My Feminism and HRC: A Confession
I won’t pretend to have a sparkling life history or personal intellectual history with feminism, especially in its more unconventional and radical forms. I’ve not always appreciated the on-the-ground actions of some its most radical self-proclaimed adherents. In my early years I probably overplayed class valences (cultural and economic) within feminism to diminish, on occasion, the overall project. I’ve also resented, at times, situations where I perceived “gender affirmative action” at work in my past professional life. As such, my “feminism”, when viewed purely as a historical sum total, will be seen as shaky or weak to some. I get that.
As a young person, I carried a certain rural Missouri working-class sensibility, or hostility, to my encounters with feminism, in both its mainstream and radical forms. No women in my family claimed the label, despite their fierce independence and take-no-shit personalities. Given this bundle of contradictions and personal history, obtaining a real understanding of the total breadth and depth of the feminist project has been one of my more challenging intellectual projects. That project began, in earnest, right around my thirtieth birthday.
I’ve evolved over the past 15-20 years, but especially over the past 5-10 years. My views, about feminism and everything else, are much less presentist. The intense study of history will do that to you. I’m also unmoored, in a good way I believe, from my family and past personal experiences, courtesy of my education, geography, and social set. But I’m also less put-off by unconventional tactics and ideas. I’m much, much more sympathetic with those who feel the weight of oppression. I try harder than ever to understand how my sex and gender, when normalized and institutionalized, marginalize others. And when I feel complicit in any kind of gender oppression, I try to do something about it. I am, in sum, more sophisticated now than I’ve ever been in seeing, understanding, and acting in a way that supports feminist endeavors generally.
I bring this history of ignorance, struggle, and enlightenment to any present-day thinking about feminism as a cultural, social, educational, and political project.
This brings me to today. And by today I mean literally the last 24 hours. Despite my personal project of enlightenment in the domain of feminist knowledge and activism, I can’t bring my feminist self to celebrate Hillary Clinton as a the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.
By this I mean I do appreciate the significance of the event, and its place in the long history of women and feminist struggle in the United States. And I also recognize that, with the neofascist demagogue Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, this nomination may mean that Clinton will become the first female president. She’ll likely get my vote due to the opposition.
My inability to celebrate what’s occurring has nothing to do with Clinton’s personality. I can say this with some certainty because my support for her primary opponent had nothing to do with his personality. In some ways, Clinton’s own fierceness—her own special take-no-shit personality—correlates with what I admired most about the women of my youth.
My inability to relish or celebrate Clinton’s nomination has everything to do with her policies and her place of entitlement. On the latter, I’m opposed to political dynasties in the United States because I value diverse viewpoints in politics. On policies, my main political concerns derive and emanate from wealth and income inequality. I’m for measures that will bring college educations and medical care for all. I desire the highest possible minimum wage. I’m opposed to Third Way market-oriented solutions to policy problems (i.e. neoliberalism). Competition can and often does make things less efficient in terms of government services. I am opposed to candidates who are too eager to cozy up to corporate elites. I’m concerned also about centrism for its own sake, a position that is over-valued by the present Democratic leadership.
As my appreciation for all forms of feminism deepened and matured, my sensitivity about class politics has also deepened. Because we’re living in a society that is more unequal now than it’s been since the Gilded Age, I can’t revel in Clinton’s success. As a standard-bearer for feminism, she is too weak on biggest issue of our age: class inequality.
Given this, I sympathize greatly with the women interviewed in this Common Dreams piece by Lauren McCauley. My feminism, circa 2016, is the feminism of Naomi Klein, Liza Featherstone, Kathleen Geier, Barbara Ehrenreich, Catherine Liu, Anoa Changa, and others like them.
I see what’s happening, and realize the significance, but I can’t celebrate it. – TL