The Postfeminist Myth

Posted: September 17th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Culture, Journalism | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Ever since Sex and the City first combined girl power with expensive shopping, women have been asking whether feminism is over. Does it, some 1970s types asked, undermine feminism to be so excited about feminine clothes and romantic ambitions? If so, responded young tween viewers, does it mean feminism is over because we no longer need it?

Yeah right. Gender inequity is shrinking, but it’s far from gone. Women make 78 cents on the dollar, as compared to 60 cents 4 decades ago. We are equal to men now when it comes to college degrees, but still behind if you’re looking at science and business education. We’re twice as likely as men to fall below the poverty line once we enter the workforce, and poor women are 30% poorer (further below the line) than men. And on the cultural front, just read a few articles about Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin and you’ll see, sexism is alive and well.

As I’ve written before, shows like Sex and the City just reflect a new feminism that says equal opportunities should leave room for women’s individual choices about how feminine and how high powered we want to be. Aisha Sultan’s column seems to suggest that with the Palin candidacy, even the right wing has come around to a new choice feminism, somehow bypassing the possibility that her run is just a big political hoax.

Problematically, many women and men take the new feminism as a sign that feminism itself is irrelevant, that we’re in the “post-feminist” age. And institutions that define themselves as feminist–women’s rights groups, for example–suffer as a result. Today, I learned that Bitch magazine, a publication that along with Ms. was a leader in publicizing women’s lib, is on the verge of bankruptcy. Seems many women don’t want to read that stuff anymore, somehow ignoring all the real economic and cultural signs that we need such voices.

I can’t afford to bail Bitch out, but I can do my best to publicize their cause. If feminism is the belief in equality, then I never want to live in a post-feminist world.