Several years ago, when I was still a baby feminist, I was especially concerned with the number of women running Fortune 500 companies. The numbers remain consistently abysmal and Lean In feminism, which was feminism du jour at the time, insisted this was the sort of thing I should concern myself with.
There was this idea that if more and more women donned cream-coloured blazers, and elbowed their way to the mythical corner office, the empowerment they exuded would somehow trickle down and magically improve the lives of the rest of us. That if women held more positions of power, our deeply misogynistic world would eventually right itself.
Needless to say, I was the type of feminist who wanted – badly wanted – to vote for women.
Not all women. I at least knew that then-Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin wasn’t to my taste, but I still felt that the American Republican party, and other such political parties across the world, would benefit from a higher inclusion of women. And in fact, when put that way, I still do. The number of female world leaders is shamefully low – and the fact that America, the supposed greatest country on earth, hasn’t had ONE woman president is shocking. It’s the kind of fact that, if you think about it for too long, could have you grind your teeth down to your gums.
But voting for a woman, because she’s a woman, is not feminism – it’s fetishism. It fetishizes (usually cis) womanhood by reducing us to our biology. It implies that our inherent value comes from, well, the fact we are a woman. And I think more highly of women than that.
Women, like all other genders, are capable of all varieties of political opinion. To imagine that Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fall under the same political umbrella – because of nothing more than shared biology – is woefully ignorant and an insult to both. And the differences between Jacinda Ardern, Paula Bennett, Marama Davidson, and Nikki Kaye are myriad and enormous.
It’s not our genitals that determine what kind of politician we would be – it’s our brains (hard as it may be to imagine that certain politicians have one).
Misogyny teaches us that women are not as capable as men – but the correct response to that is not to think of women as automatically more capable; but, rather, equally – and differently – capable, while acknowledging that misogyny will still be a factor in a woman’s political career.
It’s beyond understandable, when one is staring generations of male rule in the face, to desperately want to elect one of the women running. But a more intelligent understanding of feminism would lead a person to vote for the candidate who will most improve the lives of women. That’s best found by looking at a candidate’s policy proposals, the ways in which they campaign, and their track record. And if the best candidate is a woman, all the better.
Feminism, at its core, should never be about improving the careers of a few privileged women. It should be about improving the lives of the sisterhood as a collective. So, as we head into these final days of local electioneering, think of your sisters (including, of course, your trans sisters and non-binary folks) – and vote for them. A vote, that is, that will benefit them, rather than a vote that might put a woman in office, but do a big fat nothing to change the status quo.Support Villainesse