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How Liberal Feminism Harms Women


Sep 18, 2022

"I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” — Audre Lorde"

When you hear the word “feminism” a lot of different things might come to mind. Maybe you imagine suffragettes or think of women protesting in pink pussy hats. Or maybe you think of movements such as “Free the Nipple”.

Whatever you think of, it’s clear the word feminism leaves a bad taste in the mouth. What is suppose to be a revolutionary, radical ideology to free women from the chains of patriarchy has turned into a trend, a joke, and just a fun pastime.

Sexy feminist icon Gloria Steinem quickly became one of the misleaders of the movement. The goals remain completely bourgeois. Working class women need not apply.

Warmongers and war criminals, such as Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright have been hailed and praised as “feminists icons”.

Despite justifying the death of half a million Iraqi children, news channels focused on Albright being the first women to be secretary of state after her death.

That is liberal feminism. Liberal feminism promotes women to uphold the patriarchy instead of men. It aims to diversify, instead of abolish.

If the policies of Clinton and Albright are harming women, then why call them feminists? Why claim they stand for the liberation of women?

Because liberal feminism supports the neoliberal idea of individual success, it promotes women to step into corporate positions that causes them to step on other women. You can’t be a capitalist or politician without getting blood on your hands.

And “success” usually means integrating into the patriarchal, capitalist system, and participating in the exploitation of women.

Success for one women, doesn’t mean success for all women. But liberal feminism has conflated the concepts to the point where women rally for their own exploitation.

Instead of liberating women, liberal feminism manipulates them into thinking the title “girl boss” is empowering. It promotes the sex trade and pornography, industries that are the most harmful to women, as “liberating” because it’s their “choice” to participate in those industries.

Liberal feminism refuses to address the economic restrictions that influence these choices that women make. It fails to recognize that class heavily affects their decision.

It keeps us tied to patriarchy because it won’t confront the system that is keeping patriarchy in place: capitalism.

Liberal feminism pushes reactionary politics masquerading as liberation. It provides space for capitalism, racist ideology, and internalized misogyny.

Pornography and prostitution cannot be empowering because they are institutions that were built by the exploitation of women, and are maintained by exploiting women and children.

But, you might say, some women like sex work! Isn’t feminism suppose to be about giving women choices and allowing them to do whatever they want?

First, just because a few women like sex work, and claim it to be empowering, doesn’t change the reality for the majority of women in the industry.

Pornography is made for men, and most porn industries are run by men. And even if women became in charge, it still wouldn’t change the industry.

Study after study shows the connection between pornography and real life abuse.

Choice feminism, one of the sisters of liberal feminism, supports any and every choice women make. Who cares if she’s using Sri Lankan kids as slaves in her sweatshop? It’s her choice!

Michaele L Ferguson writes in Choice Feminism and the Fear of Politics:

[Choice feminism] misleadingly suggests that since choices are individual, they have no social consequences; women are therefore relieved of responsibility for considering the broader implications of their decisions. […] Consequently, choice feminism is radically depoliticizing: it discourages us from forming judgments about the value of different choices, it discourages us from giving a public account for the choices we make, it shuts down critical discussion about which choices should be valued and which choices are mere illusions, it uncritically embraces consumerism, and most problematically for the future of feminism, it deters women from being active in politics […]

Besides the choice rhetoric, liberal feminists also focus on mundane, ridiculous issues. One such example is reclaiming the derogatory, misogynistic term “slut”.

Gail Dines summarizes the issue nicely:

There is no such concept as slut shaming because “slut” is a term invented by the patriarchy to shame and blame women’s sexuality. It is in and of itself a shaming term, so how does one shame an already shamed concept? Calling a woman a slut is an act of misogyny, not “Slut Shaming” because you are shaming her by using the term slut in the first place.

The lack of revolutionary rhetoric and appeal to the oppressive structure is what makes liberal feminism appealing to celebritiesCEOs, etc.

This type of feminism will never liberate women.

A real feminist movement should seek to abolish the current capitalist, misogynist, racist, order. Not uphold it.

Hopefully feminism will outlive neoliberalism and go back to its radical roots. When that happens, we will become one step closer to liberation.

Aisha is a pan-Africanist geopolitical analyst.

This article was originally published on Greanville Post via panAfricanML.

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