January 5 2017
The feminist movement hit a turning point this year when Monica Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair that her “public humiliation” in the 1990s was the “consequence of” her “own poor choices.”
A bold and brave statement from a woman who was only 19 years old when she had an affair with the president of the United States. Clearly, President Clinton grossly abused his power; but it’s telling that the more mature Lewinsky chose to openly accept responsibility for her role in the relationship, which didn’t hurt only her but also her family (and his).
Lewinsky’s assumption of responsibility, rather than playing the victim card, represents another step away from second-wave feminism. Increasingly, women, like Lewinsky and her peers, recognize and appreciate that they can make choices that work for them — and sometimes ones that don’t. They don’t want to be seen as victims, but as individuals making choices and crafting lives on their own terms.
Much of the organized feminist movement seems stuck in a woman-as-victim mentality. Whether they’re talking about the wage gap, sexual violence on college campuses, or the color of toys, progressive feminists have too often fashioned women as objects rather than agents — victims of a persistent patriarchal society rather than a powerful group that is defining, rather than just being defined by, the culture around them.
And that’s what the reality is: Women today have more educational, professional, financial and personal opportunities than ever before; and the “tear down the patriarchy” feminist message of decades past no longer resonates with many women — especially younger women — who have never known anything different.
American women in the 21st century are experiencing a grown-up version of feminism — one in which women value the myriad opportunities available to them but also understand the tradeoffs that come with their choices. They know that the government action that the left always presents as the solution to women’s problems would be a step away from true flexibility.
Women today increasingly recognize that another round of legislation under the banner of “equal pay” isn’t going to help women earn more, instead they’re thinking more seriously about the choices they’re making and sharing best practices for how to negotiate their salaries and navigate the work world.
Women today recognize that having it all doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make choices. Research that the Independent Women’s Forum recently conducted found that mothers and non-mothers want (and need) very different things in the workplace. In fact, mothers were willing to trade up to $10,000 in salary for additional paid time off. But that’s not the same as what non-mothers preferred — they want to maximize their salaries.
American women are not a monolithic bloc — they want to be able to craft different lives that fit their preferences and needs, whether that’s striving for the corner office in the C-suite, working part-time, or embracing their role as mothers.
Some will say that the “War on Women” rhetoric and the vitriol of recent years suggests that gender feminists are winning. But it’s the quite the opposite.
Recognizing that their woman-as-victim message is faltering, they’re grasping for straws, too often refashioning women as children and discouraging them from recognizing and seizing the incredible opportunities available today. And this logic has helped justify bigger government as the answer to all “women’s issues.”
There are women and families who continue to face real economic challenges — especially at a time when the economy is still struggling and eight years of failed government policies have limited our choices over healthcare, education, even saving for retirement.
But women support policies that give them more ownership and control over the choices they make. They want to rein in government spending so our safety net will be there for their children. They want to be able to save for time off work, so they can have control over where and when they work. And they don’t want more top-down government policies that threaten economic growth, job creation and their own individual advancement.
Women today are on the upswing and are crafting a choice-based brand of feminism that reflects the diversity of women’s lives and preferences. Of course we all support the central tenant the men and women must be equal under the law and have equal opportunity, and it’s time to turn our backs on the woman-as-victim narrative once and for all.