Captain Obvious has brought the news to us this weekend: abortion is not the cause of society’s ills and feminists are not all man-hating, childless, cold-hearted, career-minded bitches.
Today’s feminist movement has tackled so much, but one issue of supreme importance that is still being fought for is a more favorable view of feminism. Criticisms of feminism include the very important fact that it is led primarily by affluent, educated, white, cisgendered women. While movements to include men, women of color, and queer and trans persons have been gaining traction in modern feminism, I believe that one form of intersectionality- class – is too often ignored.
Feminism is stereotypically white and liberal, but it is also affluent. Feminism is lousy with privilege. Feminists are more likely to be college-educated, while the people who need feminism the most, those who are disadvantaged by working-class wages, high costs of childcare, and poor access to reproductive healthcare, are often misinformed about feminism. Breaking down the old stereotypes about bra-burning feminist is the first step in introducing feminism as a tool and an identity to the people who may be most affected by sexism, racism, heteronormativity, lack of representation, and abuses of power committed by our patriarchal systems of government and law enforcement.
This class divide within the feminist movement enforces a traditional binary within anthropology, where the educated, white, affluent person has more power, and therefore speaks on behalf of the disadvantaged person. This speaking on behalf of is a problem that contemporary anthropology tries to address by allowing the subaltern and the disenfranchised to speak for themselves. This is where modern feminism most often fails. The movement is dominated by white, educated, affluent, cisgendered women who are constantly speaking on behalf of the issues that most affect people of color, transwomen, and women in the “third world” or the global South.
One of the most important things that modern feminism can do is rebrand the movement. We need to make feminism not only acceptable, but cool, and cool from many different angles. Books like Jessica Valenti’s Full-Frontal Feminism and Julie Zeilinger’s A Little F’d Up address this issue for a very specific class and racial identity, but fail to reach out to people who may not be willing or even able to read. The ideals of feminism needs to be subliminally introduced earlier, on the Disney Channel, on reality television, in our schools, so that once young people hear what feminism is about, they won’t be automatically turned off by the image of a bra-burning, man-hating, lesbian feminist.
Feminist class struggle by bell hooks
Enough middle-class feminism by Carrie Hamilton