FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Vagina Gazing at the New York Times

by GAIL DINES

The New York Times book review cover page last Sunday looked a lot like Cosmopolitan, with its pink graphic of a high heeled shoe overpowering a man’s dress shoe.  The catchy headline read “A Woman’s Place.” Underneath the picture were two reviews, one of Hanna Rosin’s new book “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” and the other of Naomi Wolf’s new book – on her Vagina.

Taken together, these two books suggest that what is ending is not so much male power, but feminism as a movement for radical change. At a time when women all over the world are getting poorer thanks to the global capitalist predators, North American feminists are busy celebrating women’s supposed economic gains, and their vaginas. Either way, this is an example of navel gazing (or vagina gazing) at its worst. How did mainstream feminism end up irrelevant to the lives of most women in the world?

One answer is that the women who have access to corporate-owned publishers are the ones who did indeed get the most out of feminism. They are the (mostly) white educated elite who use their own life experiences as a measure of just how great women have it, and as they pat themselves on the back for having made it, they render invisible the structural inequalities that make life miserable for the majority of women and children all over the globe. Their individual gain means very little for those women struggling to survive in a shrinking economy.

Women at the top are doing very nicely, thank you. According to one report, the average annual pay for the very few women CEOs of the largest companies in the United States is now $14 million, which is even higher than for men.

On the other end of the scale, the median wealth of single women of color aged 36 to 49 in the country is just $5, compared to $42,600 for single white women (according to a 2010 report from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development).  A recent report by the Economic Policy institute found that in 2011 nearly one-third of women in the USA earned a wage at poverty level or below, and that 40.7 percent of single mother lived in poverty in 2010. When life is bleak for women, it is awful for children; from 2009 to 2010, more than 1 million additional children also fell into poverty, and the numbers continue to grow.

The buzz word in popular feminism today is empowerment. When I became a feminist many years ago, the word we used was liberation. Unlike empowerment, liberation is a collective concept which means that even if my life is all rosy and “empowered,” it doesn’t mean shit for those women who are doing low paid jobs while trying to raise families. In fact, there is a very good chance that elite women’s empowerment is built on the backs of other women whose exploited labor provides the goods and services that enable a good career and a comfortable lifestyle. The low pay of nannies, cooks, cleaners, sweat shop workers, and day care providers means that wealthier women are freed up to make a salary that no doubt does feel empowering.

Back in the day of women’s liberation, we felt that we could not claim success till all women were liberated from oppression.  What we wanted was the end of patriarchal capitalism, not the end of men, and we knew that celebrating our vaginas was not the route to dismantling structural inequality. Orgasms are all very well, but a movement they do not make. Hard work, courage and an unflinching determination to fight collectively for what is rightfully ours might not be as hot and sexy as Wolf’s new book, but a movement they do indeed make.

GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press). She a founding member of Stop Porn Culture (stoppornculture.org).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail