Women still earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man, only 16.5% of the top leadership positions in the Standard and Poor 500 are held by women (only 24 women are CEOs).[i] Women were only 19% of Congressmembers (104 women) in 2017. Presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee signed a Southern Baptist Statement of Faith stating that a wife’s role is to “graciously submit” to her husband and stated birth control is for women who “cannot control their libido.” Another presidential candidate and former governor, Rick Santorium criticized “radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.’’[ii] Employed women still earn less than men and are few of the bosses at work and in government.
In 2012 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard got a lot of notice globally when she spoke to parliament about misogyny in reference to Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition. She quoted his response to a question about the lack of women in parliament, “What if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”[iii] Abbott also said Gillard “should make an honest woman of herself,” in reference to being unmarried. Abbott didn’t reprimand politicians who called Gillard a bitch, witch, and barren and went on to become Prime Minister. Gillard wrote about her political leadership in My Story (2014). Another prominent politician, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes women’s role is in the home, preferably with at least three children. He said a childless woman is half a woman and that women shouldn’t wear red lipstick. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also encouraged women to have more babies, concerned about the low birth rate.
Traveling around Europe in 2014, young Canadian feminist Joanna Chiu discovered, “a disturbing rise in sexism, racism and conservatism,” including right-wing political parties like UK’s UKIP (UK Independence Party), the Danish People’s Party, the Norwegian Progress Party and Ukraine’s Svoboda Party.[iv] Former UKIP party whip Godfrey Bloom referred to female party members as sluts and said business owners would be mad to hire young women because they might take maternity leave.[v] Chiu added that Canada too has become more conservative.
But a year after she wrote her article, Canada elected Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, age 43, who said, “I’m proud to be a feminist” because his mother raised him that way.[vi] When asked why half his cabinet members are women (including a Minister for the Status of Women plus a gay father of twin girls and four Sikhs), he said, “Because it’s 2015” and his cabinet looks like Canada’s population. Trudeau started an inquiry into the over 1,000 missing and murdered indigenous girls and women, which had been neglected for too long. He also welcomed Syrian refugees at a time when many US politicians rejected them, including Candidate Trump who proposed banning all Muslims from entry to the US. In opposition to European sexism, feminist political parties exist in Sweden (the Swedish Feminist Initiative party was started in 2005[vii]) copied in Norway in 2015, France, UK (Women’s Equality Party formed in 2015) and Germany. The British Labor party has a Minister for Women and Equalities. President Barack Obama also calls himself a feminist.[viii]
For a woman to be told she thinks like a man or has male reproductive organs is a complement but the reverse is an insult to a man. “Girlie men” was a term used by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger throughout his two terms in office to disparage political opponents. He in turn was accused of being a “sissy” for not debating an opponent. General Stanley McChrystal, who led the war in Afghanistan, was quoted in Rolling Stone magazine as saying that his “real enemy are the wimps in the White House.”[ix] The wimps fired him. A July 2012 Newsweek magazine cover featured presidential candidate Mitt Romney with the title “The Wimp Factor.” The cover story faulted him for not matching up to a “history of presidential manliness” and actually called him a “weenie” who doesn’t “man up.”
Like the conservative Supreme Court Justices, reactionary Congressmen block women’s reproductive freedom, pay equity, etc. House of Representative Republicans tried to block renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, but it did pass in 2013, although ratification of the UN treaty CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), and the Equal Rights Amendment have not passed. Young feminists are again campaigning for ratification of the ERA—first proposed in 1923, helping to get a state ERA passed in Oregon in 2014. Men dominate leadership positions with only 83 women in the House of Representatives and 20 women in the Senate in 2015. White men headed all the Republican controlled House committees. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota, was called a “prom queen” and “Miss Congeniality” by her opponent during her 2012 campaign. Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out she is one of only 46 women who have ever served in the Senate! Only five governors were women. Part of the problem is the influence of lobbyists: Of the 100 top campaign contributions in 2012, only 11 were from women.
Some religious denominations also exclude women leaders. Catholics and many Protestant denominations such as the Southern Baptists don’t allow women to be preachers, nor does the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) church allow women to be members of the priesthood. The father is the priest and head of the family. Life-long LDS member Kate Kelly organized an Ordain Women movement and as a result was excommunicated for apostasy in 2014. She replied, “I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church. I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul.”[x] The church commented, “We should not try to dictate to God what is right for His Church.” Under pressure from nuns, Pope Francis set up a commission in 2016 to explore ordaining women as deacons, a tradition from the early days of the church, but he said the door to priesthood was closed to women because they have “complementary” roles.
A few girls hold on to the Leave it to Beaver family model popularized in the 1950s with its stay-at-home mother of three in apron and heels, but they’re rare in my survey responses. These are unusual SpeakOut responses:
I want to be a housewife and mother with a 50% job. Kate, 11, f, England
My mom is a lifesaver. Whenever I forget something, she’ll get it even if she is in a meeting. All I want is to have a good husband and good children and give them a good education like my mom has done for me. Elizabeth, 12, f, Belize
Women are rare in top management of corporations and government. With few corporate leaders girls lack role models. Only 4.2% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women hold only 15% of top jobs. Twitter’s board was all white males, supposedly because they couldn’t find women with technical backgrounds until this lack of balance got media attention. In response, Twitter appointed a woman to the board in December 2013. On the annual list of the 200 highest paid CEOs, only 11 are women like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. Many of them were on the “glass cliff” hired when a company was in trouble like Yahoo, or Lehman Brothers when they hired Erin Callan, or General Motors that hired Mary Barra to be CEO. Women count for less than a third of the student presidents in the most prestigious US universities although women are a majority of college students.[xi] The first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson was fired in 2014, said to be difficult and cold, although young women staffers spoke of her warm support.[xii] The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella caused a stir in October 2014 when he told women that if they don’t ask for a raise and keep quiet, they’ll earn good karma and “superpowers.” Would he advise men to do the same? He later apologized.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (born in 1969) believes, “To solve this generation’s central moral problem, which is gender equality, we need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic. A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.”[xiii] In 2012 she was the first woman added to Facebook’s seven-person board. Sandberg’s book Lean In (2013) generated thousands of “Lean in” groups around the world where women encourage each other to be assertive at work.
Part of the only 10% of world billionaires who are female, Sandberg was criticized for not pushing for government support programs like affordable quality child care and parental leave to make women’s career advancement more possible, as President Obama advocated in his 2015 State of the Union speech. Her critics asserted that it’s easy for a billionaire who can pay for maids and nannies to ignore the need for government supports, although she called her book a “sort of feminist manifesto.” Her emphasis on individual effort is typical of individualistic neoliberal thinking although family programs such as paid parental leave and good affordable childcare are necessary for genuine equal opportunity.
Childcare is too often expensive and poor quality in the US, but Sandberg puts the onus for progress on women. Facebook tackled work-family balance privately; Sandberg announced in 2015 that large contractors with the company must pay $4,000 to new parents who don’t receive paid parental leave, pay a minimum wage of $15 and provide paid days off for sick leave. Sandberg urged women to form “Lean In” support groups to empower each other with stories of “happy endings.” She told women to promote themselves and “throw their chest out.” She did acknowledge the bias against assertive women who are often viewed as less likeable than a successful man and judged as too aggressive or bossy.
In 2014 she initiated a “Ban Bossy” campaign with the Girl Scouts to not label assertive girls as bossy, as Sandberg was when she was a girl. The campaign uses a button with the word bossy crossed out and their webpage is banbossy.com. Some suggested this campaign is part of Sandberg’s preparation to run for government office. Girls active in the Model United Nations clubs for high school students reported in 2016 that female leaders who aren’t careful are called bossy or bitchy, causing other delegates to avoid working with them.[xiv] To overcome being ignored in mixed-sex meetings—women are twice as likely to be interrupted as men and men talk more, women in the Obama Administration used “amplification,” where women repeat what another woman said to give credit to her idea.[xv] Other techniques are discussed in Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace (2016) by Jessica Bennett.
The US is the only developed country without the right to paid maternity leave, and is not one of the 51 countries that provide paternity leave. Half of families with children at home have an employed mother yet mothers still do the majority of family work. Only three countries don’t mandate paid maternity leave, the US, Oman and Papua New Guinea.[xvi] The mothers who do get paid leave tend to be higher income earners who can afford household help. Instead of paid leave, the U.S. military budget was $773.5 billion for FY 2017, more than most of the world’s military spending combined.[xvii] A telephone survey of US Generation Y women found almost half would like to be entrepreneurs so they can be their own boss and balance career and family.[xviii] Although most would like to see a woman president, they are not interested in holding political office or in being a CEO because of their focus on balance. Their top political issue is improving education.
Men are more like to use leave if part of it is reserved for fathers. As a consequence, Millennial fathers, who have more egalitarian beliefs than older men, who still follow traditional roles due to lack of work flexibility, explained in Kathleen Gerson’s The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work and Family (2011). About a third of adults still believe it’s better if the woman takes care of the family and the man is the breadwinner and 60% believe it’s better for children if one parent is at home.[xix]
In Europe new mothers often between 14 and 22 paid weeks of leave, and new fathers can take three months of paid leave in Italy.[xx] Norway, Sweden and Iceland have a “daddy quota” that requires the father to use part of the parental leave or the family will lose it. Many countries allow both parents to share as long as two years of unpaid leave in France or three years in Spain. Sweden offered 12 months of leave since 1974 and Britain began the policy in 2015. Germany allows new parents to take up to 14 months of parental leave at 65% of their salary. Parents are the least happy compared to parents in 22 rich countries, due to the high cost of child care and lack of paid leave, in contrast to France, for example, where parents are slightly happier than non-parents.[xxi]
After giving birth in the US, British writer Ruth Whippman wrote America the Anxious (2016), amazed that Americans blamed themselves for the lack of family supports. She reported that although the US is more obsessed with finding happiness that any other country, it’s one of the least happy and the most anxious developed country. Finnish journalist Anu Partanen had a similar experience moving to New York, felling more anxious, described in her book The Nordic Theory of Everything (2016). Finnish writer Anu Partanen married an American and moved to New York, where she was surprised by the prevailing anxiety and stress about juggling daily life, work and family. She met many people taking mood-elevating pharmaceuticals like Xanax and cited a national Institutes of Mental Health report that almost one in five adults suffer from anxiety disorder.[xxii] She observed something she hadn’t seen in Finland, that “children were taking over their parents’ lives,”[xxiii] including young adults dependent on their parents and living with them. She pointed out this full nest is happening in other struggling economies such as Italy, Spain and Japan, but would be considered very odd in Nordic countries where all student receive stipends of about $600 a month until they graduate and can also get rent subsidies. In the US sandwich generation, she saw middle-aged adults consumed by caring for their frail elderly parents.
Helicopter parenting is rare once Finnish children start school because all schools are good quality. Independence is valued and hovering over or coddling children is looked down upon.[xxiv] In Finland, parents encourage their children to be independent, manage their schoolwork and make their own decisions. In contrast, in the US parents feel their children have to be helped to be “superachievers” to be successful in a “harsh” society.[xxv] Partanen was also surprised by how parenting responsibility still rests on the mother, while in Finland a father told her, “It’s almost like you’re not a real man anymore if you haven’t done your share of diaper duty.”[xxvi] Partanen observed some parental leave time reserved only for the father makes a huge difference. As a consequence of family support programs more Nordic mothers are employed than in the US. The 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report found the Nordic countries are the most gender equal (Iceland, Norway and Finland were at the top), while the US was in 28th place.[xxvii]
Partanen doesn’t blame the micromanager adults, but rather the US structural lack of family support systems, expensive child care (often over $10,000 a year for infants) poor quality schools, rising college costs and dependency on their employers for medical care, pensions, and savings accounts. Partanen knows many women in the US who look for a husband who is successful financially, while in Finland the individual is the unit, not the couple, as in taxing each person independently. Save the Children reported that Nordic countries are the best place to be a mother, with Norway and Finland at the top of the list, followed by the US in 33rd place.[xxviii] Recognizing the problem, Hillary Clinton campaigned with promises of only 12 weeks of paid family leave for both men and women, capping child care costs, raising salaries for childcare providers, and providing pre-K for all four-year-olds.
The UN’s Global Gender Gap Report picked Iceland as the best place for women for over six years, while the US dropped to 28 in the 2015 report. To encourage fathers to take leave, in 2000 Iceland granted three months of non-transferable leave to each parent, plus an additional three months to use as they like, all at 80% of pay, later increased to 5-5-2 months. As a consequence, most fathers take leave resulting in more equality at work and home.[xxix] Part of the reason for their gender equality is feminists called the Red Stockings organized a huge strike of 90% of women shutting down the country in 1975 to call attention to unfair pay differences and other discriminatory practices. Five years later Iceland had its first woman president, so popular Vigdis Finnbogadottir served four terms.
Punk hacker anarchist Birgitta Jónsdóttir introduced the Pirate Party to Iceland in 2013 and heads it in Parliament after being a leader in the pots and pans uprising and starting the Civic Movement political party in 2009 when she first entered parliament. The Pirates practice horizontal leadership and vote according to citizen input on the Pirate web platform. A critique of the status quo, she said, “I am a punk: I am used to people disapproving of me” and “I want to be the mosquito in the tent so they cannot get any sleep.”[xxx] Jónsdóttir worked with Julian Assange to write an Icelandic Modern Media Initiative and convinced Parliament to pass it to protect Internet freedom.
A leftist group in London, the Institute for Public Policy Research, faults feminism for focusing on getting women past the glass ceiling and ignoring women at the bottom who experience the feminization of poverty. They point out that Sandberg’s instruction to women to negotiate for higher pay isn’t relevant to minimum wage workers.[xxxi] The leading feminist campaign group, the Fawcett Society (active since 1866), led a campaign for the government to develop an employment policy for women.[xxxii]
Poverty is linked to violence through pressure to stay with an abusive partner and homelessness. The Urban Institute interviewed 193 US teenagers in poor areas because policymakers focused on children five and younger often overlook teen problems.[xxxiii] In 13 out of 20 focus groups, the teens reported sexual exploitation. National research estimates that 6.8 million young people ages 10 to 17 live in food-insecure households. Women over 65 have twice the poverty rate of men of the same age group. Only Kazakhstan, Libya, Russia, and Ukraine have worse wealth inequality than the US.[xxxiv] Young women are less likely than their male peers to avoid their parents’ poverty, according to a Brookings Institution study.[xxxv] Millennial women (defined as aged 16-34) earn 86% of what their male peers earn in the US and 12% of both genders were unemployed in 2013.[xxxvi] The pay gap persists where a woman still earns 79 cents to a workingman’s dollar and women and their children comprise most of the nearly 47 million Americans who live in poverty. Discrimination still accounts for about 9% of the pay gap.[xxxvii] Black women earn less than white women and men, as shown in an infographic created by the Women’s Bureau, although they are the most highly educated group and the ethnic group of women most likely to be employed and start new businesses.[xxxviii] More than half of black women between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in college and they are most likely to graduate.
Women form the majority of the part-time workforce and unpaid interns—leading to the formation of the Intern Worker Alliance led by interns at The Nation magazine fought to win minimum wages. A year after graduating, women are paid 7% less than men with similar training, according to a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women, and by age 35 college-educated women make 15% less than men with similar backgrounds.[xxxix] Female MBA graduates earn an average of $4,600 less than their male peers in their first jobs. Female surgeons earn 71% of what comparable male physicians earn. Part of the problem is women are less likely to negotiate and ask for higher salaries. The Economic Policy Institute prepared a report on how to “create an economy that works for everyone,”[xl] including making salaries more public as in Britain, Austria and Belgium, countries that require large companies to report on their gender pay gap.
Actor Jennifer Lawrence, age 25, action hero in The Hunger Games series, made a stir when she wrote an essay “Why Do I Make Less than my Male Co-Stars?” in the e-magazine Lenny.[xli] She started by saying she hadn’t said more about feminism before because she didn’t like to part of a trend. However, “When the Sony hack [of Sony emails by a hacking collective called Guardians of Peace] happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.” She explained that unlike the male actors in American Hustle, “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’.” She concluded, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that.”
Women are much less likely to negotiate their first salary, more often just agree to what they’re offered, four times less likely ask for a raise, and not threaten to quit if not promoted.[xlii] The pay gap increases as women enter their 30s and many take time off work to provide caregiving for family members. Ten years after college graduation, the pay gap between men and women graduates widens to 31 cents for every dollar earned. Despite this ongoing inequality, Senate Republicans filibuster or block votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act proposed in 2009, while a Pay Equity Coalition pushes for passage of the bill. California passed the strongest equal pay act that went into effect in 2016, requiring equal pay for similar jobs and prohibiting employers from punishing workers who share pay rates.
Men dominate the well-paid STEM professions of science, technology, engineering and math. Of the students who took the Advanced Placement computer science test in 2015, only 20% were girls. Code.org and CoderDojo aim to introduce coding to students, including girls, and Girls Inc.’s Operation Smart encourages girls to study STEM subjects (it also has a program to build girls’ leadership and community action).[xliii] Three women techies started the Makah Company to make tech-oriented toys for girls, starting with a build-your-own dollhouse. GoldieBlox is another toy company designed to spark girls’ interest in engineering. Legos added a popular new line of building sets for girls called Lego Friends in 2011, although the scenarios are the very traditional suburban home, beauty parlor, and “New Born Foal” horse stable.
[i] Matt Egan, “Still Missing: Female Business Leaders,” CNN Money, March 24, 2015.
[ii] “Santorum’s Quotes on the Role of Women,” Washington Post, February 10, 2012.
[iii] Amelia Lester, “Ladylike: Julia Gillard’s Misogyny Speech,” New Yorker, October 9, 2012.
[iv] Joanna Chiu, “Is Sexism Growing in Europe?” Herizons, Fall 2014.
[v] Tom Mctague, “Ex-MEB Godfrey Bloom Quits UKIP,” Daily Mail, October 13, 2014.
[vii] Crystal Shepeard, “How Sweden’s Feminist Party is Changing European Politics and Possibly the World,” Care2, September 26, 2014.
[ix] Michael Hastings, “The Runaway General,” Rolling Stone Magazine, June 22, 2010
[x] Colleen Curry, “Mormon Church Excommunicates Kate Kelly, Women’s Rights Activists,” ABC News, June 23, 2014.
[xi] Jenna Johnson, “On College Campuses, a Gender Gap in Student Government,” The Washington Post, March 16, 2011.
[xii] Robin Morgan, “The Firing of Jill Abramson,” Ms. Magazine, Fall 2014, p. 47.
[xiii] Brian Womack, “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to Join Board,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 25, 2012.
[xiv] Teresa Xie, “For Some Girls in a Top Model UN Club, the Sexism Is All Too Real,” Women’s eNews, August 15, 2006.
[xv] Clarissa-Jan Lim, “Obama’s Female Staffers hatched a Plan to Make their Voices Heard,” APlus, September 14, 2016.
[xvi] “US, Papua New Guinea, Oman are Only Nations Without Paid Maternity Leave – UN,” RT, May 14, 2014.
[xvii] Kimberly Amadeo, “U.S. Military Budget,” About News, February 23, 2016.
[xviii] 500 women aged 18-29, Willow Bay, March 23, 2007, Huffington Post www.huffingtonpost.com/willow-bay/what-a-generation-y-woman_b_44132.html. Similar findings were reported in http://www.bpwfoundation.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=5886
[xix] D’Vera Cohn, Gretchen Livingston and Wendy Wang, “After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers,” Pew Research Center, April 8, 2014.
[xx] Jon Henley, “Parental Leave Rights Differ Around the World,” The Guardian, November 29, 2013.
[xxi] Pamela Druckerman, “The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood,” New York Times, October 13, 2016.
[xxii] Anu Partanen. The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. HarperCollins, 2016, p. 24.
[xxiii] Partanen, p. 30.
[xxiv] Partanen, p. 149.
[xxv] Partanen, P. 314.
[xxvi] Partanen, p. 92.
[xxviii] “Iceland is the Third Best Place to be a Mother, Iceland Magazine, May 5, 2015.
[xxix] Dwyer Gunn, “How Should Parental Leave be Structured? Ask Iceland,” XX Factor, April 3, 2013.
[xxx] Flore Vasseur, “Lisbeth Salander’s Real Life Twin May be Iceland’s Next Prime Minister,” Backchannel, January 22, 2016.
[xxxiii] Susan Popkin, Molly Scott, and Martha Galvez, “Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity in America,” Urban League, September 12, 2016.
[xxxv] Ron Haskins, Julia Isaacs, Isabel Sawhill, “Getting Ahead or Losing Ground,” Brookings Institution, February 20, 2008.
[xxxvi] “Spotlight on Millennials,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2015.
[xxxvii] Robert Samuelson, “What’s the Real Gender Pay Gap?” Washington Post, April 24, 2016.
[xxxix] Jill Filipovic, “Why Sexism at the Office Makes Women Love Hillary Clinton,” New York Times, February 20, 2016.
[xl] “Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond,” Economic Policy Institute, December 6, 2015.
[xlii] Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask. Bantam, 2007.
Joanne Lipman, “Let’s Expose the Gender Pay Gap,” New York Times, August 13, 2015.
The Female Body
Females are more often judged by their appearance than their achievements than males, as seen in comparison of male and female TV anchors. An exception is Donald Trump who not only criticized opponent Carly Fiorina’s face but called Marco Rubio ”little Marco.” He in turn said Trump had small hands. American girls still face gender-related physical problems: distorted body image, the highest teen pregnancy in the developed world, over half of rapes (54%) occur before the victim is age 18, the average age of entry into prostitution is around 13, and girls are more likely than boys to be malnourished. About-Face is a group formed by young women to address body image problems and Melissa Fabello explains why she is a body image activist.[i] About 20% of female college students are the victims of actual or attempted sexual assault; for GLBT students the rate is 70%.[ii] The worst offenders are boy’s clubs such as fraternities or the military, with recent fraternity slogans such as “the couch pulls out, but we don’t,” or military references to women Marines as “Walking Mattresses” or skirts.[iii] College president Christopher Howard asks students to stop being bystanders and become “upstanders” who take action against sexism.
Young women reclaimed the body with Body Positive campaigns to “Free the Nipple” to go topless in public like men (in the US, Iceland, Ireland and other European countries), “SlutWalks” and debates about “slut shaming.” [iv] These campaigns generated current interest from young women, with a focus on clothing or lack of it. A blog post by a 14-year-old post defines slut shaming, and it’s discussed more thoroughly in a book titled I am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet by Leora Tanenbaum (2015).[v] Unslut: A Dairy and a Memoir (2015) discusses Emily Lindin’s experience with being bullied for being a slut in middle school. The discussion carried over to criticism of “fat shaming” as seen on YouTube.[vi] Media celebrities claimed their right to post nude selfies, like reality star Kim Kardasian and actress Emily Ratajkowski who asked, “A selfie is a sort of interesting way to reclaim the [male] gaze, right?” [vii] She said she refused to be ashamed of her sexuality or nudity and that social media allows her to choose what to post.
Second Wave author Letty Cottin Pogrebin warned, “Being able to bare your midriff is fine as an expression, but it doesn’t mean things are going to change.”[viii] British journalist Tahila Gupta traced “fake feminism” to neoliberal individualistic consumer values. Power for young women consumers and attractive fashionistas is popularized as “girl power” by the Spice Girls. Movies like Charlie’s Angels and My Super Ex-Girlfriend are examples of fake feminism where fighting is portrayed as strength, but in the first movie a man is the boss of the women fighters. Postfeminist focus on consumption as liberation is analyzed by other British writers in anthologies titled Interrogating Postfeminism and The Aftermath of Feminism.[ix] The book Growing Up with Girl Power (2012) traces the history of this individualistic definition of female power from riot grrrls to Spice Girls to The Powerpuff Girls.[x] This decoy feminism relies on the “fetishism of choice” to consume and wear fashionable clothes, the phrase coined by British author Clare Chambers. The ability to show flesh is not power and doesn’t change male monopoly of economic and political leadership (of the 62 richest people in the world, only nine are women).
Millennial women organized #AllofUs2016 to protest candidate Trump’s making light of sexual assault as typical locker room language for men or what his wife called “boy talk:” “Millennial women won’t tolerate Trump’s disgusting and dangerous sexism,” said organizer Natalie Green, age 24.[xi] Dressed in black (like Polish women protesters against abortion restrictions) the #GOPHandsOffMe organizers held various sit-ins at Republican offices and Trump properties, demanding that the party un-endorse Trump. The women held protests in a dozen cities including New York City, Washington, DC, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Oakland. Slogans were “Pussy Grabs Back,” “Love trumps hate,” and “GOP hands off me.”[xii] Organizer Jodeen Olguin-Tayler, a survivor of sexual assault, said, “Women, especially women of color voters, are the mobilized voting bloc that will save this country from the terrifying threat of Trump, a sexual predator, becoming President. We are putting all politicians on notice, get ready to be held accountable to our priorities and demands.”
A UN fact-finding mission in the US in 2015 reported to the UN High commission for Human Rights on a shocking gap between rhetoric and the facts of “women’s missing rights” in the US.[xiii] They said, “In global context, US women do not take their rightful place as citizens.” They specifically pointed to the increasing barriers to abortion and other reproductive health care, low numbers of women legislators (the US ranks number 72 globally), a 21% gender wage gap, and cuts to social safety net programs. Experiences unique to women led to international protests, such as demonstrations against prohibitions of breast-feeding in public. Argentinian women organized in July 2016 after a mother was removed from a public square as she breast-fed her baby. Similar protests were held in Australia, Hong Kong, Denmark, England and the US.
Women’s reproductive rights, including access to abortion and birth control, are under continued attack in the US. States such as Texas, Ohio and Virginia force reproductive health clinics to close and the Republican members of the House of Representatives attempt to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Since 2001, over 470 laws were passed to restrict women’s access to abortion.[xiv] However, Republican women in the House of Representatives blocked a 2015 bill to make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy because it required victims to report rapes to police, although they did renew a bill blocking most federal funding on abortion. The exception is Republican justices, according to a 2014 study.[xv]
The male justices of the Supreme Court allowed privately owned corporations to deny health insurance coverage of certain kinds of birth control in 2014 (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby), a decision that was opposed by the three women justices. Only women are subject to this kind of employer interference in their medical choices, according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She pointed out that the male justices are more understanding of gay rights, with a blind spot about equality for women.[xvi] Justice Kennedy wrote in a majority opinion sustaining the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for their child. While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, commented, “It’s better to be a corporation today than to be a woman in front of the Supreme Court.” However, being a woman doesn’t necessitate support for reproductive rights: Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina attacked Planned Parenthood with outrageous lies.[xvii] Mothers still circumcise their daughters in the US and Europe. Nimko Ali was the victim of FGM and now advocates against it in England, although she receives “death threats on a regular basis; we have been attacked on the street and lost people we once believed to be friends.”[xviii]
[ii] “Myths and Facts,” Roger Williams University.
[iii] Vincent Emanuele, “The War Against Women” College Campuses and American Culture,” TeleSUR, September 7, 2015.
[iv] K. Mendes. SlutWalk: Feminism, Activism and Media. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
[vii] Naomi Wolf, “Emily Ratajkowski’s Naked Ambition,” Harpers Bazaar, July 7, 2016.
[viii] Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon, and Astrid Henry. Feminism Unfinished: A Short, Surprising History of American Women’s Movements. Liverwright Publishing, 2014, p. 170.
[ix] Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra, eds. Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture. Duke University Press, 2007.
Angela McRobbie. The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. SAGE Publications, 2008.
[xi] “Millennial Women Conduct Sit-In at RNC HQ,” Common Dreams, October 11, 2016.
[xii] “Women Blockade Trump Campaign Headquarters,” Common Dreams, October 18, 2016.
[xiii] Deirdre Fulton, “Think the US Leads on Women’s Rights? UN Experts Think Again,” Common Dreams, December 15, 2015.
[xiv] Eesha Pandit, “The End of Real Choice in Texas,” Salon, March 14, 2016.
[xv] Adam Glynn and Maya Sen, “Identifying Judicial Empathy,” Harvard Scholar, 2015.
[xvi] Adam Liptak, “Justices’ Rulings Advance Gays; Women Less So,” New York Times, August 4, 2014.
[xvii] Heather Digby Parton, “Carly Fiorina’s Despicable Planned Parenthood Lies have gotten even Worse,” Salon, September 25, 2015.
[xviii] Tracy McVeigh, “Meet the New Wave of Activists Making Feminism Thrive in a Digital Age,” The Guardian, June 1, 2013.