In October 2014 a clothing company smashed the delicate sensibilities of Americans by producing a viral-destined video of eight-year-old girls dressed as princesses, educating the world on gender pay equality and various conjugations of the “f-word.” The creators made the dubious claim the video was meant to draw attention to the plight of equal pay for equal work, despite it being the sole source of internet traffic to their on-line store. And, in typical partisan fashion, the video was defended on the left and vilified on the right. Its overall message however seemed to be missed by everyone; Feminism was back in style.
To be fair, feminism never really went away, but it has taken a far back-seat in recent years. During the hiatus from the spotlight, feminist adherents used to the time to re-tool their messaging just in time for what may prove to be a pivotal moment for them; the 2016 General Election. The first change was to move away from the name “feminist” and adopt a more social-justice minded label like gender equality. While the term “sexism” still exists, it is reserved for the hardcore activists. The term has morphed to gender discrimination or the more cryptic term, Patriarchy. They also moved quickly to push phrases like “rape culture” and “man spread.” All of these are dog whistles to the newcomers of the social-justice scene, specifically millennials, and meant to keep the fires burning.
To the activists and advocates, gender equality and the systematic oppression of women transcend nearly every social-justice boundary in modern society. The student loan industry is collapsing, but the crisis is much worse for women. The living wage fight, also known as “Fight for $15”, has been painted as very much a women’s issue. Nearly every reputable news and commentary site has done a spread on the “pay gap” with some saying it exists due to longstanding patriarchy, while others state it isn’t nearly as bad as some think. Politicians have unabashedly cited the pay gap as the driving force behind gelastic legislation meant only embarrass the other side. Unemployment in America is still staggeringly high, and women are making up an increasingly larger group in the overall numbers. Finally, gun control has been framed as an imminent women’s issue, closely linked to rape and domestic violence.
Social issues aside, feminism has taken on some major powerhouses in the United States over the last few years. Groups like “Ordain Women” challenged the LDS church on matters of gender equality by demanding women be allowed into the Priesthood meetings. The NFL came under direct fire from women’s groups after serious allegations were made against their handling of known abusers. The NFL’s fumbling of the issue led to an open discussion about the prevalence of domestic violence in America. Silicon Valley, well-known for its hipster/millennial population took a direct hit from women for its acceptance of a male dominated culture. Even false allegations of rape at UVA were seen not as giant hoaxes perpetrated on the public, but aides in a much-needed dialogue on rape and abuse on American college campuses.
None of this has happened in a vacuum. There is a noticeable crescendo in the volume and tempo of the new feminist movement. It leads to the inexorable conclusion that the next election will be all about the ladies. Take the two strongest candidates thus far for President; Elizabeth Warren (powerful despite having yet announced), and Hillary Clinton. Both women are strong advocates for women’s rights, and threaten the patriarchal political system in the U.S.. The Republicans will immediately face charges of sexism and patriarchy the moment they select their candidate, provided it is a male. The feminists will use their experience over the last few years to shred any candidate that threatens their advancement. In fact, they’ve already begun with the media induced smack-down of Rand Paul. The feminist activists learned a lot from the success of Mitt Romney’s binder comment, and will undoubtedly ramp up the pressure as the election nears.
Feminism is not dead. It is alive and well and if all indications are correct, the movement is about to undergo a long-awaited renaissance.