Carly Fiorina’s Faux Feminism Is A Joke

Carly Fiorina’s faux feminism is an offensive ribbon tied around a dangerous pile of lies.

Life is short, so let’s dive in. Carly has made her pro-life views and willingness to lie through her teeth for them a marquee aspect of her candidacy.

This woman has concocted disgusting, disturbing and roundly discredited lies about Planned Parenthood that fan the flames of terrorist attacks like the recent mass shooting in Colorado Springs. These lies are in service of a small group, to which Carly belongs, who wish to ban abortion entirely — and that hurts women. Access to abortion is a great thing for women. Whether we use it or not (though lots of women — 1 in 3 — do), easy access to abortion ensures our safety and well-being if we find ourselves pregnant in the wrong place or at the wrong time.

There is no such thing as a pro-life feminist. Pro-life opposition to abortion, contraception, sex education, and reproductive health care is diametrically opposed to women achieving equality and justice. This is basic stuff: If women don’t have control over whether and when we have kids, we have no dignity and equality under the law. We need to be able to control our fertility in order to have equal access to opportunities, period.

Pro-life advocates like to say they are pro-woman (which often takes on an additional LOLsob factor when you account for the overwhelming number of men driving the pro-life bus). But if you can only agree that women should have the final say over their bodies when they do not have sex and are not pregnant, you aren’t actually pro-woman — and you certainly don’t believe in equality for women.

All this makes Carly Fiorina’s latest faux feminist salvo even more weird. Now she’s claiming a feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses (emphasis mine). Ooh, that’s rich from a woman working to prevent women from having choices over their own lives.

Deeper still, Fiorina’s definition of feminism as a woman doing whatever she wants — well, that’s ridiculous. Feminism is an action agenda working to secure equality and justice for women. A feminist is someone who believes in redistributing power toward women and other marginalized people, and works toward that goal. Living your life the way you want is great, and feminism works so that women can have those choices. But simply having choices and exercising any choice whatsoever doesn’t mean that you’re a feminist.

You can choose to work against the interests of women — and men — as Fiorina does, and if you are a woman that may make you a trailblazer in the backward-looking world of the male-dominated GOP.

But choosing to live your life doesn’t make you a feminist, though presuming to make some of the most important choices in life for other women certainly makes you a hypocrite.

Advertisements

The Sexism Is Everywhere, But Handling Hillary Clinton With Kid Gloves Isn’t Feminist; It’s Sexist

No woman in the public eye symbolizes the tremendous change in opportunities for women more than Hillary Clinton. It is not in spite of this, but because of this, that she inspires passion and deep ambivalence. People love her, or people hate her. The media reports on and questions her style as if the entire credibility of constitutional democracy might rest on her cleavage, her hair, her pantsuits, her scrunchies, and now, her logo.

On substance, feminists are frequently told to judge her by the sexual mores of the man she married. Someone has yet to credibly explain how judging a woman by the actions of her partner, rather than her own actions, is feminist.

In the 2008 elections, the Democratic Party failed to treat Hillary with the respect she deserved. She was surrounded with calls to get out of the race while she was still ahead in the primary.

As one of my mentors, Olga Vives, argued with passion, even during her final days on a sick bed, the women’s movement failed to recognize the extraordinary transformative power of a woman candidate for president, and failed to stand behind Hillary during a grueling primary.

I was, with Olga, active in the National Organization for Women then. It was a contentious time.

Some women’s organizations bestowed endorsements on Obama early in the race, when their memberships were still divided on whether to support Obama or Hillary; others endorsed her, but didn’t challenge the blatant sexism of the Democratic Party pushing her out too soon.

In this vacuum, some of those women’s advocates left standing for Hillary went to ugly places. Some refused to accept Obama as a legitimate candidate, and one who earnestly continues to champion advancements for women, especially in the areas of pay equity and sexual assault; others embraced the racist strategies to defeat him deployed by the right.

One of the strangest strains was a vocal group that proclaimed Sarah Palin was both a feminist (wow, no) and the right candidate to assume the vice presidency (oh my goodness, considering what might have happened really could give a woman the vapors).

This climate presented a difficult slate of options for those of us who were ready for Hillary the first time. She was treated with horrific, condescending, get-out-of-the-way sexism by her own party, and yet the most vocal response to that was a fantasy-land embrace of Sarah Palin, an emotional reaction that amounted to gender essentialism and overlooked the antifeminist platform of her platform, party, and ticket.

My response was simply to get behind Obama, cry when Hillary spoke at the convention, and lose faith that women’s organizations will do the right thing simply because they are women’s organizations — and that the Democratic Party, its leadership, and the progressive movement should be trusted to handle feminist affairs with the current infrastructure charged with holding them accountable.

Which brings me to today.

The problem is that this time around, the treatment of Hillary from within also bears shades of sexism, albeit in a different way. It’s as if to atone for what happened, now the new rule is that Democrats are not allowed to criticize or question Hillary’s positions. Any of them. Even before the general election. Or you, yes you, are failing feminism and perhaps our one and only chance to see a woman president in our lifetimes.

This is not how politics works. Politics, and particularly primary season, is supposed to involve a robust debate of the issues and honing of positions on matters vital to the community.

There is an inherent sexism in the idea that, this time around, Hillary must be handled with kid gloves. If a woman is running for president with the blessing of the big dogs, why must we sit in the back of the classroom and raise our hands and wait to be called on?

There was sexism coming from the establishment in the past, too, in the idea that it wasn’t Hillary’s turn, that something was wrong with her “likability,” when she was a competitive candidate in 2008.

Just as there is sexism in the frame that only women can credibly challenge Hillary today. Why must Hillary play in a women’s league?

This piece is happening on both sides of the aisle.

The calls to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are interesting, because by dint of her actions, principles, and resolve, Warren symbolizes the progressive movement better than any other one candidate. But I’d also like to challenge these calls a bit from a gender lens.

First, it’s the simple matter men dominate everything, including the infrastructural leadership of the progressive movement, and even with Warren’s qualifications, it’s a bit fishy that the official energy backed by money and power has coalesced around her and no other alternative; that a woman is expected to challenge a woman from the left.

Second, some of us may remember when Jessica Williams asked her “feminist” critics on Twitter to lean the fuck away from her after she indicated she was not interested in taking over as host of The Daily Show. There’s an element of that here, although it’s nuanced.

On one hand, Elizabeth Warren has said repeatedly that she is not running for president — and the activists continue to beat the drum. On the other hand, this is sort of how politics work — the song and dance of being asked to run by the grassroots. Still, one is left with a discomfiting sense that were Warren a man, her word might be taken at her word by large progressive organizations like MoveOn.

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina is expected to run for president, or at least make a great deal of noise. No one expects her to become president — she couldn’t even win a Senate election. So what exactly is she running for, and why is she getting so much space to air her views in presidential fora on the right?

Simple. She is running against Hillary’s campaign on behalf of the real candidates for the Republican Party — just like Jackie Sharp on House of Cards. It’s insulting to Fiorina, and it’s insulting to Hillary. It’s also insulting that the men of the Republican Party who are credible contenders are delegating the women’s work of taking down a woman named Hillary Clinton who steps out of the boundaries of traditional womanhood.

The coming election will bring with it a bevy of sexist attacks; and feminists must call them out and demand a change in culture, no matter where we stand on Hillary and her priorities. But feminists and everyone must also be free to question Hillary and examine her policy proposals as we move forward; it’s frankly sexist to silence ourselves in pursuit of elevating one woman to the top.