The Valenti Mystique

One of the shrillest and least rational of voices for feminism emits from Jessica Valenti’s fingertips. Yet, even Valenti has the occasional point.

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.

16 thoughts on “The Valenti Mystique

  1. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    Valenti’s screed against women who do not conform to the dogmatic nature of modern day feminism reminds me, albeit elliptically, of the fight for the soul of communism between Stalin and Trotsky. For his lack of commitment to the Stalinist brand of communism, Trotsky was assassinated by an NKVD agent, Jaime Ramón Mercader, in Mexico where Trotsky lived in exile.

    In a sense, Valenti is a worthy successor to Mercader. Like Mercader, Valenti deserves and she should receive the feminist equivalent of the Hero of the Soviet Union for her figurative assassination of the likes of Ms. Haspel. Modern day feminism cannot and will not tolerate non-conformity and Valenti is hell-bent on making that a reality.

    All the best.

    RGK

    1. SHG Post author

      An interesting analogy, although death by ice pick doesn’t sound nearly as painful as death by listening to Valenti. But if we follow it, will Valenti give new meaning to the scissors crisis?

      1. Richard Kopf

        SHG,

        Ah, comrade, the scissors crisis.

        Valenti and her fellow sisters will do everything in their power to stifle the peasant farmers (read women like Haspel ). This is because these peasant women are insufficiently committed to the plans of the apparatchiks.

        Every day these peasant women see and suffer from the destructive nature of an all-encompassing orthodoxy. Despite that suffering, such non-conformity will not be tolerated by a figurative feminist Mother-Russia and true believers like Valenti.

        All the best.

        RGK

  2. Norahc

    “…is an ideological bundle wrapped up in rationalization for special treatment for the favored. ”

    That can be applied to pretty much every SJW philosophy.

  3. MJZ

    “Amassing professional power at the expense of other women isn’t feminism — it’s self-interest,” Valenti says as she amasses professional power at the expense of other women via her brand of orthodoxy. I got to hand it to her, she is good at playing the game. I just hope to live long enough to see an upstart next gen Feminist declare that Valenti is not a real feminist because: reasons.

  4. B. McLeod

    What Republicans? I’m certainly not aware of anyone who pays the slightest attention to what Valenti and her ilk are “celebrating.”

      1. B. McLeod

        Well, I would never. I’m questioning her veracity. Names, or it didn’t happen.

  5. Jason K.

    Feminism being about equality has been a remarkably persistent spin. For the people actually leading the charge, feminism was never about equality. Never, even going all the way back to the ‘1st wave’. Alas, it is a weakness in many to struggle to see women as anything other than something acted upon, something to protect and save. If most could see women as actualized people with agency, feminism would have never gotten off the ground. This is a perverse irony of feminism; feminism owes its massive success to the same sexism it ostensibly decries.

      1. LocoYokel

        The first wave and most of the second were good. We (the world in general) really needed those. The 3rd and 4th waves are pure shit and should be returned to whatever pit of hell they spawned from. I’m not even sure the 4th wave should really be classified as “feminism” as it seems to be mostly general progressivism trying to wrap itself in the old flag.

        1. SHG Post author

          Good to know. I was hoping someone would tell me that there were differences so I didn’t bump into walls all day.

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