Has Feminism Lost Its Focus?

That’s what Linda Hirshman argues in the Washington Post. And, not surprisingly, I think she’s wrong.

FYI: There will be a live discussion about the article here at 1pm today. Join in.

Full disclosure: Linda interviewed me for this article. I’m quoted in the second-to-last paragraph. I really enjoyed speaking with her — it was clear during the interview that we have very different visions of what feminism should be, and we pushed back against each other quite a bit, but it was an engaging conversation. I didn’t expect to convince her or anything, nor her I — and from the article, I feel like we’re speaking different feminist languages.

Linda seems to be arguing that feminism has lost focus by way of intersectionality — because we’re so busy looking at things like race and class, we’ve forgotten about women. Race and class are “divides” that fragment the movement, making us less able to, say, get a woman elected president:

So what keeps the movement from realizing its demographic potential? First, it’s divided along lines so old that they feel like geological faults. Long before this campaign highlighted the divides of race, class and age, feminism was divided by race, class and age. As early as 1973, some black feminists formed a National Black Feminist Organization; in 1984, the writer Alice Walker coined the term “womanism” to distinguish black women’s liberation from feminism, the white version. In the early 1970s, writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich argued on behalf of “socialist feminism,” saying that the women’s movement couldn’t succeed unless it attacked capitalism. The movement was barely out of its teens when Walker’s daughter, Rebecca, announced a new wave to distinguish her generation’s feminism from the already divided feminisms of the people who had spawned it.

This would have been enough to weaken the movement. But it still could have been like many other reform movements, which manage to remain effective by using such traditional political tools as alliances and compromises. There’s an old-fashioned term for it — “log-rolling.” Put crudely: First I vote for your issue, then you vote for mine.

The mostly white, middle-class feminist organizations could have established relationships of mutual convenience with groups such as the black feminists. An alliance like that might have been able to prevent the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991. White feminists opposed him, but he had enough support among black voters — who are heavily female — to induce four Southern Democratic senators who were heavily dependent on black votes for reelection to cast the crucial votes to confirm him.

But feminists weren’t going to do things the old-fashioned, “political” way. Instead, faced with criticism that the movement was too white and middle-class, many influential feminist thinkers conceded that issues affecting mostly white middle-class women — such as the corporate glass ceiling or the high cost of day care — should not significantly concern the feminist movement. Particularly in academic circles, only issues that invoked the “intersectionality” of many overlapping oppressions were deemed worthy. Moreover, that concern must include the whole weight of those oppressions. In other words, since racism hurts black women, feminists must fight not only racist misogyny but racism in any form; not only rape as an instrument of war, but war itself. The National Organization for Women (NOW) eventually amended its mission statement to include interrelated oppressions.


And this is where I get confused. Feminism no longer concerns itself with concerns of white middle-class women, like the corporate glass ceiling or the high cost of daycare? And where I feel like we speak different languages is when Linda seems skeptical of the argument that feminists should oppose not only racist misogyny, but racism, and not only rape as a tool of war, but war itself. War does serious harm to women — is it only a feminist issue when women are raped during war, but not a feminist issue when they’re killed or displaced?

But my main concern comes at the way the issues are split into authentic “feminist” issues and those “other” issues that those “other” women are trying to integrate into feminism. It’s a question of who feminism belongs to, and who is entitled to set out its goals and concerns. I view feminism as a collective, where women of all backgrounds can set the agendas and push the movement forward. I don’t think feminism has to be a unified force on all fronts; I don’t think it’s main purpose is to get the right Democrats elected. Electing progressive politicians is a crucial goal for some parts of the feminist movement, but it’s not the be-all end-all to the movement. And since I see feminism as ideally offering equal space for women of all backgrounds, I don’t see why middle-class white women’s issues are more purely feminist that the issues raised by poor women or Black women or Hispanic women, or any other group of women. The issues that disproportionately effect middle-class white women are also issues colored by race and class — but because they’re the dominant race and the dominant class, that gets glossed over. It seems to me to be an unfair double standard. And it seems to me that white middle-class feminists shouldn’t be doing the same thing that the white guys have always done: We should not be telling other women to forgo their issues for the ones we deem important. We should not be telling other women to wait their turn. We should not construct a movement that assumes “woman” to only represent one narrow construction of womanhood.

Although other organizations work on women’s issues when appropriate, none of the other social movements were much interested in making intersectionality their mission. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, which co-sponsored the 2004 march in alliance with women’s groups, says nothing about feminism or homophobia or intersectionality in its mission statement. The largest Hispanic rights organization, National Council of La Raza, unembarrassedly proclaims that it “works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.”

I do think there’s a lot of room to criticize other social justice movements for leaving women out, or not representing women’s interests enough. The second-wave feminist movement sprung partly out of frustration at the sexism in the anti-war and civil rights movements. But the answer isn’t to say, “Well, these other movements don’t explicitly talk about women, so therefore we don’t have to talk about race.” That’s playground politicking, not building a strong and justice-based feminism.

She then talks about the Millennials, who she says are recharging feminism with online activism. But:

So what’s the bad news? A lot of millennial feminism simply magnifies the weaknesses of the old movement. As Burk says: “When we started the [younger women's] task force, the young women wanted to identify it with environmentalism and prison rights and, and, and. . . .” Sound familiar?

But to me, that’s not “bad news” — that means we’re starting to make valuable connections. Environmentalism does intersect deeply with feminism — it’s women who bear the brunt of clean water shortages, whose bodies are compromised because of “population control,” who are often most harmed by food crises. It’s powerful to bring feminist analysis to environmentalism, to prison rights, and to other social justice issues. It’s not a weakness.

As someone who has been faithful to feminism since I received a first edition of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” in 1964, I can’t help saying: “Be careful what you wish for.” The process of shedding potential allies can be hard to control.

After the Center for New Words’s diverse and inclusive “Women, Action and the Media” conference this past April, the blogosphere erupted with charges and countercharges. Bloggers like “Sudy,” a self-described “Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions,” declared some of the conference’s female subjects to be synthetic: “I . . . don’t believe that simply putting a womyn’s face where a man’s face once was is going to solve our problems . . . by Real Womyn I am talking about womyn of color, incarcerated womyn, migrant womyn, womyn at the border, womyn gripped in violence, rape, and war.”

Participant and blogger Brownfemipower accused participant and blogger Amanda Marcotte, who wrote an article on immigration after the conference, of not coming up “with all these ideas on her own,” and a supportive commenter on her blog, high on rebellion, put the accusation into the broad context of it being “all too easy for white women to get away with stealing the ideas of women of colour.”

A movement that uses intersectionality as a lens but banishes white, bourgeois, corporate older women might be a vehicle to glue what remains of feminism together, but it will struggle to achieve social change for women. The Clinton campaign has, perhaps unwittingly, revealed what many in the movement know — that if feminism is a social-justice-for-everyone (with the possible exception of middle-class white women) movement, then gender is just one commitment among many. And when the other causes call, the movement will dissolve.

…yeah. I wonder if she bothered to interview Sudy or Brownfemipower or any other women of color?

I’m unclear on where Linda gets the idea that feminism is banishing white women or women who don’t use intersectionality as a lens. Obviously I wish that more feminists would use an intersectional approach, and I am skeptical of those who don’t — but I don’t want to kick them out of the movement (and I couldn’t if I tried). The interests of white middle-class women still dominate the mainstream feminist organizations. NOW may mention intersectionality on its website, but it doesn’t mean that the interests of white middle-class women no longer control much of what the organization does. Just look at what’s in major newspapers when it comes to gender and feminism: Elections, elections, elections. I don’t read all that much about feminist views on prison reform or environmentalism.

And the bit about WAM… I’m hesitant to even get into it, but to me, Linda’s article reads like, “WAM was a great and diverse conference until those meanie women of color showed up and started shit.” The implication seems to be that feminism is great and dandy until we let non-white women in the door.

I can understand the knee-jerk frustration when something you love is criticized. I had a great time at WAM, and I came back invigorated and inspired. It did feel like a punch in the stomach to read that some women found WAM to be exclusionary, white-focused, and not representative of the feminism they want. My first reaction was exasperation — what more do they want? I can see how feminists who felt at home at WAM would think that the conference would just be so much better without killjoys complaining about it. It’s easy, when you love something, to want to protect it at all costs. It’s easy, when your perspective is the only one you can know, to think that people who see it differently must just be wrong.

But that is not the feminism I want.

And it’s not the feminism that exists and has always existed. Many white feminists — and I’ve been guilty of this myself — operate under the arrogant assumption that white women started feminism and still work as the bouncers at the door of the movement. That simply isn’t true. Whether women of color serve on the board of NOW or not, there is still grassroots, progressive, feminist work happening in communities all over the world — and it doesn’t take white women to come in and open the door or “teach” other women how to stand up for themselves. Women are organizing. Women are taking feminist actions. The question isn’t whether intersectionality should be a part of feminism — it already is. It always has been. The question is whether the women in positions of greater power — women who tend to be white and middle or upper-class — are going to emulate existing power structures, or whether those women are going to recognize the diversity and richness of feminism and try to represent that by challenging the very structures that gave them power in the first place.

None of that is to say that women should eschew power if they want to be “good” feminists. There are lots of ways to be a good feminist — and it doesn’t mean that you have to put your own interests last. But it does mean that we need to recognize that true power and transformative change comes from areas other than the government. Yes, elections are important. Yes, our representatives and our laws are crucial tools for equality and justice. But they are neither the beginning nor the end of the story. Perhaps that’s where the divide between my thinking and Linda’s comes in.

And I remain troubled by her contention “that if feminism is a social-justice-for-everyone (with the possible exception of middle-class white women) movement, then gender is just one commitment among many. And when the other causes call, the movement will dissolve.” That simply isn’t true — unless you think that gender operates totally separately from all other oppressive social structures, which seems like an awfully simplistic and blind way of seeing the world. First, we need to cut the “poor white women, feminists are so mean to them” meme. Feminism should stand for all women. The problem right now is that it stands disproportionately for white women. Critiquing that is not the same as saying that white women don’t deserve justice. And to me, a movement that is willing to trouble itself with the complicated realities that women face — realities that include a diversity of experiences, beliefs and identities — is the only movement worth adhering to. A movement that attempts to define “womanhood” in a way that only appeals to a narrow group of women, that refuses to acknowledge that womanhood means different things to different women, and that does not recognize the ridiculousness of expecting women to separate out their femaleness from their other defining characteristics is not a movement that I trust.

I do hear what she’s saying: It becomes problematic if feminism is diluted to simply mean “social justice.” In the lead-up to the March for Women’s Lives in April 2004, feminist organizations were rife with these conversations, and particularly with the question of how many issues should be permitted to be raised at the march. If you’ve ever gone to a lefty protest, you know what the concern is — that every lefty issue under the sun will be raised. The March was about reproductive rights; they were concerned that raising issues like marriage equality or the war would be unnecessarily divisive and distracting. At the time of the March, I didn’t know where I stood. I do think there’s something to be said for having single-issue actions.

But feminism isn’t an issue — it’s an umbrella movement that should encompass and represent women’s interests. Those interests are going to be diverse and occasionally divisive. I think that’s ok.

I do think Linda is right in her point that without cohesion, feminists lack power as an electoral force. She quotes me in the article as saying, “”Mainstream liberal Democratic guys don’t have to take feminism seriously because they know that, at the end of the day, we’re going to be there.” That’s true — women’s votes are only deemed important so long as we’re getting the Democratic dudes into office. Democrats know that once the election is over, they don’t have to represent feminist interests, because where else are we going to go? It’s a frustrating catch-22: If we don’t support Democrats, we’re opening the door for an even worse party to maintain power. But when we do support Democrats in exchange for crumbs, we reward bad behavior, and we undermine ourselves as a powerful political force.

So I think we do need feminists like Linda, who are concerned with getting women into positions of power — because for a lot of women, that’s important. It’s difficult to deny the fact that having women in power is valuable not only because it models power to other women and girls (raising a generation of women who feel entitled to the kind of stuff men have always had), but because it normalizes femaleness and elevates “women’s issues” to the level that “men’s issues” have always been at — that is, it turns “women’s issues” into “issues.” But that isn’t enough. We need a feminist movement that pushes the women who do achieve power to be better — we need women who bring up issues of race and class, and who won’t shut up or back down or sit in the back seat in the name of cohesion. We need a system that doesn’t privilege some people over others when it comes to achieving power. And we need a system that redefines “power” in the first place — and a feminism that recognizes the fact that power through electoral politics is not the only power worth having.

I am tired of a feminism that assumes to be built and maintained by middle-class white women. I am tired of a feminism that, when challenged, falls back on the same old excuses and knee-jerk reactions that men have long relied on when faced with feminist critiques. I don’t think feminism needs to be everything to everyone, and I do think that it must be concerned with women first and foremost — but I am tired of a feminism that treats whiteness and class privilege as a default position. I am tired of a feminism that values cohesion and electoral power over substantive change and true justice.

I have quite a bit of respect, admiration and gratitude for the feminists who came before me. But I take issue with the idea that those “older feminists” were mostly white middle-class women, and that it’s us third-wavers who are just now bringing in race and class analysis. Feminists have always been diverse. Feminisms have been developed around the world, in varying ways in varying communities. The public face of feminism, though, has recreated existing prejudices and privileges — white middle-class Western women have taken the stage not because we’re doing more work or better work or the only work, but because we have relatively more power, privilege and access than other feminists. I don’t think it does a disservice to feminist accomplishments to acknowledge that.

In other words, feminism hasn’t lost its focus — it is simply evolving. We do not have to be completely and entirely unified in order to be a force of nature. We are instead better when we hash out our ideas, when we disagree, when we come into feminist spaces with varying experiences and beliefs. That’s how we learn, and that’s how we get better. And if feminism cannot withstand critique, diversity and evolution, then perhaps it’s not an ideology worth adhering to.

I obviously believe feminism is worth the time, love, energy and thought that so many of us put into it. But it is only a movement made up of ideas and individuals; it is not a thing unto itself. And so we get to decide what it looks like — all of us. In reality, that means that it’s going to look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Ideally, we will be able to consolidate our collective power and become a force to be reckoned with — but that shouldn’t require a large group of us to repeatedly set aside our own interests or our identities.

Diversity of thought and of issue areas are not weaknesses for feminism — rather, they are indications of relevance. The fact that feminism matters in prison reform, in environmentalism, in anti-racist activism, in LGBT activism, in human rights ideology, and in the anti-war movement is a testament to feminism’s strength and its widespread value.

All of that said, there remains a problem of representing feminist and women’s interests in progressive politics, which Linda tried to get to at the end of her article. I don’t have the silver bullet to solve the impossible problem of Democrats wooing women during elections and then taking us for granted when they’re actually in power; I don’t think voting for McCain, or opting out of the elections, is going to teach them any sort of lesson — and it certainly won’t be doing ourselves any favors. But we also aren’t doing ourselves any favors by continuing to participate in a system that screws us at every turn.

But I don’t think intersectionality is to blame for the relative lack of power that feminists have. I don’t think that pushing aside the issues that large groups of women face is the appropriate answer.

I also don’t know what the appropriate answer is, at least when it comes to electoral issues. Linda and WaPo readers will be discussing that question here, at 1pm today. Join in if you can.

UPDATE: BfP has a post up about the article as well. It’s worth a read.

Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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129 Responses

  1. sonia
    sonia June 9, 2008 at 12:26 pm |

    Women are organizing. Women are taking feminist actions. The question isn’t whether intersectionality should be a part of feminism — it already is. It always has been. The question is whether the women in positions of greater power — women who tend to be white and middle or upper-class — are going to emulate existing power structures, or whether those women are going to recognize the diversity and richness of feminism

    Right on. Excellent job parsing out the problems I had with the article.

    I also basically had issues with framing “Clinton lost election” being attributed to a failure of focus in the feminist movement.

  2. Hugo Schwyzer
    Hugo Schwyzer June 9, 2008 at 12:30 pm |

    I noted the article at my place yesterday, and was delighted that you and Jessica were mentioned. Yay you!

    Bottom line, I think Hirshman falls into the trap of thinking that feminism “back in the day” had a clear political focus that has somehow been lost. As every women’s history student knows, practically the first thing that happened to the feminist movement was the famous AWSA/NWSA split in the aftermath of the Civil War over, you guessed it, race. There have always, always, always been feminisms; the idea that it is only recently that a once-cohesive movement splintered on the rock of intersectionality makes a good story, but it’s a false narrative.

  3. Haley1018
    Haley1018 June 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    Her claim that Clinton’s loss is a sign of feminism’s failure as an electorate is so silly and so undefended! Tell me how Clinton would’ve been a feminist victory and Obama wouldn’t.

    Also, sure intersectionality might have made it more difficult for Hirshman and her ilk to convince people giving a rich white woman who already has unbelievable political power is an urgent cause, but if that’s what she thinks feminism’s primary goals should be, I’m not even sure how I can have a conversation with her.

    Feminism’s pre-intersectionality focus excluded 95% of women. If that’s the focus she wants to regain, she can do it on her own, and I’ll keep my “social justice for everyone” point of view…

  4. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte June 9, 2008 at 12:44 pm |

    She didn’t bother interviewing me before erroneously using me as some sort of example of whatever the fuck she’s talking about. I want nothing to do with that.

  5. norbizness
    norbizness June 9, 2008 at 12:51 pm |

    Did she just blame black women for Clarence Thomas’ confirmation in the early 90s?

    Forget about it, Jill. It’s Chinatown.

  6. nonskanse
    nonskanse June 9, 2008 at 12:54 pm |

    “that if feminism is a social-justice-for-everyone (with the possible exception of middle-class white women) movement, then gender is just one commitment among many. And when the other causes call, the movement will dissolve.” That simply isn’t true — unless you think that gender operates totally separately from all other oppressive social structures, which seems like an awfully simplistic and blind way of seeing the world.

    “So I think we do need feminists like Linda, who are concerned with getting women into positions of power “

    I think we need feminists who treat gender as more separate from other oppressive social structures, even though it isn’t, in order to get women into positions of power. Men are in power, and men do better in society than women. Black men are better off than black women, Latinos are better off than Latinas… getting women into positions of power, however, is a single issue of feminism.
    There are other important issues of feminism to focus on like ingrained sexism in black culture (sweetie) that is different than white culture.*
    Or the lack of American-born WoC in high-paying science and engineering jobs. Pretty much all of the non-white women I see at work are Asian. But then I don’t see many black men either.
    While it is a feminist issue that women get paid less than men, should we leave it to PoC organizations to solve the other part of WoC’s income disparity? It’s obvious that this is both a race and a feminism issue. So should we acknowledge that race plays a factor and then get on with how to fix the sex problem (looking at a couple places it seems income disparity in any particular race isn’t really worse than overall)?

    Should feminists deal with other social issues all the time, or only when they disproportionately affect women who are at the bad end of the social issue vs. men who are?

  7. octogalore
    octogalore June 9, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    Interesting subject and a lot of great analysis.

    While it does seem that you and Hirshman disagree on some issues, I think some of your post deals with issues not actually being argued by Hirshman, though.

    I do not read the article as Hirshman blaming intersectionality for feminism losing focus. She in fact suggests that white feminists should have done more to ally with WOC feminist groups. I read her analysis of the problem to be when feminism is perceived to be equally about other oppressions that don’t center women.

    As you probably know, I agree with that. It doesn’t mean a feminist website cannot talk about, to use your example, the war. It just means that it should look at it through a feminist lens. If feminist websites have articles about war, environmentalism, Sean Bell, etc. that are equivalent in focus to those in other lefty publications, then feminism becomes just another lefty cause. But certainly feminism needs to be about all women and the issues affecting them.

    In arguing that white middle class women shouldn’t be left out, I don’t read Hirshman as suggesting that non-white non-middle class women shouldn’t be emphasized as well. Your post has a lot of analysis purportedly opposing the article that I read the article as agreeing with, such as:

    • Feminism should offer space for women of all backgrounds
    • One issue, but by no means the main purpose, is to get feminist Democrats elected
    • No one class or race of women’s issues are more purely feminist than others
    • Environmentalism should be discussed where it intersects with feminism
    • Conferences like WAM should champion issues pertaining to women of all classes/races
    • “Older feminists” were and are women of all races.

    I support a great deal of your discussion here, but I am concerned that it appears to construct and then dispute an analysis that is different from what the article actually says.

  8. earlgreyrooibos
    earlgreyrooibos June 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm |

    In college I had a falling out with feminism because I felt it was too isolated and didn’t address other social problems. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I started reading about intersectionality, that I realized I could be a feminist again. Hirshman is the type of writer who drove me away from feminism for a time.

    Wish I could be a part of the discussion. darn day job . . .

  9. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate June 9, 2008 at 1:16 pm |

    And of course, there’s Hirshman, in her own words, about stay-at-home moms (which she seems to have a problem with):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/16/AR2006061601766_2.html

    It’s almost as if she’s espousing a feminism that puts the needs of upper-middle class professional white women (like Linda Hirshman) above those of other women. Yawn.

    Oh, and I got the same impression as norbizness. Nice.

  10. Holly
    Holly June 9, 2008 at 1:25 pm |

    I have to say I’m a little confused as to what the “appeasement” comment was supposed to be about — the one she quoted you at the end as saying, in order to prove some point of hers about not working for various causes without getting some back?

    I think the other point that’s being lost here is that some feminisms’ adoption of intersectionality has allowed feminist ideas to spread through a lot of other movements. Not all of them, of course, not by a long shot — but it’s kind of ignoring the work of a lot of women and feminists in other movements to only focus on the bad examples of some anti-racist movements that exclude women or don’t have women in leadership, etc. For instance, the organization I commit most of my spare time to isn’t focused exclusively on “women’s issues” in a traditional sense, but we absolutely have a feminist analysis of those issues, structure our work and organization in a way that’s informed by the struggles of women’s groups of the past (as well as POC groups). We have a lot of women in leadership and in general we’re incredibly indebted to feminism as a movement and try to carry a lot of those principles in our work. It’s not a bad thing that feminism has “spread out.”

    At the same time, I think Hirshman is right to express a fear that some vital work that primarily affects women is going to get neglected in favor of other goals. But that’s a choice that individual feminists and organizations with feminist principles can make, and I think there are ways of guiding that choice that don’t necessarily fall into old traps of “we can only tackle the issue of rape during war and not war itself.”

    Here’s my way of thinking about coalitions currently — of course, to be part of an effective and broad movement for making change, it’s valuable to work in coalition with other groups and movements that have similar interests (are progressive, or radical, etc). But that doesn’t mean any of the groups in a coalition should drop everything they’re doing to devote 100% of resources for years on end to exactly the same issue. Sometimes a concerted effort helps, but there is always a great variety of work to be done and another reason to work in coalition and communicate with others is so you can identify what areas are badly in need, lacking, what problems aren’t being tackled by anyone, where people are suffering, etc. There’s not only a danger of duplicating efforts or leaving a gap in the net, there’s also potentially a problem of stepping on people’s toes, not using acquired expertise, or even inadvertently competing for the same resources or funding.

    That is probably all basic ABC’s for anyone who’s worked or thought significantly about program design for non-profits, especially direct services. But I think even simple principles like that can help us say “ok how are we going to allocate our resources — personal and individual — so that we can move together when the time is right, and also spread out to cover the neglected areas at every other time.” And every progressive organization ought to not just be taking a single issue into consideration when trying to figure this out — not simply women’s issues, even if that’s the first place you look for trouble spots, and not simply race or anything else either. Feminism has been good at this when an intersectional lens has been brought, and I hope it can be an example for many movements.

  11. norbizness
    norbizness June 9, 2008 at 1:32 pm |

    P.S. If you read the talkback, the following question was mine

    ‘Austin, Texas: Let’s boil down your main political point as well: Because black women did not exert pressure on Democratic senators sufficient to block Clarence Thomas, they should have atoned in the 2008 presidential primary by voting for Hilary Clinton?

    Linda Hirshman: good question. My interest in atonement is pretty much cashed out one day a year. But as a thought experiment, let us consider if black women would be better off next november without Clarence Thomas on the bench and with Hillary Clinton in the White House.’

    So, in essence, she does seem to blame them. I thought her response would have been “Oh, that wasn’t my point, don’t be silly.”

  12. Cara
    Cara June 9, 2008 at 1:37 pm |

    So during the “discussion,” Hirshman lost me once and for all right here:

    One, where women’s issues arise and affect people in particular ways because they are the victims of other oppressions or challenges as well, feminism needs to craft specific solutions tailored to the women’s needs. An example suggested to me is that women of color are subjected to pressure NOT to reproduce — one such report spoke of long term norplant type stuff as a condition of parole. This is different from the pressure TO reproduce that is the subject of much choice energy. The women’s movement must protect women of color from this particularly female oppression, if the reports I received are true.

    If the reports are true? Are you fucking kidding me?

    Jill, if you’re not already, you should probably be paying attention to this. She seems to be bringing up your name and statement a lot to argue a point of view which I’m fairly positive that you don’t agree with.

    As my young friend Jill Filipovic put it in her interview, the progressive white men who run the Democratic Party do not have to pay attention to women, because they know we will always come back to them. And we lower our value even further, because we adopt their causes — civil rights, environment, etc. as OUR OWN, whole cloth, without any tradeoff.

    Right. Because issues of racism get so much more play with white male Democratic leaders than gendered discrimination does?

  13. shah8
    shah8 June 9, 2008 at 1:50 pm |

    Interesting article and essay, Jill

    I was thinking *alot* about things like this over the weekend, in the context of the oil news, the heatwave in Atlanta, and the prospects that holds for me in the economy going forward. Sweating profusely makes me thing, for some reason. Perhaps escapism…

    The initial touch-off of my thoughts was from reading so many threads, where people like Jill and Melissa McEwan put up speech/wake topics, and the comments would always degrade into pity-parties with constant “We Wuz ROBBED” elements percolating through the language. I would remember things like the “Dean Scream”, and think…weeellll. I saw some people start listing ever more progressively saner men, from Olberman to Yglesias to Duncan Black, as obviously completely sexist that they will never go back to. So then I start analyzing my motives in thinking about or talking about Hillary, and I decided it was a waste of time, at least until after the Obama takes office., and more people start to have Senator Clinton in perspective.

    So I thought about why this is so. I then decided that white feminists, as a whole, fails to understand how class affects the integrity of the umbrella movement in a way unique to gender issues. Having a huge portion of the activist base of feminist movements derive from the middle-classwealthy spectrum has meant that a segment has always had the ability to seek shelter from a sexist world, a world, btw, that isn’t nearly as violent or as focused on value extraction on these women as opposed to the poor, or minorities, in the first place. That shelter is their families. As a result, it has taken a long time for women’s rights to advance in most societies. Where it *has* come together quickly is when feminist movements have a chance to operate in areas with few class distinctions, like New Zealand, or the American West, or in Scandinavian countries. Women hang together under those circumstances.

    I don’t know what Linda Hirshman is drinking, but women have *always* taken a fairly intersectional approach to civil rights, bad as well as good (abolitionist, eugenics). It’s an artifact of sexuality, love, and hate, and the fact that it’s so much harder to seperate men and women by voluntary means, than it is is to seperate gay men from straight men. It’s almost impossible to think of a female Marcus Garvey as well. So there is a long history of feminist women using external issues and intersectional analysis to make an argument for women’s liberation, to confront men without confronting sons, brothers, and fathers. This has changed with the present urbanization and media situation, such that not only was it possible to broadcast the firehoseing of black people nationwide, but it was also possible for the Feminist Mystique to be published, but what is more important, for there to be a large readership among urban women. Magazines like Ms couldn’t exist in a previous milieu without a large pool of single women makin’ it in the city. So in a way, people like Linda Hirsh have only been able to creditably argue that exessive worrying about issues “external” to women for the last few decades!

    So, these are the ideas that influenced my perception of Hillary Clinton not being a particularly important female first. I saw her as a paramount example of one of those privileged women who had ready access to resources and people due to her association to Bill Clinton. I already had a bad taste in my mouth from Kirchner’s victory in Argentina (in which she seems mostly a stalking horse for her husband). I can’t stand Angela Merkel, and I think she, as well, is merely a front for conservative Atlanticist international businessmen with russophobia. I want more women like Michelle Bachelet to be running in the US and around the world. As the primaries went on, my distaste for Clinton increased. The policy promises between Clinton and Obama may not be vastly different, but the assumptions that are held by Clinton and Obama, and the politics resulting theroft are pretty different.

    It is these assumptions that irritated me the most, because I do not think Clinton really understands struggling in the context of other people. When I was in middle school, a teacher actively cheated so that I wouldn’t represent the pod in a school contest, in favor of a white guy (who was embarrassed about it). When I was in high school, there was always a deep ambvilance about me competing (especially in events I had a chance of winning). Not only that, much of the time, there was just only tolerance offered. I didn’t take my first full load of honors class until one of my 9th grade teachers, who was black, said I was too smart for her class and bumped me up. That didn’t end things, of course. I was refused entry into an AP class, despite not exactly having failed previous courses. I took the exam anyways and got a 5 on it. But here’s the thing, my victories were always private, even when they were public. I didn’t change that teacher’s mind about being so exclusive with his class. I didn’t really get any credit for doing ok or well, except among friends. One of those friends was a jewish female, who was valedictorian in my year. *She* stuck up for me once (at the time, most of my friends were jewish), but she never has had to stick up for herself in the way I had to stick up for myself, or any of the black people, or even any of the poorer whites. She had a set of wealthy parents who can raise a real fuss. I certainly do not deny that she faced sexism and antisemitism, but at least in high school, it was trumped. This is not true of black people, even with wealthy black people. I can reasonably guess that *Obama* has had to put with more crap than I did, because he threatened so many more white peope’s success than I did. Clinton’s race-baiting was personal for me, because she was like so many white people I have intereacted with who truly hated being less than some black guy and lashed out with that crap.

    I think a successful female canidate will almost *have* to be non-white in this country, just because that canidate will *know* who’s got her back, and she will *know* that she faces sexism, because she will have had to face sexism without the shelter of rich white men to retreat to. Bechelet overcame quite a bit of media sexism to be president of her county, but she has had to overcome horrific and misogynistic sexism in her life. She knows what the deal is, and every other societally disadvantaged person who truly shattered barriers in becoming the best there is, got there by following the Jackie Robinson Handbook.

    It would do many white feminists a lot of good if they might read it someday.

    If you actually had read this meandering piece, thank you for your patience!

  14. exholt
    exholt June 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    Reading this article where she criticizes intersectionality really reminded me of the the very mentality that angered many non-White classmates on my campus, especially the WOC who protested the campus Feminists and the Women Studies department back then for privileging the concerns of American upper/middle class White women over other women who were not included in that group along with harboring some classist and/or racist assumptions towards working class and non-White classmates. One of the reasons why intersectionality is starting to be taken seriously as of late in academia is due, in part, to those very student protests on many campuses like my undergrad 10+ years ago.

    By finishing that essay with:

    Or, as the legendary feminist philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli said, it’s better to be feared than loved, if you can’t be both.

    she’s conveying a mentality reminiscent of many socio-economically privileged “revolutionaries” like Lenin, Mao, etc who were supposedly calling for a revolution in the name of social-justice…but just ended up replacing one tyrannical power structure with another one.

    It is also counterproductive as one famous philosopher once said:

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

  15. AB
    AB June 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    If the reports are true? Are you fucking kidding me?

    Yup, this is where I just started shaking my head too.

    I think there’s a kernel of sense in what she is saying–that there are always trade-offs between focusing on one issue and trying to be as effective as possible by just pounding away at it with single-minded determination, and fighting the social justice fight more generally even as it spreads your resources more thinly. Hell, I don’t even have a problem saying that maybe there’s a place for a group to focus on issues that only affect a narrow demographic of women. The cognitive dissonance arises when Hirshman starts writing articles about how crazy it is that we can’t elect a women, because golly gee! over 50% of the population is female!

    The cluelessness, it burns. If you’re going to make an argument that feminism needs to be more focused and stop focusing on “intersectionality” in order to be more effective (and honestly, let’s call that what it is: white woman feminism. own it, if you’re going to argue in favor of it.), then you can’t make sweeping statements about how feminism represents 50% of the population. It’s one way or the other: either feminism is a big enough tent to advocate for all women’s issues–AND THAT INCLUDES AT THE VERY LEAST HAVING A FREAKING CLUE ABOUT ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN NOT NAMED LINDA HIRSHMAN, or it’s a small, focused movement that only represents a fraction of American women. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  16. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate June 9, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

    Did you know that most of the US is white and middle class? I sure didn’t.

    Also, because white middle class voters have the most power (in that they’re the largest voting bloc in Linda Hirshman’s America), we as feminists need to consider their needs first. You know, because feminism is all about taking care of those in positions of power.

    :headdesk:

  17. Jen
    Jen June 9, 2008 at 1:59 pm |

    Damn, Jill. She’s name dropping you every 3rd question. If Hirshman is getting paid for this chat, you deserve a cut.

  18. baltogeek
    baltogeek June 9, 2008 at 1:59 pm |

    I wonder if the divide between older women and younger about the idea of sectionality is because older women grew up in a time where there were still segregated schools and businesses.

    How many of these woman went to school or worked with people of color or people of different classes?

    If you’ve not had the experience of interacting with other groups of people, especially interacting on more equal terms, perhaps that produces a worldview where it’s difficult to understand how things affect people differently.

    I’m not trying to say everything is perfect today but maybe women who don’t seem to get why it’s important to have a more holistic sense of what being a woman are just lacking the kinds of life experiences that so many younger people have everyday.

  19. Cara
    Cara June 9, 2008 at 2:04 pm |

    There is indeed an argument that we should not. However, since most of the country is white and middle class, as an electoral movement, your strategy is harder to execute. But, you may say, BO won. True. But the Democratic primary demographic was something like 20% or more African American this year. Winning, as the nominee did, up to 90% of such voters means that he had to win only, which I suspect is the case, about 38% of the 80% of Democrats who were not African American. This is not the composition of the American electorate. So for overall political power in a democratic system, it’s difficult.
    Also, I must confess to being heartily tired of hearing women’s claims forever subordinated to more exigent claims. Why aren’t we giving all our money away until we have just one penny more than the poorest beggar, as Peter Singer advises?

    $%( $&*#)% &@#$(

    Okay, I really need to stop reading this shit.

  20. Amanda Leigh
    Amanda Leigh June 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    Damn, Jill. She’s name dropping you every 3rd question. If Hirshman is getting paid for this chat, you deserve a cut.

    I noticed this too.

    And the comment with Amanda Marcotte and Brownfemipower is bullshit. What exactly was her point?

    Finally, Jill, that was an awesome, AWESOME, post.

  21. Lefty Dude
    Lefty Dude June 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    I’m sorry, what was that?

  22. Holly
    Holly June 9, 2008 at 2:22 pm |

    Oh man, this part is yet another kicker:

    Salt Lake City: Even if white bourgeois feminists are being alienated from feminism because of intersectionality (and I take issue with that), why should we treat the unique problems and concerns of such a privileged group of women with the same urgency we approach some of the life-and-death questions of less-privileged women?

    Linda Hirshman: [... a bunch of stuff about how most of the voter base is white and middle class so you ought to think about their issues.]
    Also, I must confess to being heartily tired of hearing women’s claims forever subordinated to more exigent claims. Why aren’t we giving all our money away until we have just one penny more than the poorest beggar, as Peter Singer advises?

    LH must have noticed that the original question was about whether we should weigh the concerns of privileged women with the more life-and-death concerns of less privileged women. If you take that into consideration what she’s basically saying is:

    “I must confess to being heartily tired of hearing privileged white, middle-class women’s claims forever subordinated to more exigent claims of poor women and women of color.”

    There’s her allegiance in a nutshell.

  23. shah8
    shah8 June 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm |

    Okay, a short question…
    How many/what percentage of people like Linda, and sorta like Linda have these views as depicted in the comments?

  24. Bushfire
    Bushfire June 9, 2008 at 2:41 pm |

    She already lost me when she said that organized feminism is 40 years old. Who the hell thinks that feminism is only 40? Btw, this image of feminism being forty is a personification- she is comparing feminism to a woman who is “past her prime”, which I would say is a quite anti-feminist statement.

  25. nonskanse
    nonskanse June 9, 2008 at 2:42 pm |

    black women should walk away if the movement does not represent them, but should NOT walk away if the movement does not represent black men.

    I found this point particularly interesting.

    Throughout the questions I was also left with the impression that men aren’t important to the movement.

  26. Haley1018
    Haley1018 June 9, 2008 at 2:51 pm |

    I am the Salt Lake City asker. Honestly, I’m so appalled by her many of her responses and her article. Essentially her response to my question is exactly what Holly and eastsidekate said: Feminism should favor the issues of the white middle class because they have power.

    Um…so what exactly are we fighting for? Poor women and women of color should forget their economic and race concerns to pool support for the favorite of the white middle class, Clinton, so that we can have a president in the white house who caters to a wealthy white voter base?

    This helps non-white, low income women how? And really, how much does that even do for that white bourgeois class of women? Honestly, her half mocking comment about leaving dismantling capitalism to Barbara Ehrenreich and the others was pretty telling about her attitude. She has no desire for social justice, so it’s no surprise she thinks attention paid to the larger context of a social justice movement feminism finds itself in detracts from her mission…

  27. Lala
    Lala June 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm |

    I can’t even get upset by this kind of stuff anymore because I have come not to expect any better. Alright Linda Hirshman point me to the line where the hispanic women can stand in.

  28. eastsidekate
    eastsidekate June 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm |

    One obvious question is how this garbage has showed up in the WaPo again. The MSM– and the WaPo has been craptacular in this regard, have this wonderful way of framing issues as two-sided, and only two-sided. When “women’s” issues are just that, and are debated by men (anti-women) versus Steinem, Ferraro and Hirshman, the latter, by virtue of having the most “radical” views are painted as the extreme… representative of the most progress we as a society can make. Everyone to the left (or more diverse) than womankind’s chosen representatives (as determined by invisible power brokers) is erased. How convenient. Seriously, there are tons of great contributors on this blog. When do you think the WaPo or Times will give Holly some column space? What great insight has Linda Hirshman or Maureen Dowd made that makes them worthy of my attention?

  29. roses
    roses June 9, 2008 at 3:22 pm |

    However, since most of the country is white and middle class, as an electoral movement, your strategy is harder to execute.

    …Since when was feminism an electoral movement?

  30. exholt
    exholt June 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm |

    Okay, a short question…
    How many/what percentage of people like Linda, and sorta like Linda have these views as depicted in the comments?

    Don’t know the exact percentage or numbers…but I found her views quite common among highly socio-economically privileged White and some heavily Americanized Asian-American women raised in all-White suburbs in some sections of academia and the corporate workplace…especially those in the boomer generation. I try to avoid having to deal with them beyond professional obligations just so I won’t have to be subjected to their racist and classist stereotyping/attitudes……and so I don’t get into fruitless conflicts over my calling them out for those attitudes while they retaliate by pointing to my male privilege….especially when I know they can call upon their racial and/or socio-economic privilege to jeopardize my chances of completing my education…or continuing to be employed.

    This helps non-white, low income women how? And really, how much does that even do for that white bourgeois class of women? Honestly, her half mocking comment about leaving dismantling capitalism to Barbara Ehrenreich and the others was pretty telling about her attitude. She has no desire for social justice, so it’s no surprise she thinks attention paid to the larger context of a social justice movement feminism finds itself in detracts from her mission…

    In reading her responses in the comments page, she is only further proving how much she really could care less about social-justice…and is more interested in promoting herself and women like her so they benefit at the expense of anyone who is not in their in-group.

    With her dismissive attitudes and stating that her concerns and those of women like her are paramount above all else, her attitude is taking on the dangerous oblivious quality not unlike those held by many of the aristocracy who dominated the Ancien Regime of France on the eve of revolution.

  31. shah8
    shah8 June 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm |

    Ah, and because I’m such a big fan of Bechelet…

    In 2006…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/world/americas/17chile.html

    In 2008
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1517185.stm

    And some hometown news

    This is what feminism brings us. The woman did not pussyfoot, or bail out like Bill Clinton did on gays in the Military, but fought it all the way, and pushed that Overton window the hell to the left. Moreover, she spent huge gobs of her political capital (she now has low favorability high negative polling) on doing this.

    And she ain’t even all that far left!

  32. Radfem
    Radfem June 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm |

    One reason why I think that dismantling the “patriarchy” isn’t really about dismantling the patriarchy. Stuff like this isn’t surprising. Many of us don’t call ourselves feminists.

    yeah. I wonder if she bothered to interview Sudy or Brownfemipower or any other women of color?

    Did she? It would have been nice if she did but from her article, I think she believes they are totally irrevelent unless they tow the line with her brand of feminism. It’s not the first time that White feministst throw them under the bridge to *prove* that they’re the key holders for feminism.

  33. TinaH
    TinaH June 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm |

    I am tired of a feminism that assumes to be built and maintained by middle-class white women.

    I am a 40 year old white middle class feminist and I am also really damn tired of that kind of feminism. I hereby invite my fellow middle class white feminists to sit down, shut up so you can listen and volunteer to do some shit work. It won’t hurt us in the least.

  34. Radfem
    Radfem June 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm |

    Sorry about the blockquotes.

    One reason why I think that dismantling the “patriarchy” isn’t really about dismantling the patriarchy. Stuff like this isn’t surprising. Many of us don’t call ourselves feminists.

    yeah. I wonder if she bothered to interview Sudy or Brownfemipower or any other women of color?

    Did she? It would have been nice if she did but from her article, I think she believes they are totally irrevelent unless they tow the line with her brand of feminism. It’s not the first time that White feministst throw them under the bridge to *prove* that they’re the key holders for feminism.

  35. baltogeek
    baltogeek June 9, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    From the chat:

    As my young friend Jill Filipovic put it in her interview, the progressive white men who run the Democratic Party do not have to pay attention to women, because they know we will always come back to them. And we lower our value even further, because we adopt their causes — civil rights, environment, etc. as OUR OWN, whole cloth, without any tradeoff.

    WTF? Since when does caring about the environment or civil rights a male issue?

    What world is she living in?

    Finally, I believe that young white women have thankfully benefitted from the gains of feminism and feel their interest less keenly. Oh, and a lot of the young women are fresh out of college, the last Russert/Matthews-free pure meritocracy they will ever know. LOL

    Yeah because academia is this this paradise free from sexism. I mean it’s not like you have to worry about being discouraged from studying certain courses because you are female, or have to prove you are just as smart as any guy or worry about being raped or anything.

    Campus security offers free rides at night just because us young women are too damn lazy to walk.

    Madison, Wis.: Could you flesh out how you think the (in)action of women of color was key in getting Justice Thomas on the bench? I don’t quite follow you on that on.

    Linda Hirshman: Several news sources, including the New York Times reported that polls showing that black voters backed Clarence Thomas were influential in determining the vote of the southern Democrats to confirm. It is a demographic fact that more black voters are female than male. Of course specific women of color were opposed, as was the NAACP, which has quite an honorable record as I noted in my article in a different context.

    I didn’t know that as a black woman I had such pull with Southern racist GOP assholes.

    Who knew? All I have to do is whisper in Mitch McConnell’s ear and I get what I want!!!

    Linda Hirshman: my point is that black women should walk away if the movement does not represent them, but should NOT walk away if the movement does not represent black men. Thanks for letting me clarify that.

    Regardless of why they walk away, the solution is to offer bargained for compromises in which their interests are traded off for the interests of white women in a way that produces the optimum achievable outcome for both.

    I don’t even understand what that bolded part means.

    How does operating like this help black women or white women?

    This woman is nuts.

  36. Linda Hirshman
    Linda Hirshman June 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm |

    Jill–
    I thought your article was an excellent and fair minded presentation of our discussion, and I appreciate it, and your generous willingness to inform me of your positions, very much. I would not dream of using you ill after such a full and frank interview and I know you believe I quoted you accurately and in context or you would have said otherwise immediately. Of course, I have all my notes should you wish to see them.
    Having thought your good article might trigger some sensible discussion, I broke my cardinal rule of never reading comments, but now that I have read them, I would like to make clear that I did not mean to imply the Norplant example was in any way false; I just did not research it myself or have any first hand knowledge of it at all. The irony is I was using it to make a point your commentors probably agree with! As I said, it makes a perfect example of how a women’s movement would have to address a problem differently in such a racially inflected context. But for future reference, your readers might like to know that probably a reference to a regularly reliable source for the Norplant story would have been better than “what the fuck,” if you wanted to inform, much less convince, someone who, as you noted, has access to the media. Similarly, Ms Marcotte’s “didn’t bother to interview ME” business is a little juvenile, since the two sentences I quoted to illustrate the aftermath of the WAM conference were undisputed, publicly available sources, for the purpose of asserting that they were SAID not for the truth of the matter. I did not need to interview anyone, because my only point was that the things were said. In any event, important as it may be to the participants, my article was hardly about that event, which has been more than adequately covered elsewhere I believe.

  37. shah8
    shah8 June 9, 2008 at 3:58 pm |

    What I don’t really understand is how she doesn’t realize that there were NO black senators at that time. Sam Nunn was literally the most liberal senator from the deep south, and he *sure* wasn’t all that keen on listening to black people even though he had to, at least a little (the atlanta metro vote)… No black person ever had a say on Clarence Thomas, including the dead Thurgood Marshall.

  38. rawi
    rawi June 9, 2008 at 4:01 pm |

    This kind of post is exactly the reason why I read Feministe! Thank you, Jill. Thank you thank you thank you.

    The premise of Linda Hirshman’s article is that Hilary Clinton’s defeat signifies the failure of feminism. That’s a very faulty premise, as some have already pointed out above.

    As for whether having women in power “normalizes femaleness and elevates ‘women’s issues’ to the level that ‘men’s issues’ have always been at”… I wouldn’t be too sure, having in the past voted a woman into power as head of state in another country. It takes wider social change to achieve justice, and that’s why the feminist movement is so important.

  39. shah8
    shah8 June 9, 2008 at 4:01 pm |

    Linda H

    stop…
    think…

    then maybe type.

    After all, I can type most anything I want because I’m not important. You have a different burden.

    You didn’t help yourself.

  40. charles
    charles June 9, 2008 at 4:14 pm |

    Jill your work is always insightful but this is one of the best pieces on feminism i have ever read. thanks again for this and all your work.

  41. SarahS
    SarahS June 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm |

    Similarly, Ms Marcotte’s “didn’t bother to interview ME” business is a little juvenile, since the two sentences I quoted to illustrate the aftermath of the WAM conference were undisputed, publicly available sources, for the purpose of asserting that they were SAID not for the truth of the matter. I did not need to interview anyone, because my only point was that the things were said.

    Shorter version: I don’t need interview Amanda or any of the WOC involved in that incident because I am important writer woman. Their perspectives on this incident are not nearly as important as mine. I have no obligation (professional, social, or personal) as a feminist to conduct myself with integrity and let people speak for themselves. I’ll just cut and paste to speak for them because it is easier – then I can resort to personal insults when I get called out for being a asshat.

    *shakes head*

    You know, I think the Amanda/BFP thing (I don’t know what to call that…) has at least reaped some positives in the feminist blogsphere because a lot of white feminists are trying to do better and learn from those mistakes regarding linking, appropriating, and listening. But Hirshman seems to take the existence of conflict in the feminist blog portion of the movement as some sort of sign that the movement is DOOMED, which is such bullshit. There is plenty of conflict in any social movement.

  42. Cara
    Cara June 9, 2008 at 4:18 pm |

    Linda, since mine was the comment that raised the Norplant issue, and since I expressed incredulity towards it using the word “fuck,” I’m going to make an educated guess that I was the “reader” you were referring to.

    I suppose that my response would be that if you didn’t know about the Norplant issue, it wasn’t wise to bring it up. It does indeed disturb me that this was the example you chose to use, if you, as you yourself claim, hadn’t done any research on it. Were there no other examples you could have used to illustrate “how a women’s movement would have to address a problem differently in such a racially inflected context”? I understand that you were participating in a live discussion, and therefore didn’t have time to research the issue before using it. But I do have to wonder why you chose the one that you did — were you put on the spot, and it was the first thing that came to your mind? Or was it actually all you could come up with, because you haven’t personally researched other issues pertaining to differences in how the same general issue affects women of color and white women differently?

    But for future reference, your readers might like to know that probably a reference to a regularly reliable source for the Norplant story would have been better than “what the fuck,” if you wanted to inform, much less convince, someone who, as you noted, has access to the media.

    Regardless of whether or not you were referring to me when you said this, I find it to be extremely condescending.

    I am also a writer. In fact, I write here as well as elsewhere. And I do my own research. If someone sends me information unsolicited, that’s great! And I’m extremely grateful for it, it makes my life a hell of a lot easier. I do not, however, use the failure of others to provide me with sources as an excuse for my own ignorance. I’ve gotten called on my own ignorance numerous times. It sucks, but it’s my own fault. If I write something without doing the proper research first, which has happened and I have learned from, I don’t expect others to necessarily provide references for me. And so I look it up to research the validity of the counter-argument. I also certainly wouldn’t expect it to be provided with references in the comments on an article that I did not write.

    But Killing the Black Body is one excellent source that I recommend.

    In any case, I apologize to both Jill and Linda that I was apparently incorrect in my assessment that Jill’s comments were being referenced in a way that was inaccurate.

  43. donna darko
    donna darko June 9, 2008 at 4:29 pm |

    Most of the commenters here have a knee-jerk reaction to the article. Octogalore’s comment is right. Hirshman and other second wavers’ syntax is not particularly sensitive but she didn’t say what you’re saying here.

  44. donna darko
    donna darko June 9, 2008 at 4:31 pm |

    Steinem, Ferraro and even Clinton’s syntax is not particularly sensitive (Clinton’s LBJ and RFK statements) but their statements are misinterpreted to the extreme.

  45. Cara
    Cara June 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm |

    Ok backing up again… I thought we were talking about my quote in the initial WaPo article, which I don’t think was inaccurate. I wasn’t directly quoted in the Q&A session, but my name was mentioned a lot. I think what tended to happen is that my opinions were sandwiched between Linda’s opinions, perhaps giving the impression that she and I agree on most of these points. I don’t think she did that intentionally, but that is how it reads.

    Right, my comments regarding perceived inaccuracies in using your statement were referring to the the Q&A, not the original article.

  46. Lefty Dude
    Lefty Dude June 9, 2008 at 4:39 pm |

    Balto: To be fair, Thomas was confirmed by 52-48 with the help of 11 largely Southern Democratic Senators.. this was, after all, 1991, and such a creature existed back then: Dixon (D-IL), Exon (D-NE), DeConcini (D-AZ), Robb (D-VA), Hollings (D-SC), Fowler (D-GA), Nunn (D-GA), Breaux (D-LA), Johnston (D-LA), Boren (D-OK), and Shelby (D-AL), and a majority of blacks polled supported Clarence Thomas, even after the sexual harassment allegations came out.

    But to suggest that this is the proximate cause of 17 years of Supreme Court disappointment for which black women would need to remedy in the 2008 Presidential primary. Most of these Senate seats are now held by Republicans by virtue of the 1994 realignment, in states where a NOW endorsement for opposing Thomas would be something you flash. Maybe these conservative Senators started fearing a mass defection of African-Americans to the GOP, or maybe they used that bloc as an excuse for something they were planning to do anyway.

    Further, there was still another 18 months for Bush to get some other retrograde person into that Supreme Court position. I don’t think it would have stayed unfilled.

  47. Who’re You Calling “Other”? « mooreroom

    [...] 9, 2008 · No Comments Jill at Feministe responds to a Clinton candidacy autopsy in the Washington Post by Linda Hirshman on the future of [...]

  48. Linda Hirshman
    Linda Hirshman June 9, 2008 at 4:43 pm |

    OH, Jill, this is irresistible once you start and why I do not have my own blog. I must go wash my hair or something. Cara, you are 100% correct, it was a live chat and the very first example that popped. But it’s such a GREAT example, and if I had had time I would have gone on to say that of course the first case that led to ALL reproductive rights was a sterilization case, Skinner v. Oklahoma, that came right after a ghastly worldwide encounter with ethnic stereotyping and genocide, so the racist doubling of the impact of misogyny was so crystal clear and the ability of the mainstream pro-choice women’s repro rights movement to embrace this case was so clear and easy that it was just a great example of the kind of issue that should unquestioningly be the responsibility of any movement for women. So although I have other examples in my bag, I wanted to use the very clearest one. Then as I’m chatting I thought, oh, god, I did not read about this myself, it was gifted to me, as you say, by an interviewee and since I did not use it I did not fact check it, and I faltered. But I never intended to nor anticipated giving offense. It was a great question, to ask for an example, and I thought I had a great example. Arg!! Thank you for the reference; I had already found it on the web immediately after reading your post questioning my self-doubts about it, and think very highly of Dorothy Roberts, whom I know slightly.
    I know I am saying things may people in the feminist blogosphere do not want to hear, and I am pretty thick skinned as you may know, but I think Jill’s post did lead, as “Charles” said, to a good discussion, and we could have more discussion if we did not jump to the conclusion that things are offered in bad faith. So now I’m going to wash my hair.

  49. Haley1018
    Haley1018 June 9, 2008 at 4:50 pm |

    Give us specific examples, Donna, of statements Hirshman has given that are “not particularly sensitive” but that we are misinterpreting to the extreme. And tell us how they should be interpreted. Seriously, I really would prefer to think this is a misunderstanding than a willful disregard for the concerns of so many women.

  50. exholt
    exholt June 9, 2008 at 5:13 pm |

    Steinem, Ferraro and even Clinton’s syntax is not particularly sensitive (Clinton’s LBJ and RFK statements) but their statements are misinterpreted to the extreme.

    Are you serious…especially regarding Ferraro???

    One can plausibly…though weakly IMO argue that she was “insensitive” in her first comment about Obama supposedly getting to where he is because he is a Black man….though I don’t buy it…especially after hearing of all of these racial dogwhistles from African-American classmates and co-workers. This is undermined, however, by the Boston Globe op-ed piece she subsequently wrote that was covered by this very website below:

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/05/31/poor-geraldine-ferraro/

    I mean….reverse racism….WTF?!!

    If Ferarro really wanted to help Clinton’s primary campaign…what she did here ended up doing the exact opposite…and forced Clinton to devote time and energy towards damage control that could have been best spent furthering her message and case before the electorate.

    It is also rich that she tried to imply elitism in the following:

    They don’t identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Law graduate.

    when she herself graduated from Fordham Law school. While it is not an NYU, Harvard, or Columbia, it is still a top-tier law school whose graduates populate many of the topflight biglaw firms, especially in the NYC area. Moreover, up until four years ago, she used to live in a quasi-gated community called Forest Hills Gardens* where the most inexpensive home starts out at a few million dollars.

    Moreover, it has a sordid history of having discriminatory covenants against selling such homes to African-Americans, Jews, and the working class that were still in force as late as the mid-1970s. The anti-Jewish part is especially shocking considering the large presence of Jewish residents goes back several decades. I would also not be surprised if many of the residents in Ferraro’s old neighborhood are not only Ivy-league students or alums…but ones whose parents are able to pay full-load and/or call upon alumni/donor status to get their children in through a relic of aristocratic privilege known as legacy admissions.

    * Did freelance computer work for several residents in that community.

  51. octogalore
    octogalore June 9, 2008 at 5:17 pm |

    Haley, did you see comment #7? I think it answers your question as to misinterpretations. There are certainly some differences in what Jill and Linda are saying, but they’re not as vast as the OP would have one believe.

  52. baltogeek
    baltogeek June 9, 2008 at 5:21 pm |

    maybe they used that bloc as an excuse for something they were planning to do anyway

    Lefty Dude, I think that’s closer to the truth.

    I wrote my comment because black women’s opinions aren’t considered valuable by anyone except by proxy or as an excuse.

    And frankly even if that were true do we really want to start this kind of conversation? After all:

    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html

    Election 2004

    VOTE BY RACE AND GENDER

    BUSH KERRY
    White Men (36%) 62% 37%
    White Women (41%) 55% 44%
    Non-White Men (10%) 30% 67%
    Non-White Women (12%) 24% 75%

    We could go back and forth all day.

  53. donna darko
    donna darko June 9, 2008 at 5:35 pm |

    Octo explained it pretty well.

  54. Margalis
    Margalis June 9, 2008 at 5:36 pm |

    She quotes me in the article as saying, “”Mainstream liberal Democratic guys don’t have to take feminism seriously because they know that, at the end of the day, we’re going to be there.”

    Instead of putting words in the mouths of Democratic guys why don’t you ask them why they don’t take feminism seriously? I’ve suggested this before – seriously solicit opinions on the subject. Is your claim true? Who knows? Couldn’t you make the same arugment for environmentalists? Anti-war activists?

    But feminism isn’t an issue — it’s an umbrella movement that should encompass and represent women’s interests.

    The problem is that men’s interests and women’s interests overlap the vast majority of the time. Is the Iraq War a feminist issue? If the answer is “yes” then “feminism” doesn’t mean much. Is my blog a feminist blog? I would say no but I blog about things like the Iraq War…so yes? That seems odd.

    I don’t see any real problem with “feminism” morphing into generic social justice but then it’s not really feminism any more. To me feminist issues have a female-centric angle to them.

    And where I feel like we speak different languages is when Linda seems skeptical of the argument that feminists should oppose not only racist misogyny, but racism, and not only rape as a tool of war, but war itself.

    I don’t think the point is that feminists shouldn’t oppose racism, the point is that feminism as a movement shouldn’t make that a platform. Individual feminists should of course oppose racism.

    Sure war is a women’s issue, but it’s equally a men’s issue no? Opposing war is in my opinion a very good thing, but why exactly is it a feminist issue instead of a general issue?

  55. Margalis
    Margalis June 9, 2008 at 5:42 pm |

    ALso I second the notion that Octo said it very well in post 7. In particular:

    It doesn’t mean a feminist website cannot talk about, to use your example, the war. It just means that it should look at it through a feminist lens. If feminist websites have articles about war, environmentalism, Sean Bell, etc. that are equivalent in focus to those in other lefty publications, then feminism becomes just another lefty cause.

    Except that I would say rather than becoming “just another lefty cause” feminism simply becomes liberalism.

  56. donna darko
    donna darko June 9, 2008 at 5:42 pm |

    Feminists had knee jerk reactions to everything regarding race in the election which is hilarious considering how racist the progressive and feminist blogosphere was a year and especially two years ago. What bothers me is anti-racism is hypocritical. Anti-racists jump on anything racist but make excuses for and condone sexism especially when it involves men of color. Anti-racists lose credibility when they challenge racism but not sexism. Feminism is taken to task to the extreme for racism but no one challenges sexism of anti-racism.

  57. baltogeek
    baltogeek June 9, 2008 at 5:59 pm |

    donna, I don’t deny that there is sexism in the anti-racist movement but as a black woman when others dismiss the bigotry that exists in either the feminist movement or the anti-racism movement I suffer.

    They feed into each other because the result is that WOC like me end up being talked about like we aren’t in the room.

    Frankly I’m suspicious of both MOC and white feminists when they call me “sister”.

  58. AnonymousCoward
    AnonymousCoward June 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    Something to consider in response to this paragraph:

    All of that said, there remains a problem of representing feminist and women’s interests in progressive politics, which Linda tried to get to at the end of her article. I don’t have the silver bullet to solve the impossible problem of Democrats wooing women during elections and then taking us for granted when they’re actually in power; I don’t think voting for McCain, or opting out of the elections, is going to teach them any sort of lesson — and it certainly won’t be doing ourselves any favors. But we also aren’t doing ourselves any favors by continuing to participate in a system that screws us at every turn.

    I only comment on that part of your article, because the rest seemed spot on to me.

    The best way to solve this problem is an alternative voting system, such as IRV, Condorcet, Cumulative Voting, or the Single Transferable Vote. Lani Guiner wrote quite a bit on Cumulative Voting as a solution to racial minority vote dilution (which, if you recall, is what sank her nomination for the Assistant AG position under Clinton), but her analysis applies just as well to sex, sexual orientation, or any other marginalized group. For instance, See Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy. Once you get away from Duverger’s Law, you have a lot more options for how to get your representatives to represent you.

  59. Blackamazon
    Blackamazon June 9, 2008 at 6:35 pm |

    I am very g lad and by glad i mean eyeopeningly greatful for the heads up thatin an article where they are accused of stressing feminism for privileged white women niether BFP or SUdy was given teh courtesy of an interview , oer even an y engagement and that for teh most part that is okayw ith everyone here seeinga s nobody as brought it up or that teh fact that part of Sudy’s problem was she recievd deth threats or that we were made to feel so holy uncomfortable IC ried for most of the weekend after is considered ” debateable”

    and no matter what

    we are still some foreign they

    i now return you to your regular scheduled happily mostly white debate

  60. Blackamazon
    Blackamazon June 9, 2008 at 6:37 pm |

    and please save me on bad faith or trolling as this is now an officially totally and completely unsafe space Iwill answer at my ownblog. And surprise surprise n ot that any one paid attenion BFp has respondedon her blog.

  61. Kit
    Kit June 9, 2008 at 6:48 pm |

    I can not believe that she wrote this article and referenced them, without interviewing Sudy, BFP & Amanda Marcotte. Good to see you, Blackamazon, wish it was for a better reason.

    Great post Jill.

  62. Haley1018
    Haley1018 June 9, 2008 at 7:18 pm |

    Haley, did you see comment #7? I think it answers your question as to misinterpretations. There are certainly some differences in what Jill and Linda are saying, but they’re not as vast as the OP would have one believe

    I did see that comment. And I guess by particular examples I was hoping for direct quotes from Hirshman’s piece. Because I think a lot of us here have pointed to the specific quotes from the article that are not only offensive for various reasons, but really do suggest intersectionality is to blame for the failures of feminism.

    This is probably the most direct: “A movement that uses intersectionality as a lens but banishes white, bourgeois, corporate older women might be a vehicle to glue what remains of feminism together, but it will struggle to achieve social change for women.”

    You write this: I do not read the article as Hirshman blaming intersectionality for feminism losing focus. She in fact suggests that white feminists should have done more to ally with WOC feminist groups.

    What in her piece aside from your own wishful thinking would really lead you to believe she’s criticizing white feminists for not doing more to ally with WOC feminist groups, when the only example she gives is about black women failing to ally with white women in opposing Clarence Thomas? Or if that were indeed what she were arguing, don’t you think she’d be saying white feminists should have voted for Obama since that was apparently the preferred candidate of a majority of women of color? Instead of trying to say what could have been done to succeed electorally/aka elect Clinton.

    She says women don’t vote their own interests. But she seems to think she and others who voted for Clinton made the right choice for their interests. So really what she’s saying is women who voted for Obama (a great portion of which are young women and women of color) don’t know how to vote their own interests…which is so incredibly arrogant and insulting. Does it ever occur to her that she has no idea what is in anyone’s best interest but her own?

    Honestly I don’t know how you can read her actual words and conclude anything but, “paying attention to intersectional issues has diverted attention away from white, bourgeois issues.”

    I thoroughly enjoyed BFP’s response btw.

  63. NancyP
    NancyP June 9, 2008 at 7:50 pm |

    The truth is, poorer women, black women, Hispanic women have other fish to fry. We either bring them on board with “feminism” by helping them in their particular issues, or we lose their interest. The classic example of considering needs of non-white or non-middle class women is reframing reproductive rights as access to full range of reproductive health care rather than just abortion rights. For a lot of women, access to off hours childcare at a commuter college would make the difference between moving up and staying stuck in some minimum or near-minimum wage job. These women don’t care a rat’s ass about the glass ceiling in the Fortune 500 companies. Remember, the personal is political, and personal experiences do differ markedly. If feminism is to be a mass movement, it has to have something for everyone.

  64. Lala
    Lala June 9, 2008 at 7:51 pm |

    I thought ‘knee jerk’ was the right wing’s dismissive term

  65. NancyP
    NancyP June 9, 2008 at 8:02 pm |

    I do think that Hirschman is correct that a movement without middle class women (white, black, or other) with certain types of expertise is hampered. Lawyers, politicians, media-savvy women, reporters, moles – all very useful in getting the message out there in the mainstream news and getting discrimination cases to court. On the other hand, Huerta and Hamer would be on anyones’ lists of Highly Effective Organizers of mass movements. BOTH types of approaches are needed.

    L.H. was unnecessarily bitchy about Sudy – maybe she couldn’t figure out what “ecdysis” (in Sudy’s blog name) means? And I would think that L.H. would understand about attribution and intellectual property issues, since she’s fighting to establish a pundit career – maybe hoping (without reason) to replace the useless Mo Dowd at the NYT.

  66. octogalore
    octogalore June 9, 2008 at 8:14 pm |

    Haley:

    And I guess by particular examples I was hoping for direct quotes from Hirshman’s piece.

    I’ll do the top 3 on my list (sadly, work beckons).

    • Feminism should offer space for women of all backgrounds

    “So what keeps the movement from realizing its demographic potential? …The mostly white, middle-class feminist organizations could have established relationships of mutual convenience with groups such as the black feminists.”

    • One issue, but by no means the main purpose, is to get feminist Democrats elected

    “The good news is that just because a movement fails as an electoral force doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless. As Gloria Feldt, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says: “Elections come and go, but feminist issues are forever.” The young feminists are networking and coordinating. The New York City chapter of NOW works its feminist agenda every day — this year, they successfully lobbied the state legislature to repeal the statute of limitations on rape and ran a campaign against sex trafficking.”

    • No one class or race of women’s issues are more purely feminist than others

    “Long before this campaign highlighted the divides of race, class and age, feminism was divided by race, class and age. …This would have been enough to weaken the movement.

  67. octogalore
    octogalore June 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm |

    Nancy – I totally agree with you about the importance of professional women, middle and upper class, in the movement, as well as of course lower-class women. And that all kinds of organization, whether it be legal, corporate, grass roots, etc. are critical.

    I am concerned, though, that you use rather dismissive terms towards WOC. “Bring them on board,” for example. There are WOC running organizations focusing on their (and other women’s) interests whom we should ally with, not coopt. I know that’s what you meant, but the wording was awkward. Also, your statement: “These [presumably, WOC] women don’t care a rat’s ass about the glass ceiling in the Fortune 500 companies.” Tell Cynthia McKinney, Debra Pole, Oprah, Hilda Solis that. I work with a large number of WOC attorneys who do actually give a shit about these issues.

    In attempting to be inclusive, let’s not make assumptions that aren’t.

  68. Margalis
    Margalis June 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm |

    I can not believe that she wrote this article and referenced them, without interviewing Sudy, BFP & Amanda Marcotte.

    Interviewing people before writing about them or quoting them is not some sort of hard and fast rule. Is there a single person here who routinely interviews people before blogging about them?

    Amanda’s objection is particularly silly given that at Pandagon she rips into people regularly without contacting them first. Did BFP interview LH before writing her response? I’m guessing no.

    Standards aren’t just for other people. To me it seems awfully silly for a bunch of bloggers to complain that a writer did what they routinely do.

    Can someone articulate why what LH did is terribly wrong but it’s perfectly acceptable when we do it?

  69. Jay Smooth
    Jay Smooth June 9, 2008 at 9:30 pm |

    “I wonder if she bothered to interview Sudy or Brownfemipower or any other women of color?”

    If the author returns, this question deserves an answer. And not regarding the WAM anecdote specifically, but why no women of color were interviewed for the piece as a whole. Or even better would be a response from Hirshman to BFP’s post.

    (btw I agree with Nancy, Hirshman’s introduction/out-of-context quotation of Sudy as a “self-described ‘Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions'” read as mocking to me, a bit of a cheap shot)

  70. Kit
    Kit June 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm |

    Ms. Hirshman used the reference to ‘that’ incident without understanding what it meant to our community. The article was about feminism but she didn’t consider that she should talk to someone other than a young white woman to get the full perspective. It seems like the only reason that she referenced Sudy and BFP at all was to point out that they were a problem that was outside of feminism instead of women that are inherently part of our collective. She didn’t consider talking to women of color and the descriptions that she used to sum them up were offensive. If she had interviewed them she would have realized that she couldn’t sum up the issues in two dismissive paragraphs and she would have learned a few things that gave her writing a deeper and more interesting complexity. That article was a rehash of old ideas and to jump start new ideas she needs to reference Jill. We all should broaden our horizons and make sure that we talk to people who have different perspectives than ourselves in honest and respectful ways because it will make all of us more effective as activists and humans in general.

  71. roses
    roses June 9, 2008 at 10:03 pm |

    Can someone articulate why what LH did is terribly wrong

    The problem as I see it is LH wrote an article about divisions within feminism, but only saw fit to interview people on one side of those divides – young, white, middle class feminists. She spoke about WOC feminists/womanists without giving any of them a voice.

  72. Charity
    Charity June 9, 2008 at 10:33 pm |

    Not only did she not give them a voice, she exploited them. And got intersectionality all wrong. BFP’s post is awesome.

  73. jessilikewhoa
    jessilikewhoa June 10, 2008 at 1:15 am |

    reading the original article and q+a has me all headdesk. i kno we have an election to win and were sposed to play nice with the clinton supporters but y’kno what. my chronic health condition and lack of insurance means a fuck lot more to me than breaking the glass ceiling. the women and men dying in hordes overseas means a fuck lot more to me than seeing one specific privileged white woman in the white house. and i dont want to play nice when people are so fucking condescending, calling amanda’s comment “juvenile” or putting sudy’s name in quotes like shes not even human or totally misinterpreting the Bfp situation.

    so ok, i came to feminism firmly at the tail end of the 3rd wave, my small bit of time near academic feminism with a 50 something professor made me want to break things, and i could go my whole life without reading another article like LH’s. so if this white washed wealthy ableist version of feminism is the true feminism and its only goal is to replace white male power with white female power in the same context, count me out or call me when the boomers all die.

  74. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 1:41 am |

    baltogeek,

    Thank you but why is there no acknowledgment of this hypocrisy? The calling out racism only and not sexism?

    Lala,

    There was also a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of Obama. Every criticism of Obama no matter how valid was considered racist.

  75. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 1:48 am |

    The thank you was for your comment:

    donna, I don’t deny that there is sexism in the anti-racist movement but as a black woman when others dismiss the bigotry that exists in either the feminist movement or the anti-racism movement I suffer. They feed into each other because the result is that WOC like me end up being talked about like we aren’t in the room. Frankly I’m suspicious of both MOC and white feminists when they call me “sister”.

  76. Official Shrub.com Blog » Blog Archive » Because the only women who matter are white ones

    [...] activism that acknowledges that gender is only one of the factors that affect women. Jill summarizes Hirshman’s argument as: Linda seems to be arguing that feminism has lost focus by way of intersectionality — because [...]

  77. shah8
    shah8 June 10, 2008 at 5:44 am |

    Okay, I *do* want to add one more thing, mostly towards Jill,

    I do not think *anyone* who isn’t a straight white male gets a whole lot from the Democratic Party. The best anyone can do is to simply accept that as the lay of the land, and nibble at the edges until you *can* get more responsiveness. After that, nibble some more.

    One of those passive little things that irritate the heck out of me, is how much so many white women are so much more ready to claim (what they percieve as) another minority’s share rather than focus on the broad front. It doesn’t really happen often at all, but when it does, it can be a doozy.

  78. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie June 10, 2008 at 8:27 am |

    If you actually had read this meandering piece, thank you for your patience!

    Sorry, I stopped skimming after your comments about “sane” men like Olbermann and Yglesias, and dismissing the disappointment of 18 million voters as “pity parties,” and then I did catch one more point about how white women don’t ever suffer oppression because we’re white, or something.

    I invite you to examine your privilege through a very strong lens.

  79. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie June 10, 2008 at 8:33 am |

    And by the way, I do NOT feel feminism should focus on white women’s “issues,” as Hirshman says. Hell, no. The thing Hirshman seems to be conveniently forgetting is that gender crosses all racial and religious and ethnic lines, so fighting for the rights of the majority, privileged group of women is ridiculous. “What the heck, most feminists are white, so why bother with anyone else”? How far has that gotten us as feminists? Pretty far, if you’re white, I guess. And hey, no one else matters. Feminism should be a one-issue cause: how to give white women more power.

    Disclosure: I have not liked Hirshman ever since she instructed me that it was my duty to feminism to stop taking care of my own kids and go get a job somewhere.

  80. baltogeek
    baltogeek June 10, 2008 at 9:48 am |

    donna, when the people I talk to the most about sexism in anti-racist work are the MOC who work in it. I’m not ignoring anything.

    Personally I have these discussions with the people who need to hear them.

  81. Intersectionality = Lack of Focus « Feminist Philosophers

    [...] to Hirschman here and here. [...]

  82. Mikey
    Mikey June 10, 2008 at 11:29 am |

    Great post, Jill. The essay takes one issue – the challenge of electoral cohesion – and tries to balance a critique of intersectionality on it. Your response is – dare I say – a lot like Obama’s race speech – acknowledging the different identities and interests constituting the feminist coalition, and arguing for how they can and should be united for real progress, ignoring the wedges that opponents inflate.

  83. seriouslypolitics » Blog Archive » Feminism and Focus

    [...] single-minded focus on middle-class white women trying to climb the corporate ladder. Mostly, I agree with Jill Filipovich’s take on this but I thought I might also say that the alleged lack of progress to which Hirschman’s recipe [...]

  84. H. E. Baber
    H. E. Baber June 10, 2008 at 11:52 am |

    There are FEMINIST issues that aren’t primarily white upper middle class women’s issues, specifically wage gaps and sex segregation at the end of the labor market where most women, who aren’t college grads, compete. Why haven’t feminists done more about that?

    Why isn’t there more of a push to get women into unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled male-identified jobs? Fewer than 1% of auto mechanics are women. I don’t have figures for other blue collar occupations, but I have yet to see a woman mobile upholstery/carpet cleaner, house painter, tow-truck driver, etc. Women can’t get these jobs so the majority of women are locked into a narrow range of pink-collar occupations.

    Why have feminists been so quiet about addressing this sex-segregation? This isn’t some global concern with social justice–this is specifically a gender issue.

  85. three rivers fog » Can My Eyes Roll Any Harder

    [...] Jill says, And it seems to me that white middle-class feminists shouldn’t be doing the same thing that the [...]

  86. Max
    Max June 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm |

    Nothing to add, just wanted to quickly say: 100%.

  87. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 12:38 pm |

    baltogeek, what you just said is refreshing to hear.

  88. amandaw
    amandaw June 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    I know Hirshman is a respected elder in the feminist community and all, but I’m sorry, I just can’t take her seriously when she actually writes — without a single trace of irony — “if feminism is a social-justice-for-everyone (with the possible exception of middle-class white women) movement…”

    Look, I’m sorry, I just don’t know how else to put it but: Fuck that.

  89. Hugo Schwyzer
    Hugo Schwyzer June 10, 2008 at 12:57 pm |

    It may be coming at Linda Hirshman’s expense (though I think much of the criticism at the moment headed her way is well-deserved), but gosh, it’s refreshing to see so much unity in the feminist blogosphere on a hot-button issue.

  90. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm |

    Yeah her syntax is insensitive and clueless.

  91. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 1:25 pm |

    OTOH, Hirschman and BFP’s articles are polar opposites. One fears movements replacing feminism, the other rails against racism in feminism.

  92. rawi
    rawi June 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm |

    “feminist issues have a female-centric angle to them”
    err, true, but somebody please bring out judith butler…

  93. shah8
    shah8 June 10, 2008 at 2:37 pm |

    Ravi, thanks a helluvalot for the reference…reading the wiki now.

    reading the wiki brings back memories…

    My first gender readings, way back in high school was about sex-typing…

  94. shah8
    shah8 June 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm |

    You know, after reading all the trackbacks on this…

    I am willing to bet cash money on this:

    Linda Hirshman has an unstated fear of a brown feminist planet. Not so much your averaged colored feminist or anything like that, but the appearances of a feminism that incorporated minority women.

    You see, if the movement all of a sudden looks colored, then there might be colored-cooties spreading around, and (normative white) people would forget to donate or otherwise contribute to an inclusive feminism.

    An analogue is one of the facets of Katrina. One of the chief ways that the Bush administration and elements of the media contributed in minimizing the scale of the disaster is to focus primarily on black people doing what desperate people did. Thus it was easier to abandon New Orleans, even though East Orleans Parish, Gentilly, and Lakeview had huge numbers of white people suffering. But if they focused too much on those people, the national horror was sure to fall on the Bush Administration (not that it didn’t do so anyways, but more quitely).

    It’s the same thing with the feminist movement. If too many black or latina or poor people get to be part of the movement, then the gravy-train starts going elsewheres, or so I think Linda Hirshman believes.

  95.   Reading for June 9th through June 10th by ripples of hope

    [...] Has Feminism Lost Its Focus? [...]

  96. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm |

    In other words, since racism hurts black women, feminists must fight not only racist misogyny but racism in any form; not only rape as an instrument of war, but war itself. The National Organization for Women eventually amended its mission statement to include interrelated oppressions. Although other organizations work on women’s issues when appropriate, none of the other social movements were much interested in making intersectionality their mission. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, which co-sponsored the 2004 march in alliance with women’s groups, says nothing about feminism or homophobia or intersectionality in its mission statement. The largest Hispanic rights organization, National Council of La Raza, unembarrassedly proclaims that it “works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.” “When we started the [younger women's] task force, the young women wanted to identify it with environmentalism and prison rights and, and, and. . . .” Sound familiar?

    She’s right here. Feminism should not be replaced with anti-war, race, environmentalism, prison rights if they do not overlap with women’s issues.

    A movement that uses intersectionality as a lens but banishes white, bourgeois, corporate older women might be a vehicle to glue what remains of feminism together, but it will struggle to achieve social change for women. The Clinton campaign has, perhaps unwittingly, revealed what many in the movement know — that if feminism is a social-justice-for-everyone (with the possible exception of middle-class white women) movement, then gender is just one commitment among many. And when the other causes call, the movement will dissolve.

    Here she’s just paranoid white, middle class women are BANISHED from feminism which is NOT happening at all. She’s saying feminism needs everyone including white, middle class women.

  97. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm |

    So Hirschman and BFP argue the same thing but in completely different terms

  98. Ways to End the World › The price of success.

    [...] like to associate myself with the thoughts of Jill at Feministe and Brownfemipower on Linda Hirshman’s fears that feminism isn’t sufficiently concerned [...]

  99. shah8
    shah8 June 10, 2008 at 4:06 pm |

    You know, Donna Darko, I don’t really want to interact with people I consider to have bad-faith tendencies, but your recent comments…

    Can you read?

    or make inferences?

    I mean, the whole L. Hirshman and BFP are arguing the same thing but different sides of the coin was mere comedy, a repeat of the whole Bush and Gore are the same meme…

    But then to make such an unhinged interpretation of the block-quotes in your 103 post, well…

    ><
    forgive me for feeding the troll, she looked just like Al…

  100. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm |

    Al?

    They are both saying feminism is for everybody.

    They are both saying all movements should be intersectional but not to the point they’re no longer about the core subject.

  101. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 4:16 pm |

    In completely different terms.

  102. shah8
    shah8 June 10, 2008 at 4:34 pm |

    Well…

    ok…

    but anywayz, besides the whole rending of cloth from women who see the balancing of approaches to feminism and the lowering of the normative and privileged aspect of white women’s voices as meaning that white women are banished, BANISHED from feminism…(as typical in these kind of negotiations for more focus on people other than the privileged)

    One kinda has to realize this:
    Racism underpinns sexism, in multiple, and major ways. This is something abolitionist suffragettes and eugenicist suffragettes both knew, intuitively. Some women decided to attact inequality, other women decided that it was better to appease tribal anxiety and work feminism as a plank for white supremacy. Racism still does.

    It’s the same with all the other issues. With enviromentalism, the fastest way to get the biggest bang for the buck, is almost certainly anti-mercantilism, which they’d have to attack along social justice lines far away from hugging tree. *The* major component that leads to environmental damage is usurious practices.

    It takes vision, and a willingness to see that everything is connected.

  103. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm |

    It’s the same with all the other issues. With enviromentalism, the fastest way to get the biggest bang for the buck, is almost certainly anti-mercantilism, which they’d have to attack along social justice lines far away from hugging tree. *The* major component that leads to environmental damage is usurious practices.

    THAT’S what I want to hear! Pressure on OTHER movements besides feminism to be intersectional. SHOW ME pressure on anti-racism to be feminist. SHOW ME pressure on anti-war movement to be feminist. SHOW ME pressure on labor to be feminist. The main point of her article is feminism is the only movement constantly attacked for lack of intersectionality to the point everyone dismissed feminism and sexism in the primary.

  104. donna darko
    donna darko June 10, 2008 at 4:49 pm |

    Thank you, Jill. :)

  105. This Just In: Feminism Must Focus On White Ladies!

    [...] smarter people have had a lot to say about a recent Washington Post article by Linda Hirshman claiming that in [...]

  106. Manju
    Manju June 10, 2008 at 6:17 pm |

    It takes vision, and a willingness to see that everything is connected.

    it also takes an ideology, and that’s a dangerous game. For over much of the last century, in part b/c of intersectionality, POC have relegated themselves to the worlds most despotic and failed ideologies. Indian fabian socialists, for example, intricately connected their anti-capitalism to anti-colonialism, failing to notice that the two are in contradiction, or in the very least, could be detached. the result? a hindu rate of growth and child malnutition stats only rivaled by sub-saharn africa.

    worse yet, excessive intersectionality denies POC and women the diversity of thought whites males take for granted. it narrows aceptable thought, denies full humanity to those it seeks to liberate, and actually starts to parallel the very bigotry it fights..demanding POC and women should think a certain way lest they be accused of being uncle toms or suffering from a false consciousness.

    when in order to be a feminist, you also have to be an envirmentalist, a progressive, or fill in the blank…you guarantee the majority of women will not call themselves feminist, which is, i understand , the great self-inflicted feminist pet peeve.

  107. foxybrown
    foxybrown June 10, 2008 at 9:42 pm |

    I have an idea for a performance art piece. White feminists can have my left arm, Black racemen can have my right arm. My right arm will be the piece of me that’s all about race. My left arm will be the piece of me that’s all about gender. My left leg, that’ll be for the disability movement. My right leg, that’s going to the socialist revolution. But my vagina – oh my god, who will have my vagina????

  108. foxybrown
    foxybrown June 10, 2008 at 9:46 pm |

    Thank heavens for Black feminism, one of many antidotes to this stupid hot mess of an article.
    http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html

  109. Those Women of Color at it again! « A Book Without A Cover

    [...] Here’s Feministe’s response. [...]

  110. Manju
    Manju June 11, 2008 at 4:42 am |

    White feminists can have my left arm, Black racemen can have my right arm…But my vagina – oh my god, who will have my vagina????

    feminists to the left of me, racemen to the right…here i am, stuck in your vagina with you.

  111. Ali
    Ali June 11, 2008 at 6:21 am |

    Intersectionality is an obstacle. Supra-sectionality, surely, is the aim of true feminism?

  112. amandaw
    amandaw June 11, 2008 at 12:52 pm |

    I have an idea for a performance art piece. White feminists can have my left arm, Black racemen can have my right arm. My right arm will be the piece of me that’s all about race. My left arm will be the piece of me that’s all about gender. My left leg, that’ll be for the disability movement. My right leg, that’s going to the socialist revolution. But my vagina – oh my god, who will have my vagina????

    oh my god i think i love you

  113. Bq
    Bq June 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm |

    Manju, so you’re arguing one should not look at how various issues outside the choice/stay-at-home purview? So the feminization of poverty worldwide from structural adjustment programs and neoliberalism, the rape of women in wartime, and the fact that environmental pollution poisons women’s breast milk are irrelevant issues? There are a lot of different things that exacerbate gender inequality, and we should ignore those things because intersectionality is off-putting to you? Just because black feminism and post-colonial feminism is a useless appendage to you doesn’t mean it is to everyone.

  114. Manju
    Manju June 11, 2008 at 1:32 pm |

    Bq:

    look at it this way. i can easily connect my feminism to my anti-communism (you can’t liberate women by enslaving them to the dictatorship of the proletariat), my anti-racism to my anti-socialism (socialism, like slavery, forces some to work for the unearned benefit of others) and it would be a slam dunk in todays world to connect both to my pro outsourcing, pro free markets, pro globalization stance (just go to india and china tell me what has liberated people more. and when clinton and obama talked anti-nafta in ohio, do you think that intersected with xenophobia?)

    but would it be fair for me to ask you all to abandon your progressive politics in the name of feminism and anti-racism?

  115. outcrazyophelia
    outcrazyophelia June 12, 2008 at 11:09 am |

    I can see how feminists who felt at home at WAM would think that the conference would just be so much better without killjoys complaining about it. It’s easy, when you love something, to want to protect it at all costs. It’s easy, when your perspective is the only one you can know, to think that people who see it differently must just be wrong.

    Thanks for your response Jill. I’m getting worn out with the whole Highlander “There can be only one” debate about Feminism and what should and shouldn’t be part of it.

  116. Not my feminism « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?

    [...] clearly it is not a lot of feminists’ feminism: read these great criticisms of [...]

  117. Whose Feminism? at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

    [...] lose my cookies, feminists – Hey! Feminists who happen to be white! – like Megan Carpentier and Jill at Feministe have written sharp, incredibly clever and fantastic critiques of non-racist feminism. In my [...]

  118. Gayle
    Gayle June 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm |

    Yes, agreeing with Linda here and not much else.

    Except Donna. Go Donna!!

  119. Gayle
    Gayle June 13, 2008 at 11:31 pm |

    PS:
    Tin foil Hattie: “Disclosure: I have not liked Hirshman ever since she instructed me that it was my duty to feminism to stop taking care of my own kids and go get a job somewhere.”

    That’s a gross misinterpretation of what Hirshman has said about women and work. Really, I love ya, but you need to examine this more.

  120. And you thought you had ‘mother issues’ « blue milk

    [...] lost and catching up on all this? Read this one from Jessica Hoffmann and this one from Jill Filopovic and this one from Hirshman for three (white) views on the problem with ‘white [...]

  121. donna darko
    donna darko June 18, 2008 at 12:30 am |

    I have a fan!

    Seriously, Hirschman is insensitive but she’s not really saying what people think. Yes, she’s insensitive but so was GET TO WORK her manifesto which I loved it just because she said it. Hi, Linda Hirschman.

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