Sisterhood Blog

Antifeminists vs. Real Feminist Fighters

By Sarah Seltzer

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This week professional antifeminist trolls Christina Hoff Summers and Kay Hymowitz both posted another round of sallies about how the feminist movement is failing women, who just may be natural nurturers after all. But this time around they didn’t get the usual traction and ire that they look for with these kinds declarations.

The reason for this was because the entire internet was too busy watching an actual group of feminist women including Texas State Senators Wendy Davis and Letitia Van De Putte along with hundreds of hollering protesters take a dramatic stand against anti-abortion politics in their state. Thirteen-hour filibusters, leaving your dad’s funeral to take part in political resistance: there are actual feminist heroines out there fighting actual entrenched and dangerous sexism. And even though, according to Summers and Hymowitz, feminism has failed and no one cares about it (a claim I dispute), ask any website administrator whether they got traffic from this story this week, and they’ll tell you yes, they got insane traffic. There were, in fact, more than a hundred thousand people watching the filibuster livestream.

The Texas filibuster phenomenon makes the tired arguments from the anti-feminist feminists seem even more weary, retro and halfhearted.

Summers’ piece was an attempt at a call for a new kind of feminist movement, one divorced from any radical tendencies. This she calls, hilariously, “freedom feminism.”

For instance, she writes, “gender gaps in wages, political leadership, and the professions would not automatically be taken as proof of discrimination. Freedom feminists allow that there could be innocent explanations for disparities. Instead, its focus would be on genuine injustice.” She thinks this mostly takes place in Africa and places like that.

Hymnowitz has a similar take on gender roles, writing: “It’s also possible that, whether for biological or cultural reasons or both, many women are less interested in absolute parity with men than they are in work that gives them plenty of time with their kids.”

Oh please. I think we’ve seen enough strong professional women who are also loving moms, including those filibustering in Texas, that we can retire this discussion about exactly what our natural inclinations are. Because we still need talk about the fact that until women have control over our reproduction and our maternal inclinations, there will be no equality.

Melissa McEwan hit the nail on the head this week at Shakesville, calling BS on the “abortion politics are a good faith disagreement about when life begins” argument by saying that even if life begins at conception (which is up for debate) there is no class of people besides pregnant women who are compelled by the state to support other lives’ sustenance with their bodies, against their wills:

The question is not really when life begins. The question is whether we recognize women and other people with uteri as humans whose lives have intrinsic value and the rights of agency, bodily autonomy, and consent. It is only because such a vast swath of our population cannot or will not answer a resounding and unqualified “yes” to that question that there is even space for a reprehensible debate about when life begins.

Griping about feminism’s irrelevance when, as McEwan clearly notes, it is still so, so needed, is itself an irrelevant pursuit.


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