Feminism: 4th Down?

Once upon a time, feminism was a clear-cut moral and social imperative and sheer common sense. Now the F word means rants on New Feminism, embodied feminism, Miley Cyrus and rebranding. It's a commodity. Ad agency fodder.

Someone call Ogilvy & Mather. Or maybe the morgue.

Feminism has finally succumbed to the same compartmentalization, sexual objectification and trivialization as woman herself. We hear the word "rebranding" and actually think about it, unconsciously reducing the noble ideal of equality to the level of a breakfast cereal. We contemplate the New Feminist and images of fierce Sirens in black leather pop into our heads, voluptuous breasts over-swelling their cups, bullets blazing from the nipples. Oh yeah, baby, yeah...

Is this The Revenge of the Goddess in Technicolor or just the modern ad man's fantasy of the powerful female? A guy with tits, vagina, stiletto hells, an AR-15 and an attitude.

Welcome to feminism 2014.

Back in 1917 things were a little different.


Alice Paul and other suffragettes stoically endured catcalls and egging during marches. Arrested for obstructing traffic while peacefully picketing outside Woodrow Wilson's White House, many were sent into the Occoquan Workhouse without representation, without bail and without the right to have visitors. The women suffered serious abuse at the hands of prison guards. In a desperate attempt to make the public aware of their treatment, Paul and many of the other women went on hunger strikes.

Force-feeding was administered by tube up the nose, down the throat, and, according to some sources, up the rectum. It took multiple attempts by wardens to accomplish penetration with the tubes because the women resisted, resulting in mouth and genital lacerations, deep bruising, and esophageal damage.

Feeding sessions occurred three times a day for weeks. The tubes and prying devices were not always cleaned and the women contracted oral and genital infections. The screams during sessions could be heard throughout the prison. Many women emerged physically, emotionally and mentally scarred.

Kate Heffelfinger (right)
after her release
from the Occoquan Workhouse
(Source: Library of Congress)

But they persevered. Years later, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, giving women the right to vote in local and national elections.

Brand that.

In all the distraction over unfathomably shallow issues like the right to twerk onstage, we've lost track of what feminism is ultimately about: ensuring that woman's value as a human being is accepted as being absolutely equal to man's value as a human being. Ensuring the equal right to vote, work, receive equitable pay and have equal access to legal, economic and educational opportunities has been an important part of the movement towards the equal valuation of the sexes.

But it's only the first half of the game.

Unfortunately, we -- women and men -- haven't realized there's a second half yet to play. We're screwing around in the locker room arguing the details about women playing as linebackers, quarterbacks and defensive ends. We don't get that playing the guy's game only validates the guy's game. We don't see we're making guy's goals, guy's ideals, guy's philosophies and guy's wars and economic machinations over territory ever more valuable and the only valid game in town.

No wonder feminism is becoming a joke. We're flagellating the last details of getting in the game when it's time to change the game itself.

Instead of arguing about who gets to tote a gun on a battlefield, it's time to take the issue to a higher level, introducing traditionally feminine values of compassion and cooperation into politics and questioning the need for battle.

Instead of banging our heads against the last fragments of the corporate glass ceiling, it's time to reexamine the masculine hierarchical structures of monopoly, scarcity, resource depletion, competitiveness and greed that line the pockets of a few, disempowering everyone else. It's time we took the economic power of the Sheconomy out for a spin, introducing life-honoring values of generosity, caring, and sustainability into the marketplace.

But to do that we have to openly value compassion and cooperation, trust, generosity, and sustainability. We have to see these qualities and woman's more "other-oriented" values as equally important and necessary for human wellbeing as more survival-oriented masculine values of competition, aggression, control, authority and domination. Not more valuable. But equally valuable.

When that happens, women and men we will finally be at par and the game will end.

The question is, are we ready for this? Are we ready to enter the second half? Are we ready to stop trivializing feminism and get serious about leveling the playing field of gender values? Or has the patriarchal mindset now invaded both women's and men's souls to the degree we can't even see there are other ways to be? Other potentials? A greater, more rewarding and pleasant future for humankind that can only be arrived at through the balance that comes of full gender equality?

I think I know what Alice Paul would say.

I think she'd say, "Ladies, (and gentlemen who are so inclined), it's time to take your hard-earned positions in the marketplace, your knowledge, economic wherewithal, guts, minds, hands and hearts and set your caps on making the whole world a different and better place for everyone to be."