10 Things That Feminism Could Do Better
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5. Feminism should be wary of believing the fight has been won. Keeping up the pressure on those who would roll back the achievements of the women’s movement (abortion rights, workplace legislation against discrimination, etc.) is a matter of urgency and perpetual vigilance. In Italy, for example, female pay has dropped to 40 percent less than a man’s pay for the same work; at the same time 46 percent of women there are unemployed. Berlusconi’s TV stations spew out endless game-shows featuring scantily clad young women pretending to be stupid. Things can always get worse: the point is to stop them before they do.
6. Contemporary feminism should avoid ghettoized debates of the ‘sex work good/sex work bad’ or ‘porn good/porn bad’ type. While these are clearly important issues with wide cultural significance, not to mention involving the immediate impact on the lives of women involved in such work, such debates, if they simply involve mudslinging, avoid confronting economic reality in favor of a purely moral or personal stance.
7. Feminism should avoid reducing all questions of women’s lives to issues concerning sexuality and sexual behavior. Although the unhappy relation between production and reproduction forms one of the major contradictions of contemporary work, if feminism spends too much time focusing in on questions of sexuality, it risks losing sight of other significant questions -- unequal pay, non-sexual violence, and so on.
8. Feminists should be aware of the co-optation of the rhetoric of female liberation in the name of imperialism. The invocation of "women’s liberation" in the military campaigns against Afghanistan and Iraq was a terrible development, both for the meaning of feminism and for the feminist movements on the ground in those countries. The rise of a "feminism" that uses bombs to make its point is no feminism at all. "Western" feminism should be wary of being opposed to supposedly regressive religious movements and different cultures; rather it should pay attention and aid those genuinely feminist movements in repressive countries from the ground up.
9. The women’s movement should campaign for fairer and better work, even in the midst of an economic crisis. The news that for the first time in human history, there are now more women than men in the U.S. workforce should be understood in all its complexity. Women’s mass entry into the workforce is of course cause for celebration in the financial independence it affords individual women; however, if that work is non-unionized, precarious, poorly paid and unpleasant, then feminism should be very wary of being too one-sidedly happy about the rise of this work. The flipside of the so-called "mancession" in the U.S. (the idea that men are losing their jobs at a faster rate than women) is the possibility that employers have realized they can pay women less for the same work and are therefore more likely to keep them on, whilst making no concessions to the difficulties of childcare for either men or women.
10. Feminists of different ages, with or without children, gay or straight, should be wary of seeing too many differences between generations of women. To this end, perhaps the talk of "waves" hides more similarities than it reveals. Paying attention to the history of feminism avoids repeating too many of the same conversations, whilst at the same time helps to provide answers to problems which, despite certain differences, have remained the same for many decades.
Nina Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University (UK). She is the co-editor of Alain Badiou's 'On Beckett.' Her book 'One-Dimensional Woman' is out from Zero Books.