FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Vagina Gazing at the New York Times

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail