The movement for gender equality is so deeply embedded in our culture that even those who deride it as a ‘trend’ are scared of its staying power
Wednesday 30 December 2015
The power that feminism currently wields has been described as a “moment” or a “trend” – but it’s much more than that. The last 10 years of feminist work have paved the way for a feminism that’s deeply resonant and embedded in the culture, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
And no matter how you cut it, gender justice has been at the forefront of the national conversation and a lot of people’s minds this past year.
Some was good: celebrities spoke up against sexism, the military ended the ban on women in combat, battling sexual assault took center stage, and companies from Netflix to Spotify created realistic and generous parental leave policies.
Some of it was bad: a woman was arrested after desperately trying to end her pregnancy with a coat hanger, a Planned Parenthood was the target of a terrorist shooting and, no matter a woman’s accomplishments, we were reminded that there is always someone ready to insult her with sexism or racism.
And some of it was a bit of both, like when Cecile Richards was forced to testify in front of a House committee (but she made them all look ridiculous). Some people were even outraged when Ghostbusters was remade with an all-female cast – but that didn’t stop anything.
Feminism’s prominence is even one reason that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign looks very different – and is being responded to very differently – in 2016 than in 2008. Clinton isn’t shying away from taking on gender explicitly any more, and the sexism lobbed at her isn’t being tolerated in the same way, because since 2008 we’ve seen feminism get even more of a foothold in our broader culture.
Rebecca Traister calls this political and cultural shift the “death of white male power”: those opposed to progress on race, gender and LGBT issues are not participating in a full-blown cultural freak-out because feminism is having a “moment”. They’re afraid because they know their world is changing in a way that they can no longer control.
Part of feminism’s growing influence has to do with technology: before the internet, if a woman was interested in feminism, she had to seek it out by finding an organization with which to become involved, subscribing to Ms. magazine or taking a women’s studies class. As feminism has become more entrenched online – first through blogs, now through social media – more people have gained access to activism, information and community. Now women stumble across feminism while they’re on Tumblr or Facebook, reading about everything from politics to pop culture, and have the ability to learn more in just a few clicks.