Hillary Clinton, champion of women, won 57 percent of women voters in New York’s primary; Donald Trump, demeaner of women, won 59 percent. The man who inferred Megyn Kelly was on the rag, dissed Carly Fiorina’s face, and compared Heidi Cruz unfavorably to his supermodel wife was more popular with women than the woman-who-would-be-president. How can feminism ever show its face again? Thank you, Donald Trump.
Vigorous feminism has achieved breathtaking opportunities for women in the last century. The push for equality between the sexes—“Choose the life you want!”—is a success, and sex-based discrimination is illegal. It’s time for feminism to bow out gracefully and make way for the next wave of power—which wave feminism made possible—in women’s lives. Unfortunately, the Hillary Clintons of the world are shoveling sand against the tide to prevent that from happening.
Rather than retiring its tap shoes, feminism screeches forward, ever less powerful, ever less relevant. Feminism has devolved from an aspirational vision of equality to a perpetually childlike and peevish state. Women are first and foremost victims of the patriarchy, and don’t you ever forget it. What would a Hillary Clinton acceptance speech be without a rousing “once and for all, let’s guarantee equal pay for women”? Or a rallying cry to fight the evil men intent on “restricting a woman’s right to make her own health-care decisions”?
A movement that set out to carve space for women’s intellect and power, and which succeeded beautifully, now reduces women to fragile “fainting couch feminists.” How insulting and short-sighted.
Feminism Has Succeeded, Let’s Move On
The reality of women’s lives—especially young women—is proof that feminism has largely succeeded. More women than men attend college, girls outperform boys in high school, and grad school attendance breaks roughly evenly between men and women. College-educated women in their twenties see essentially zero pay gap; and single, childless women in their thirties make $1.08 for every dollar made by their male counterparts.
By refusing to claim its success, feminism forfeits its legitimacy. Without legitimacy, feminism can maintain its hold on women only through manipulation, like threatening them with their own special place in hell if they don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is the ultimate fruit of the feminist movement, and if feminism were alive and well, she would be riding high on the support of female voters. But she isn’t. Women don’t like her. We, the beneficiaries of feminist gains, evaluate her character and accomplishments before we do her sex, and she comes up painfully short. Millennials, especially, are wildly unimpressed by her, breaking for Bernie Sanders en masse.
The 18 percent of Americans who identify as feminists—including Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright—do themselves no favor when they blame their diminishing power on foolish millennials. They trivialize young women’s support for Sanders as a byproduct of wanting to be where the boys are. They suggest young women are too recently of age to agree with them that the “buzzwords” used to describe Clinton’s scandals—Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, the Rose Law Firm, Troopergate, Ken Starr, Benghazi, Emailgate—are all smoke and no fire.
Feminism’s Valuable Legacy
Since millennials are the future of both parties, feminism is committing hari-kari by discounting what drives their behavior. It will only get worse as the gap continues to widen between women’s lived experience and the fiction feminism spins to keep itself relevant.
The good news is that feminism leaves a valuable legacy. We, the recipients of feminism’s achievements, are the vanguard of the next step in the story of women. That step is the radical redefinition of the relationship between women and men. Since Steinem first printed a t-shirt with the words “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” (my college roommate’s favorite shirt, coincidentally), we have been off track.
We were given only one acceptable formula—pro-choice viewpoint; few children, if any; education and career before marriage, or even instead of marriage—and shamed into thinking there was something wrong with us if we preferred a husband and children to a childless career.
Men were the enemy, and life was a competition between the sexes for limited resources, in which women promoted the assertive, masterful, powerful aspects of our nature to win. Feminism came to mean the absence of femininity, and we lost that pleasing-to-both-sexes aspect of our interrelatedness.
7 New Principles for Twenty-First-Century Women
It’s time to recalibrate. The twenty-first century women vanguard adheres to seven principles:
We are most fulfilled by expressing all parts of our nature. We don’t have to choose between powerful or feminine. It isn’t either/or, and we really can have it all.
We hold ourselves accountable for voluntary sexual behavior we later regret after we chose to become inebriated. When women drink too much to use good judgment, and engage in behavior that their sober selves would not, why are they excused from the consequences? I can’t think of anything more insulting than to be told that, as a woman, I am not capable of rational behavior; that, if I pour alcohol down my gullet, abandon inhibition, and have casual sex, I am blameless because I’m not a man.
We distinguish sexual assault from unwanted kissing and expect our allegations of sexual assault to be thoroughly investigated before any young men’s lives are ruined. Accused rapists on college campuses are presumed guilty, given no due process, and allowed none of the rights they would have in a court of law. The same university administrators who handle graffiti, public urination, and hazing are tasked with investigating and resolving serious allegations of sexual assault. The #BelieveWomen insanity prevents even the most reasonable verification of accusations.
At the University of Virginia, a female student “Jackie” claimed fraternity members of Phi Kappa Psi gang-raped her during her freshman year. In 2014, Rolling Stone published a lengthy article detailing the accusations without first checking a single one of “Jackie’s” claims, which later turned out to be unverifiable. The discredited story was ultimately retracted, but not before the fraternity filed a defamation lawsuit. Two years later, the case has yet to go to trial. For how many fraternity members did the pall of such disgusting allegations prevent employers from hiring them or potential spouses from dating them?
We take responsibility for the choices we make to balance work and family life that inevitably affect our earning potential over time. If we want to make the same money as our male counterparts, we need to make the same choices they do. If we want to make neurosurgery income, a specialty practiced almost exclusively by men, we have to stay in school longer; work harder to master our specialty; devote a lot of our intellectual and emotional energy to work; and commit to work hours driven by exigent circumstances.
If we want to balance work and family, we accept that we have to pick specialties with lower income potential, e.g., dermatology, general practice, pediatrics, and family medicine. We will earn less compared to male doctors overall, but we’ll spend less time in school, be less drained at the end of the day, and work regular, family-friendly hours. It’s a trade-off, and we’re responsible for how we balance the equation.
We keep our First World problems in perspective. Sandra Fluke achieved her 15 minutes of fame when she testified before Congress that law students simply could not afford the $1,000 per year cost of birth control without insurance. Within three miles of her law school, a Target pharmacy at that time dispensed 30 days of the Pill for only $9.
Also at that time, women in the Middle East were enduring female genital mutilation, honor killings, mobile-jail-by-Burqa, and acid thrown in their faces for daring to pursue education. How out of touch can we be? Let’s work for changes we think American women need, but let’s not get carried away. Let’s also be profoundly grateful for how much we already have along the way.
We respect the agency of all women to make their own choices rather than follow a formula we approve. Each of us is defined by our life experience; we cannot step outside of it. Who are we to determine another woman’s optimal balance between husband, children, education, profession, and finances? We expect our choices to be respected; we grant other women the same respect.
We choose the life we want. Society owes us nothing more or less than it owes anyone else. Equal means equal. If we demand or expect special treat treatment because we are women, we voluntarily step away from equal. Society has declared sex discrimination illegal; society owes us enforcement of its laws. It does not owe us the right to never be offended or never have to put a jerk in his place.
No more fainting couches. No more voting for women because they’re women. Consequently, no limits to what we can accomplish through the gift and power of being women in twenty-first-century America.