s woes. Feminism, the term, or the Marxist influences hidden inside it, true, those will not be missed by the right.”
The boorishness of the comment my counterpart is referring to did, in part, motivate my response to her first piece. Simplistic right-wing criticism of cultural Marxism has become like flatulence riddling otherwise productive conversation on this side of the political spectrum. It’s all well and good for commentators to disavow socialism in the political sphere. It is even more important for those with first-hand experience of Marxism to tell their stories publicly. But for the average reader to dismiss every single aspect of American cultural life as the bastard child of the liberal lie is, quite frankly, defeatist. And, as Loftis so eloquently points out, by dismissing feminism as so much Marxist claptrap, critics of today’s feminism are dismissing every woman born after Steinem as well:
“But despite its modern reputation as a leftist faction, most modern women’s lives are guided by feminism. …The lives of modern women are built upon feminist ideas. As feminism collapses, we need to worry about what comes after.”
The time for silver-tongued lashings has passed. If anything, a real critique of feminism requires the reclamation of classical liberalism from the clutches of contemporary socialism’s PR machine. This begins with the embrace of feminism’s powerful history. In an era nostalgic for social revolution we would be wise to ditch Steinem’s vaginal definition of female inferiority in favor of Mary Wollstonecraft‘s drive for gender equality through education. Put simply: We must re-frame the debate in terms of brains, not boobs.
The moronic War on Women has nothing to do with genitalia and everything to do with quashing the threat of female intellect. Instead of driving this point home, the right’s bullhorn is monopolized with shouts about the evils of abortion. Is abortion evil? Yes. Can women make that decision for themselves? Yes. So, why not publicize a movement that demands women be allowed to think for themselves instead of bowing to the men in Washington who have no problem thinking for them when it comes to everything from giving birth to owning a gun?
Loftis cites the George W. Bush Institute Women’s Initiative as a powerful gathering place for feminists to support the work of educating women and working to ensure their basic human rights abroad. Girl Rising is the name of a documentary film and social action group looking to raise awareness about the importance of educating women across the globe. Putting it rather bluntly, Malala Yousafzai didn’t get shot in the head just for bucking Taliban social trend; she is a member of a growing global movement reclaiming feminism’s roots as a movement dedicated to empowering women through education. A movement that is obviously a serious threat to those who seek to repress women (and everyone else) under their ideological thumb.
But we American girls have Lena Dunham, Kim Kardashian and Sandra Fluke! Who needs education when you can be comfortable in your own naked skin, unfettered by the fear of having to actually care for a human life beyond your own? Loftis claims that the women of today are turned off by feminism’s work like a slave to have-it-all mentality. I’d argue that these young women are petrified of an ideology – any ideology – that requires them to put another person’s needs above their own. They’ve been programmed out of motherhood and all that entails; their lives can’t exist without mirrors.
How do you re-educate that mindset? Can brains really win out over boobs? In this era of 140 characters or less where only pictures are permitted 1,000 words, how do we prevent our voices from getting lost in the echo chamber of the conversation?