Speaking of generalized dumbing down

Don’t mention the War.

For quite a while now, it has felt a bit like mainstream feminism has been dialled back 10 years. It’s not just the over-the-top obsession with the Barbie movie – there seems to have been a more generalized dumbing-down in the media when it comes to women’s issues. In 2021 and 2022, it felt like intersectional feminism was everywhere and nuanced discussions about how gender intersects with other forms of oppression, such as classism and racism, had moved from academic circles into the mainstream. It felt like there was a huge push – to paraphrase Rafia Zakaria, the author of Against White Feminism – to “put the fangs back in feminism”. Now, however, mainstream feminism seems to have lost its fangs and put on some sparkly lipstick instead.

Really? In 2021 and 2022? There was a huge push to put the fangs back in feminism? Along with the huge push to put the men back in feminism, which kind of nullified the fangs.

While liberal feminism (which is also often termed white feminism or corporate feminism or lean-in feminism) did fall out of favour for a bit, it feels like it’s trying very hard to make a comeback.

Beyond the trending headlines, substantive work is happening. Things are moving forward. “There are so many different types of feminism and gender-conscious activism that operate well outside mainstream media narratives … and social media trends,” Koa Beck, the author of White Feminism, told me over email. “I don’t advise looking to white feminism to articulate, support, or celebrate these stories in a substantive way.”

Do you advise looking to male feminism to do so?

Perhaps the ultimate takeaway from this is that, in the end, everything is cyclical. There is progress, then there is pushback. “White feminism is a concept, a story, a brand, and an ideology that many powerful entities have invested in, both literally and figuratively,” Beck says. “So there are going to be efforts by influential people, powerful companies, and profitable institutions to ‘get back’ to white feminist ideals of individualization, self-empowerment (in the trademark sense of the word), and lots and lots of spending. Like with all big change, there is cultural and political resistance. You can set your watch by it.”

The end. It’s quite a long piece yet it says not one word about the way trans ideology and bullying have undermined feminism and replaced feminist women with misogynist men.

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