On Thursday, Gina Haspel, President Trump’s choice to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, was confirmed by the Senate, making her the first woman in that position. That same day, Fox News announced that Suzanne Scott would be the company’s first female chief executive.
There is a distinct lack of feminist celebration over these women ascending in these jobs — an absence that Republicans have criticized as hypocrisy. Shouldn’t we feminists be pleased by these shattered glass ceilings?
Stop it. You have to wait for Valenti’s answer before you can start screaming at the screen that she’s full of it.
While groundbreaking in the literal sense, there is nothing feminist about a woman who oversaw a site where detainees were tortured, someone who refuses to say whether she believes torture is immoral. In the same way, there is nothing “empowering” about Ms. Scott, a media executive who reportedly enforced a “miniskirt rule” for female on-air talent, and who was cited in two lawsuits for contributing to a toxic work environment and retaliating against a sexual harassment victim. (Ms. Scott has denied these reports and the lawsuits were settled.)
So feminism isn’t to be taken literally? There’s a lot of that going around.
Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power. The real political duplicity here is Republicans’ continued efforts to co-opt feminist language while actively curtailing women’s rights.
And Valenti is right. Not so much about the concept of feminism, about equality, agency and opportunity, but about what it’s morphed into in its latest iteration. Valenti’s feminism has no more to do with women than torture has to do with feminism.
You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers. You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.
When second-wave feminists sought the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, the goal was equality for women, without regard to where that would take them. They understood they could end up dead on a battlefield. They understood they could lose their children to their husband. They understood they could be the breadwinners while hubby changed diapers. That was what equality meant, and it covered the good and the bad, but it was equal.
Valenti’s flavor of feminism has nothing to do with equality.
The good news is that real feminism is doing better than ever. Millions of women marched across the country in response to Mr. Trump’s election, more feminist-minded women are running for office, and younger women are increasingly passionate about social justice. This is a direct result of the last decade of feminist work.
And what Valenti calls “real feminism” is an ideological bundle wrapped up in rationalization for special treatment for the favored. Like New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, it evokes a belief that women, at least the ones who aren’t feminist pariahs, are inherently above reproach.
If it wasn’t Lehman Brothers but Lehman Sisters we might not have had the financial collapse.
Because women can’t be greedy, can’t be foolish, can’t be crazy. Unless they fail to adhere to Valenti’s ideology. There are smart women and less smart women, rational women and less rational women. Just like men. Just like everyone. There are women who proclaim their feminism, from Christina Hoff Summers to Cathy Young, but their feminism isn’t Valenti’s feminism, so they are traitors to the cause.
And that’s what Valenti gets right in her op-ed explaining why the mere fact that the success of Gina Haspel and Suzzanne Scott in rising to positions of prominence aren’t proper celebrations of feminism, just because they’re women.
Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power.
For those of us who supported equality for women long before most of today’s feminists were born, who understood that it came with benefits and detriments, because that’s what equality brought to the table, and were prepared to suffer the consequences of equality as well as the freedom it provided women, Valenti’s feminism is a betrayal of every strong, tough, smart woman who burned her bra, got an education, braved bad elevator jokes and would not let the boys crush her dreams.
No, Valenti is right. It’s not about blind support for women, it’s about blind adherence to an ideology that forgives women their shortcomings and rationalizes away the weaknesses rather than applauds their strengths. That’s today’s wave of feminism, and Valenti is certainly a fine choice of role model for it.
There was no Lehman Sisters back when the House folded. There’s still no Lehman Sisters today, but at least now we have an excuse for it, and if you challenge the excuse, you’re just a misogynist or self-loathing woman suffering from internalized misogyny. Feminism once aspired to roar. Now it aspires to cry. Valenti’s feminism is grounded in excuses, which makes her the right spokesperson for the time.
Because if feminism means applauding “anything a woman does” — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.
She nailed it.