I’m enrolled in a gender equality seminar this semester and few times in my life have I felt this frustrated with feminism.
I deceived myself into thinking I would walk out of the classroom feeling empowered and impatient to share what I had learned with the world to fuel the fight against the patriarchy. Instead, I sit through every lecture seething and strongly questioning my presence in the class as well as my entire belief system.
For the first couple of weeks I genuinely felt out of place in most discussions because I often didn’t agree with what was being said. People’s interpretations of gender equality and what needs to be done to attain it did not align with my opinion. Upon further reflection, I came to a conclusion that brought first, immense relief, and thereafter a newfound devotion to my feminist anger. I don’t share the opinions of liberal feminism not because I’m pro the status quo, but rather because this movement has done nothing but fail women.
Liberal feminism originated in the 18th century as a ramification of the liberal thought in politics and represents the first wave of feminism. Its actual definition and points of interest were codified by personalities such as Harriet Taylor, her husband John Stuart Mill and Virginia Woolf, who were inspired by liberalism’s quest for equality and focus on freedom.
Consequently, liberal feminism strives to grant women the same rights as their male counterparts, especially in terms of legal and political equality. The movement has won the battle over the right to vote including having a stronger voice in politics, access to higher education and improvements in reproductive rights. Instead of aiming at defeating capitalism with a bottom-up approach, the goal is to better it so as to create a society which upholds women’s rights.
In spite of the good premises, I’ve always seen liberal feminism a product of liberal men who found a more discreet way to perpetuate the patriarchy.
Indeed, while men tend to strongly oppose more radical feminist movements, they have little to no issue with liberal feminism since it doesn’t really challenge them. For example, liberal feminists wish to reclaim the many degrading terms and actions they suffered from men to weaponize them and showcase them as utter emancipation. This action, however, allows men to just watch from afar and not participate.
They would not care if women suddenly decided not to perceive words such as “whore” oppressive anymore. Not only would they continue using them, but now they would also have a reason to justify themselves if someone still found their behavior offensive.
Similarly, erasing the stigma around sex work and porn would not suddenly enable women to take over these male-dominated environments and create more equality within them. The victims of such industries would keep being exploited and their pain would fall deaf on the ears of liberal feminists who march on the streets glorifying prostitution.
One of the concepts that constitute the core of this wave of feminism is “my body, my choice.” Although liberal feminists began adopting it to encourage other females to reclaim agency over their bodies and end the controversy of abortion — a cause that needs to be desperately fought for until pro-choice becomes the norm — they surely fail to realize the other dangerous implication of the slogan.
Women can be legally topless in public in Wyoming, Kansas, Utah and several other states, yet few would actually choose being naked from their waist up — hence putting themselves in danger — as their preferred way to combat sexism. By furthering similar ideas, liberal feminism proves to be completely out of touch with reality and unable to understand its priorities.
Because joining the movement requires simply embracing the status quo — and is therefore easy and effortless — it has become infamous on a global scale, offering a very skewed interpretation of women’s struggles.
Most liberal feminists are white, middle-class women who represent the epitome of privilege, yet refuse to recognize it and pretend to speak for all. By doing this, they ignore the vital issue of intersectionality and create numerous discrepancies within the feminist community.
In the 19th century, suffragettes silenced the voices of Black women by forcing them to the back during their marches. Today, many white advocates for women’s emancipation still choose to bypass the challenges that women of color have to tackle on a daily basis and that they were lucky enough to never experience.
As a result, they lose the crucial support of entire groups of victims of intersectional discrimination. They also lose the opportunity to broaden their understanding of gender inequality, something which other groups had to learn the hard way.
Choosing to identify oneself with a specific form of feminism is undeniably hard, especially in light of the internal animosity within different waves. I am yet to fully develop my individual master plan against the patriarchy, let alone completely dedicate myself to one movement. Nevertheless, it’s important to become educated about their initiatives and keep distance from those who try to resell sexism under a different name.
In 2022, it’s time for liberal feminism to be done for.