Girls, Let’s Go to the Mall!!! XOXOX
The Women’s March and the Catty State of Feminism in 2017
A day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators descended on Washington, D.C., and other cities for the Women’s March. The sheer number of protestors provided the sisters with some salve for the post-election wounds they’re still licking (hope they don’t get hairballs) after their candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, lost the election. Their protest signs expressed support for a garden variety of traditional feminist causes, like, “Keep Your Politics Out of My Uterus,” and a few newer, Trump-inspired ones, such as “This Pussy Grabs Back!”
Actually, the “pussies” who showed up at the D.C. rally probably won’t “grab” anyone after a few days. Many of the speeches were embarrassing, hypocritical, and forgettable. Ashley Judd certainly wasn’t invoking the inspirational rhetoric of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech when she crudely referenced a “dream” of another kind to insult Donald and Ivanka Trump. It’s hard to take any women’s movement seriously when one of the principal speakers reads a poem that implies the newly-elected president may have had incestuous designs on his daughter. Judd’s poetic snark is nothing new for contemporary star-studded feminism, but her remarks betrayed a callousness for the very causes she claims to care about. If she believed this allegation against Donald Trump had even a modicum of truth, shouldn’t Ivanka be treated with the same privacy and dignity feminists demand for female victims of sexual abuse? Of course Judd knew the smear was not true and didn’t care if her words embarrassed another woman, just as long as she revved up the crowd.
The girls at the Mall may be proud that they donned pink “pussy” hats in support of or against whatever causes they promote, but the entire event merely demonstrated the silliness of the current women’s movement. Saturday’s spectacle was just another example of how contemporary feminism remains detached and aloof from so many ordinary women outside the major cities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It’s not so much that the average female needs the movement. The movement needs average women to survive and thrive, a lesson the leadership still hasn’t learned after all these years.
Has establishment feminism actually experienced a significant victory since Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match? It’s arguable that the movement hasn’t really recovered from its failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, when conservative activist and lawyer Phyllis Schlafly led a grassroots counter-offensive and outflanked feminists and high-profile politicians pushing for ratification. To this day, Schlafly, who died last year, is reviled by most feminists, who cannot get beyond their contempt of her even to consider objectively why she prevailed and they did not. Phyllis Schlafly was an effective grassroots organizer who talked with–not down to–middle class housewives and mothers. The women’s movement of the last forty years has missed many opportunities to connect with a large segment of American women.
Even the much vaunted Roe v. Wade win may be little more than a Pyrrhic victory because feminism’s unyielding position on abortion has limited the movement’s popularity and impact. Ironically, Norma McCorvey, the woman at the center of the case, ultimately renounced her role as the abortion cause célèbre. Unfortunately, that was what she had become for feminism— just a cause. Like Ivanka Trump and the incest story, McCorvey provided a convenient narrative for mewling activists.
Beyond the headlines, however, the truth is that McCorvey’s situation became a cautionary tale about notoriety through activism. Hailing from the ranks of the lower middle class, McCorvey has led a difficult, troubled life. After the initial media interest in her story waned, McCorvey became a member of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, converted to Catholicism, and hit the Christian speaking circuit. Certainly, feminists could argue that pro-life groups have also used McCorvey as a pawn, but it’s the feminist who wear their concern for women on their vagina costume sleeves. McCorvey needed compassion and genuine concern, not on-again-off -again publicity that never really helped her build a productive life for herself.
Many women like McCorvey would genuinely benefit from the caring outreach college-educated feminists could provide. I will even concede that some of my liberal colleagues in the various community colleges where I’ve worked would be ideally suited to assume leadership positions in a revamped feminist movement. Some of them even participated in the D.C. march and other demonstrations around the country. I may not agree with their politics, but I know they genuinely care about women. I just have difficulty understanding how they can go to these marches and not feel their intelligence is being insulted.
That said, many independent women in red states could teach young college-educated feminists a few things about self-reliance, grit, dignity, and stoicism. Since many young women these days lack the coping skills even to accept the results of an election, they would benefit from interacting with tougher, more practical gals than those speaking last Saturday.
Over the weekend, when news broke about some of the more militant speeches at the Mall, my Facebook news feed filled with posts from women in my Alabama hometown. These sisters, both friends and relatives, were disgusted by what they saw unfolding in D.C. They do not identify with the anger of Madonna and Ashley Judd. Most of them are wives and mothers. Many hold down jobs while caring for their families. They do not believe they are oppressed by the “patriarchy” and sometimes find the condescension of elite women insulting. Strong-willed and independent, they saw little to admire or inspire in those celebrity speeches. They don’t melt down when a man uses crude language, and they certainly don’t equate words with violent deeds. Unlike the sisters at the march, they can take a joke. They were underwhelmed by Madonna’s cursing and Ashley’s “poetic” allusions to menstruation. To them, both women seemed more like immature teenagers who had just discovered the F-word and gotten their periods for the first time.
The women back home saw weak, self-indulgent girls who rant about “white privilege” but don’t stop scowling and shouting long enough to acknowledge their own advantages. When Madonna swears and rages about “blowing up the White House,” the Alabama women wonder how someone with so much to be thankful for could still be so miserable. Rather than seeing these high-profile women as role models, they almost pity them. Camille Paglia, popular intellectual and longtime critic of contemporary feminism, expressed their sentiments when she recently wrote, “Instead of lugubrious rants and hysterical recriminations, perhaps Madonna should try a little honest self-critique.”
In fact, the entire feminist cause should “try a little honest self-critique.” The movement is mired in antiquated street theater that resonates with few average women outside of academia and other left-leaning white-collar professions. The large protests on Saturday belie the reality that feminism seriously needs to change its image. Pussy hats just aren’t enough.
The Academic Redneck is not the first to make this argument, and the criticism that feminism is dominated by elite, college-educated women is a longstanding complaint. Though the feminists speaking on Saturday would recoil and say they were being “silenced” or “oppressed,” it’s time for some of them to sit down, shut up, and yield the bully pulpit to women with logical arguments instead of bizarre, catty messages that fail to resonate with half the women in the country.