Two years ago, on November 4, I attended a Gloria Steinem book signing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the conclusion of the event, I had the opportunity to interact with her. I was admittedly overcome. I stood before someone that has made a tremendous difference in the fight for gender equality. Certainly, over the years, Steinem has done more than the many that simply limit themselves to expressing empty rhetoric and applauding nondescript firsts. For instance, she supported the indomitable Shirley Chisholm in her presidential bid. This was a notable example of her activism with a purpose. In sharp contrast, focus is often lacking in what passes for feminist activity in the age of Trump.
Earlier in the year, several manifestations that highlighted concerns surrounding gender inequality took place. One such event was the strike, “A Day Without A Woman.” This was a follow-up to the Women’s March that, for many, had been an opportunity to voice disapproval of Trump and his policies. Both, however, lacked clarity. Rather than focus squarely on women’s rights, the platforms encompassed wide-ranging issues, like the call for illegal aliens’ rights, that had been unceremoniously shoved under the umbrella of gender equality. So, those that held a broader antipathy of President Trump’s agenda attempted to make their own more appealing by packaging it as a newfangled feminism.
More recently, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, actress Alyssa Milano, taking her cue from Tarana Burke, urged others to share their stories of abuse using the now ubiquitous hashtag #MeToo. Twitter was inundated with a tsunami of responses. Seeing so many people find the courage to speak out was heartening. Nevertheless, Milano’s plea for others to articulate their harassment could not change the fact that she chose to remain silent rather than condemn Weinstein’s conduct. She claimed that her friendship with his estranged wife, Georgina Chapman, and concern for their two young children were the reasons for her inaction.
Denouncing the now disgraced film producer would have been a courageous act. In comparison, this hashtag activism, in the Trump era, seems like a rather facile response.
There are then people such as Scarlett Archer. The British actress recently lent her voice to the chorus of #MeToo with a tweet.
While some were understandably concerned, others criticized Archer for providing few details. There were even those that accused her of attention-seeking.
Feminism is a noble ideology and movement. To the benefit of this country (and others), it has enabled women to lead productive lives of their own choosing. Under the Trump administration, however, some activists have attempted to give feminism a facelift, which has made it, at times, unrecognizable to what it was before. Indeed, they are striving to make feminism an ideological noisemaker, the ultimate hashtag, and a catchall for the cris de coeur for a segment on the political left. Nevertheless, this is not what it was ever meant to be, and this is not what it should become. Feminism should not be a weapon that is used to attack President Trump or others whose views diverge from theirs.
[Featured Image by Rainmaker Photo/MediaPunch/IPX/AP Images]