May 23 2014

Does Feminism Have a One-Percent Problem?

Charlotte Hays

Feminism has a one per cent problem.

That is the headline on and argument of an article by Elissa Strauss in The Week.

Well, she’s convinced me:

There’s an upsurge of women-to-women networking going on right now, with conference halls around the country filling up with ladies ready to break the glass ceiling. This should be good news, except there is one problem: You probably can't go.

For starters, tickets to these events don't come cheap.

A three-day pass to Tina Brown's recent Women in the World summit will set you back $500 — $300 if you are willing to sit in the nosebleeds. Want to learn work/life balance with Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski? That'll be another $299 (and that's just for the standard package). The 92nd Street Y's S.H.E. summit which will help you get "everything you want in work and life!" will cost you another $249.

And then there are the ones all the money in the world can't get you into. (I'm joking: all the money would probably do the trick.) The Makers conference, a weekend filled with advice from the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Gloria Steinem, and Martha Stewart, is invite-only, as is the Forbes Women's Summit, "Power Redefined."

Coincidentally, both Suzanne Fields (here) and I (here) have pieces today on the latest worthy cause to animate upscale feminists: standing up for Jill and Hill.

Jill is Jill Abramson, the former top editor at the New York Times, whose firing sent shock waves throughout the tony East Side and the tony West Side last week. Hill of course is Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president. Hill has been viciously attacked by male chauvinist pig Karl Rove, whose assault took the form of inquiring about Mrs. Clinton’s health in the wake a health crisis. Feminists have rallied to protect Mrs. Clinton from Pig Rove.

Likewise, Jill’s firing has become a feminist issue. Suzanne writes:

 Women with nothing better to do argue whether a woman earning $525,000 a year (plus bonuses) as executive editor of The New York Times was getting as much as her male predecessor. Some of these women similarly complain that Hillary Clinton -- having moved from first lady to the U.S. Senate to secretary of state to twice being the "inevitable" Democratic nominee for president -- was abused by Karl Rove by putting her on the receiving end of politics as usual….

"Whatever the facts of Abramson's departure, it exposed in a raw way the reservoirs of resentment, hurt and mistrust that women feel at work," writes Amanda Bennett, former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, in The Washington Post. Reservoirs of resentment. Dear little thing. Really?

What's fascinating in these public discussions is the way feminists frame the terms of the argument. Comfortable or not, like it or not, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Women must be as tough as men when under attack. When their trump card is the victim card, they're playing with a marked deck that exposes weakness.

Actually, I have one quibble with Suzanne’s otherwise brilliant piece: while the marked deck imagery is right, Suzanne has got it a bit wrong.

The marked deck benefits the card shark, and I’d argue that Hillary and Jill are the card sharks in these situations. Using a marked deck does not expose their weaknesses but rather helps them win by playing the victim card. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and John McCain had to talk about their health and age. Mrs. Clinton so far has declined to address the matter, with her allies implying it is sexist even to ask (though Mrs. Clinton has sent her big strong husband out to spin the health issue for her).

As I argue in my piece, feminism was touted as something that would help women—all women—when it got in high gear in the 1970s. But, as it turns out, it has benefited mostly one per cent women such as Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abramson, who know how to use it, often disingenuously, to promote themselves.

College girls who have been damaged by the hook-up culture—which many feminists regard as essential to “liberation”--haven't benefited from feminism as much as Clinton and Abramson. Single mothers who’re struggling to raise their children alone haven’t been helped that much either. They’re told that they should transfer their familial feelings and needs to the government. This is helpful to Mrs. Clinton, who needs their votes for bigger government. But it doesn’t do much to make their lives easier or more fulfilling.

While feminism has become a valuable commodity for Jillary, it doesn’t do much for 99 per cent women. If Republicans were smart, they’d start talking about this.  

 

 

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