January 11, 2009 / Uncategorized

How Feminism Became the F-Word

by

Originally published at The Daily Beast. Readers and members, be sure to go over to The Daily Beast and leave a comment!

Who is looking out for the women of this country? Well, I will tell you who is not: Ms. magazine.

Ms. was co-founded by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin in 1971. The first cover of Ms., emblematic of the women’s movement of the time, was brave and bold. A giant figure of Wonder Woman strides across the landscape, while the caption proclaims, “Wonder Woman for President.” No small irony that, four decades later, when a real live wonder woman ran a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton was mysteriously absent from the cover of Ms. Nor did this real live wonder woman have the full support and endorsement of many of the women’s groups that had sprung from the second wave of the women’s rights movement.

Our story starts in 1961, when a true heroine, Eleanor Roosevelt, chaired the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. The 1960s and 1970s are full of heroines of all political stripes making groundbreaking strides for women. Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Robin Morgan fought for political representation, maternity leave, equal pay, affirmative action, and reproductive rights. Somewhat less well known to modern day women are heroines like Margaret Chase Smith, who in 1964 became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the US presidency, and Mary Dent Crisp, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee in 1977, who was driven from the post in 1980 after publicly assailing the RNC for its opposition to abortion rights and the Equal Pay Amendment. (Strange irony that several decades later the Democratic Party would almost deny a candidate who received 18 million votes a chance to have her name put into nomination, and in that same year, the party that has yet to choose a female chairperson would select a man for head of the Democratic National Committee.)

The work of the second wave of the women’s rights movement is central to many of the liberties that women of today take for granted. But after the battles of the 1960s and 1970s had been waged and won, something strange happened to the movement for women, and with it, the term “feminism.” A backlash set in, and the women’s movement retreated from the streets to the committee rooms. National women’s organizations became increasingly tied to the Democratic Party and to pro-choice politics. A period of decline in interest in and membership of national women’s organizations ensued. But this is hardly the fault of the women and like-minded men of this country. You see, most of them were no longer “allowed” to be part of the movement. The movement had devolved and morphed into a clique instead. And this clique only allowed members with certain rites of entry: liberal Democratic women who were pro-choice.

The current women’s rights movement is hardly recognizable to those of us who are truly trying to advance the discourse on gender. Exhibit A, the planned “special Inaugural edition” cover of Ms. magazine. I will readily admit, when this visual first hit my inbox, my first thought was that it was a hoax or a joke. But it is not, and this is hardly a laughing matter. The current vision of “feminism” is a man striking a Superman pose. Is it any wonder, then, that when The Daily Beast conducted a poll in November 2008 it found that just 20 percent of women are willing to use the term “feminist” about themselves and 17 percent would welcome their daughters using that label. The term feminism is hardly recognizable to itself at this point. It has been hijacked and corroded by those who formed the club, excluded most of us from joining, and used feminism for their own purposes.

Meanwhile, who has been looking out for the women of this country? Where are the modern day national organizations to act as champions of women and to speak out against the issues that affect us all? Where is the outrage about the alarming escalation of domestic violence? Or the fact that women still earn 78 percent of what men do? Or the fact that our representation in politics, academia, and corporate leadership tends to hover around 16 percent? There is a pattern here—we are moving backward.

You see, here’s the trick. These issues do not affect just liberal, Democratic, pro-choice women. They affect all women, our children, and grandchildren. These issues affect men who are fathers, husbands, and sons. And here’s the other trick: Women and like-minded men do care. But they are not included in the clique, nor do they particularly understand what the clique is fighting for anymore. The clique has become a like a cocoon that, though it perhaps has good intentions, has lost sight of the big picture and, as a result, has inadvertently sold out the women of this country.

Fortunately, as with any superhero movie, there can be a rescue and a happy ending.

Witness the rebirth: the start of the fourth wave of the women’s rights movement, a big tent movement that invites women and like-minded men of all political parties and views on reproductive rights. A women’s movement that stands up and speaks out for the women of this country when other groups will not. A women’s movement that keeps a watchful eye on its constituency and their needs.

It is time that we take back the term “feminism” and restore its dignity and honor. It is time that we, our daughters, and granddaughters discover our inner Wonder Woman.

And, for those of us who dream, maybe Ms. and the former national women’s movement will return in the sequel as Superwomen once again.

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  • yttik

    Bravo! Fabulous post.

    The clique that feminism has (d)evolved into is not just about being a Dem and pro-choice, there is also an elitist element. Working class people such as Sarah Palin are barred from the club. Stay at home working class mothers sometimes feel left out. There are now dozens of politically correct requirements for feminism and none of them seem to have anything to do with advancing women’s equality or actually being a feminist. The end result is that people like Palin, or people like me for that matter, women with 3-4 decades of actual feminist experience and the scars to prove it, are shoved aside in favor of people like Caroline Kennedy or Barack Obama. People who don’t even have the courage to call themselves feminists in the first place.

  • It is reassuring in the extreme to find someone who sees so clearly ; understands the dynamics involved and articulates the issues so very well . I made a graphic parody of the cover of MS Magazine which you can use if you wish to illusrate the difference between the cover and the truth .

    http://img.photobucket.com/alb.....gynist.jpg

    I can remember when MS magazine first came out , and I was surprised and pleased my “old fashioned” mom was reading it . But it occurs to me now we no longer need an artifical “title” to designate our social status, so in that sense we no longer need MS magazine .I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed i am to see the current cover . I thought it was a hoax at first as well .
    We especially do not need them ; when they have fallen prey to the mythical need to be rescued by a ” comicbook figure supermale” who has done anything but fulfill a truly feminist agenda with his administrative chioces. MS magazine has just become MS Cinderella magazine waiting for their Prince .
    Thank you for your devotion to the cause !!!

  • Anna

    Great piece, Amy.

  • Lisa

    Woooohooooo! Amy, what a great inspiring article! I hope this gets posted EVERYWHERE.

    We need a graphic to go viral of the first cover next to the new cover: the real wonderwoman replaced by a man/fraud. The irony of it all is sickening.

  • KendallJ

    Thank you Amy,

    Hopefully this post will help spark the appropriate dialogue with the feminist organizations that have lost their way. We really need to direct the focus on women first.

    One of my frustrations has been that so many women’s groups get cought up in other people’s agendas, and the time and energy spent in this fashion has functioned to marginalize women’s issues and to essentially put other groups’ progress before our own. The political correctness craze is partially responsible. For example, when women’s groups come forward on issues about women, they first go through the liteny of recognition of other disenfranchised groups before pushing women’s issues. They are always careful to be so politically correct that they often twist themselves in nots and even into hypocracy. Many of them won’t call Obama out on his participation and tacid approval of sexism, because of racial politics. Others, constantly fall over themselves to push the gay agenda and refuse to call out the gender bias in that community. THEY DON’T PUT WOMEN FIRST. They often send the massage that they believe that women’s right are secondary to black civil rights and gay rights. If their stradegy is to continually ride on the coat tails of other traditionally disenfranchised groups successes, women’s issues will never come to the forefront. WE NEED TO PUT WOMEN FIRST AND CANNOT LET OUR AGREEMENT AND SOLIDARITY WITH THESE OTHER GROUPS TAKE PRIORITY OVER PUSHING OUR OWN AGENDA.. No other group does this for women! So why do women’s groups do this for others? It sends the message that women’s issues are less important.

    WOMEN ARE MARGINALIZED IN MANY WAYS. Unfortunately, political correctness has worked against us more than it has helped. Everyone is scrembling for a peice of the pie. When women’s organizations allow their energies to be watered down through these alliances, they essentially step aside for others to gain power before us and instead of us. Power, like resources is finite, and that is exactly why it needs to be shared.

    I think that if Obama were white, these women’s organizationss would have been more likely to him call out on the sexism in which his campaign and the media engaged. They became muzzled in part by the race factor and didn’t stand up for Hillary Clinton in large part because of it. Once again, they stepped aside and allowed another group to take center stage. They stepped aside for the less committed black man in lue of the women who tirelessly worked for decades on improving women’s lives. There is no question the Clinton was the better candidate for acheiving the women’s rights agenda. So once again it leaves people thinking, who do they represent and what the fuck were they thinking. I am not suggesting that we should fight with allies, but we should call out the sexism regardless of who are the perpetrators. If we don’t, we end up supporting those who don’t support us.

    Other groups aren’t stepping aside for us, so why do we step aside for them? This is a pattern of behavior that has to be changed.

    The question was asked just recently, why people were more outraged about Rick Warren’s homophobic positions, than his sexist ones. This is why. If women don’t put ourselves first, nobody else will.

    When black men and gay men start acknowledging our issues, the way the feminist establishement has bent over backwords to acknowledge and propagate theirs, we will have real allies that well share a platform with us for the equality of all poeple. But when women are the only team players on this front, we find ourselves on the outside looking in.

  • KayJL

    wow, talk about packing a powerful 1-2 punch–the last two blog entries have been awe-inspiring.

    it feels like the revving of an engine, gathering momentum…

  • What a heartbreaking betrayal by Ms. Magazine.

    Once a beacon of hope for powerful women… Ms. has become a parody of itself.

    While nothing can surprise me in this awful election year…. I think THIS affront… betrayal by an institution that was once one of my “mothers” takes the proverbial cake.

  • Lisa

    I went over to the Daily Beast to comment, and I just couldn’t. I was so appalled and freaked out and ENRAGED by the idiot young women there….

    How can they POSSIBLY be so blind? I can’t even engage with that. Amy I don’t know how you do it. You are tougher than I am.

  • Thia, GA

    Lisa,
    I felt the same way. The misogynists attacking feminism in general just rolls of my back. It’s the WOMEN that I find really appalling. We are probably talking about the same post. It really is enraging. Try not to read the comments until after you have posted an intelligent one. That way you can address the article and not get side-tracked by the stupidity. 😀

  • LOL –

    I was telling Thia that those are the most positive comments I have received from my Daily Beast writings. It bounces off, worry not. Many folks comment negatively for the sake of it. There “is” some constructive stuff inbtw – and this is why I read everything and blend it up in my head to set our course forward best we can.

  • KayJL

    I posted a comment, but I’ve never posted there before so they’re holding my first post for review.

    I didn’t curse or insult any of the other posters, so it should go through.

  • Oh, what a brilliant point about the original Ms ‘Wonder Woman’ cover!

    I’ve posted the DB link at PumaResponders.blogspot.com and elsewhere.

  • Lisa,

    At DB or any other site, you don’t have to read all the other comments in order to comment on the article itself. You can just hit Ctl-End to the bottom of the page, which is where the comment box or link usually is. If it’s not there, it may be at the top of the comment string, or in a sidebar.

    Hm, I just did that here. Went to the bottom of this page to make my comment and now I’m reading the comments from the bottom up. 🙂

  • Feminism gets an for FAIL from me. Not just politically, which it has earned as we have all seen, but socially as well.

    Look at the young women today, how little respect they have for themselves. Girls as young as jr high giving blow jobs to guys to be popular in their schools.

    Yes they got the message, they can get an abortion, they would rather not get pregnant at all so they turn their mouths into a sperm bank.

    I grew up in the early 70’s. I remember the ‘feminist’ teacher I had in jr high, Ms Temple. She inspired me to see myself as an equal. To value myself, think for myself, speak for myself, respect myself and others.

    The feminist, or women’s movement that devolved into nothing more than the abortion rights movement (that was won 35 years ago…HELLO! what have you done for women since then?) has let down the young women of today.

    It is high time for the ‘fourth wave’ of feminism, and it damn well needs to value, support, encourage, advocate, educate and respect ALL women.

    If we continue to focus only on the womb we will continue to fail all women. We have so much more to accomplish.

  • Lisa

    right on Goldie.

  • Anna

    Working on a brightly color insert for Ms. Magazine if anyone wants to use, edit, add, (corrrect if you see errors), etc.
    ————————————————————————————-
    BARACK OBAMA….

    …did not speak out when his Director of Speechwriting (Jon Favreau) mimed groping a life-size image of our incoming Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton.

    ….selected for the new head of the DNC (Tim Kaine) a politician whose views on choice are mixed.

    …selected a pastor (Rick Warren) for the invocation on Inauguration Day who thinks domestic violence is not a reason for divorce.

    …named a man as part of his economic team (Larry Summers) who thinks women are genetically inferior to men in areas of math and science.

    …named only 5 women to his cabinet, less than Bill Clinton and about on par with George Bush.

    …has created an economic rescue plan that focuses on infrastructure that will result in jobs for men, but few for women.

    …paid his female campaign staffers 78 cents on the dollar as compared to his male staffers, just 1 cent above the nation average.

    …had a group of campaign advisors comprised primarily of men.

    …said not a word when one of his prominent supporters (Ludicris) wrote a song after the Democratic Convention calling Hillary Clinton an irrelevant bitch. (Can anyone imagine a high profile Clinton supporter writing a song referring to Obama as an irrelevant nigger and having not a word said about it? It would have been wrong, as was Ludicris’s song, but double standards abound.)

    Wake up Women! Wake up America! Barack Obama is no feminist!

  • LindaA1

    I wish I could toss the staff of Ms. Magazine along with Steinem, Morgan, Jong, Gandy et al through the Stargate and deposit them 40 years back in time.

    They would be howling with rage at themselves for their 2008 (and apparently) 2009 anti-feminist actions.

    Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe someone DID toss them through the Stargate and they’ve returned as Goa’uld imposters. That would explain the alien behavior.

    I mean, don’t they act like they’ve been possessed by…something not feminist? Something that doesn’t even like feminists?

  • Constance

    Nice post, Thanks. But I think the NOW and MS crowd are more likely to return as Catwoman under a black male director and gay male costume designer than Wonder Woman.

  • ER

    Thank you, Amy, for your wonderful piece! Our work continues;

    UPDATE ON THE BOSTON GLOBE’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH JON FAVREAU:

    The lead article in today’s Boston Globe Magazine, “Can Political Speeches Make a Difference? Just Words,” edifies Jon Favreau and his relationship with Obama. http://www.boston.com/bostongl.....?page=full

    This article is brought to you by the same reporter, Charles Pierce, and the same publication that honored “the Groper” Jon Favreau as one of 6 “Bostonians of the Year” in their December 21st issue. You can find that article here: http://www.boston.com/bostongl....._in_chief/

    Although the article isn’t about Favreau specifically, his name is mentioned eight times in the last portion of the article. Quote from today’s article:

    “Only after working on John Kerry’s campaign in 2004 did Favreau meet and begin writing speeches for Barack Obama, and, like Sorensen and John Kennedy, the two men worked so closely together in so many places for so long around the country that Favreau soon found his voice indistinguishable from Obama’s.”

    It’s frustrating that the Boston Globe Magazine has not printed any of the Letters to the Editor protesting Favreau’s selection as a Bostonian of the Year. Perhaps they plan to print a letter later (they printed letters about their December 14th issue today). . . 67 people had commented on the December 21st Favreau article, many negatively.

    The Boston Globe itself (not the Boston Globe Magazine which selected Favreau as a Bostonian of the Year) printed one very short letter on Christmas eve (guaranteed not to have many readers), but that letter has been removed from their website.

    SUGGESTED ACTION PLAN:

    1. Let’s keep the issue alive. Send your Letters to the Editor at the Boston Globe to both addresses below:

    • Boston Globe Magazine, Letter to the Editor: magazine@globe.com or by mail at: The Boston Globe Magazine/Letters, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

    • The Boston Globe newspaper, Letter to the Editor: letter@globe.com or online at: http://bostonglobe.com/news/op.....px?id=6340

    2. Send your comments and letters to those involved:
    • Doug Most, Editor of the Globe magazine: dmost@globe.com phone: (617) 929-3454
    • Charles P. Pierce is the reporter who wrote the article on Favreau: cpierce@globe.com phone: (617) 929-2724

    • Susanne Althoff, Senior Assistant Editor: Althoff@globe.com phone: (617) 929-1543

    3. Go to the Boston Globe Magazine and COMMENT on the article: http://www.boston.com/bostongl.....?page=full

    4. Copy your letter or email to your Senators and Representatives. Ask them to take up the issue of sexism in the media and to ask Obama to fire Favreau. You can find your elected officials’ contact information here: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

    5. Invite all of your like-minded friends and colleagues to join The New Agenda.

    6. **STRATEGIC IDEAS: After Obama’s inauguration, there will likely be more positive press about Favreau writing the inaugural speech. How do we want to respond? CAN TNA FORUMULATE A STRATEGIC PLAN for responses? Is it a good idea to use it as a jumping off point to repeatedly address the rampant sexism and misogyny we see everywhere, the lack of response and respect, and what this means? Not sure what the best path is here.

    We can’t afford to let the press continue to gloss over the Favreau incident; it’s a symbol of the rampant sexism and misogyny going on today. And thank you to all involved with The New Agenda for your hard work.

  • Mslas4hillary

    Excellent post! Lets contact Ms. Magazine and tell them that this is unacceptable!

  • Anna

    ER

    As usual, thanks for all of your constant and reliable work in researching media pieces and providing all the necessary contact info. I will get to work on this tomorrow. Meanwhile, how did you come to know that they had received 67 negative comments? Did they state that somewhere?

    Also, when I searched to see if they had printed my letter after the Ms. Althoff e-mailed me that they might, I noticed that all of the letters that were printed (on various topics) were from people who lived in Massachusetts. So, it seems like an additional hurdle, perhaps, to get a letter printed if you live out of state.

    Does anyone here live in MA? If so, I’d be happy to write a letter that you can use as your own and send using your name and MA address.

    Otherwise, I’ll just try again as an out-of-stater.

  • Puma for Life

    Bravo Amy!! Thanks for writing this and for The New Agenda. We sure do need you! Best wishes and keep up the good work.

  • ER

    Thank you Anna. In my post I mentioned that there were 67 comments to the original Favreau article. A number of these comments were negative (i.e., against Favreau). Just stating a number. You can see the 67 comments here: http://www.boston.com/bostongl....._in_chief/

    Great idea to send letters to the editor from people living in Massachusetts. Letters from others are valuable as well. Also, this next Sunday’s Globe Magazine will be the telling one, I think. It should contain Letters to the Editor from articles in their December 21st issue (in which Favreau was anointed).

  • Anna

    ER

    I had assumed that the first magazine edition of this year was the one that would have had letters responding to Favreau being named as one of 6 Bostonian’s of the year. But, if it’s next Sunday’s I’ll keep a look out to see if mine gets printed.

  • ER

    Anna, I had assumed the same, but have seen a different pattern of publishing Letters to the Editor of the Boston Globe Magazine. Their first magazine edition this year printed letters about articles in the Dec 7th edition, this week’s issue had letters about articles printed in the Dec 14th edition. Next Sunday’s edition had better have articles protesting Favreau being appointed a Bostonian of the Year (article in Dec 21st edition) !

    I do think that as many Letters to the Editor as possible would help! Not only has the Boston Globe Magazine anointed Favreau as a Bostonian of the Year, they now have an article about president’s speeches and he is prominent in the last part of the article. . .

    Thank you for writing letters! The more the better.

  • buffaloboy

    In many ways, this has nothing to do with feminism at all – it is simply another example of how truly silly the hero-worship of Obama has become. (or should I say superhero-worship).

    Obama certainly had a right to run against Hillary, and even the right to beat her fair and square. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly do that – using fraud and intimidation in the caucus states to pile up a significant number of his delegates. If he had won the primary states, or at least did reasonably well in the primary states, he would have had a more legitimate claim to the nomination.

    Also, I cannot imagine that anyone I would call a feminist would casually give the finger to a leading female politician, or would casually make a remark about “periodically … the claws come out” (sorry, don’t have the exact quote handy) regarding a leading female politician, or would actually and publicly give the brush off to a leading female politician.

    Not to mention how he disgracefully did absolutely nothing to call off the dogs on Palin with their preposterous c-word t-shirts, their still-persistent drumbeat that we need to see the birth certificate of Trig Palin to prove she is the real birth mother (all the while wondering where is the real birth certificate of the person who actually got elected President), the hanging in effigy, or any of the other numerous lies and smears about Sarah Palin.

    The cause of the advancement of women will survive the electoral defeats this year of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. It is possible to be a true feminist and to vote against one or both of them. But it is not possible to be a true feminist and to stand by idly when they are attacked in ways that would never, ever happen to a male candidate. It is not possible to be a true feminist and condone or turn a blind eye to tactics of intimidation and fraud in the attempt to defeat a female candidate. It is not possible to be a true feminist and engage in a campaign of innuendo and smears against a woman, regardless of the party affiliation of that woman. It is not possible to be a true feminist and try to manipulate a false narrative regarding a woman’s motherhood of her own child.

    And it is not possible to be a true feminist while subordinating the cause of any individual woman to the super-hero-worship of a person who has himself done so much damage to the cause of women.

  • Anna

    Sorry, this is off topic, but if anyone wants a much-needed laugh, check out this brief piece over at American Thinker. It’ll take you 2 minutes top to read. If you have 2 more minutes, I encourage you to read the blog posts as well. Comic relief:

    http://www.americanthinker.com.....lunch.html

  • ER

    Thank you, Amy, for the great piece!
    Not only does Ms. Magazine have an insulting cover, they are also PROMOTING AND SELLING A POSTER OF THE COVER . . . http://www.msmagazine.com/

    ACTION PLAN (updated):

    1. TELL MS. MAGAZINE TO PULL THE COVER AND THE POSTER. Let them know what you think.

    a) Write a Letter to the Editor: letterstotheeditor@msmagazine.com?

    b) Email their editors:
    • Senior Editor, Michele Kort: mkort@msmagazine.com
    • Associate Editor Jessica Stites: jstites@msmagazine.com
    • Web Editor Alysse Bortolotto: abortolotto@feminist.org
    • Online News Editor Beth Soderberg: bsoderberg@feminist.org

    c) Suggest content (e.g., an editorial on how inappropriate their cover is, what the real facts are, etc): contentsuggestions@msmagazine.com

    2. Call Ms. Magazine and let them know what you think. Toll Free: 1-800-787-1414 or 1-310-556-2515.

    3. Contact their publisher: The publisher of Ms. Magazine is Liberty Media for Women, LLC which is owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation. There is also a form for comments here: http://www.feminist.org/forms/comments.html

    The Feminist Majority has East and West Coast Offices:
    1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 801
    Arlington, VA 22209
    703-522-2214
    703-522-2219 (fax)

    433 S. Beverly Drive
    Beverly Hills, CA 90212
    310-556-2500
    310-556-2509 (fax)

    3. Nominate the Ms. Magazine issue for NOW’s Media Hall of Shame.
    http://www.now.org/issues/medi.....stion.html

    4. Boycott Ms. Magazine and any products they advertise. Let the advertisers know you will be boycotting their products.

    5. Perhaps most importantly, can all of the like-minded women’s organizations get together, write a press release, and sign a letter from all? It would send a powerful message if a number of women’s organizations and groups were involved and spoke together in one voice.

    Together we are strong!

  • MG

    Kendall raises an important point. We must learn how to prioritize the interests of women on par with other interests.

    If we look even in our own local activist communities, I suspect you see women championing the civil rights of others over par to the civil rights of women. We have to grow out of the mindset that causes us to treat our issues in a sub par fashion.

  • I called the Feminist Majority this a.m. and gave them a piece of my mind. The person seemed a bit shocked that I was so upset over the MS. cover, but I made it clear why and reminded her that the Ms. magazine was supposed to “empower women” not put someone on the cover, who has done nothing in his entire career in the way of empowering women. I also mentioned that the better choice would have been to put Hillary on the cover with the quote: “What Could Have Been”.

    I’m certain George Soros in some way paid a lot of money to the magazine to put BO’s image on the front cover, in order to continue the marketing campaign to give this guy credibility. Everyone knows Americans are suckers for a good marketing campaign and are not interested in substance, but how something “looks”. BO is the epitamy of “turning sh__t into shinola.”

  • Anna

    SAMPLE LETTER TO MS. MAGAZINE EDITORS
    ——————————————————————————
    Dear

    I am writing regarding the cover of the upcoming issue of Ms. Magazine. You appear to be suggesting that Barack Obama is a champion for women’s rights by your insulting suggestion that he will swoop in to rescue us all, Superman style. Surely you must be aware that Barack Obama has no great track record as a feminist, with a number of recent events to support this assertion.

    Obama’s silence on the matter of Jon Favreau has been deafening. By not speaking out about his Director of Speechwriting groping a life-size image Senator Hillary Clinton, he sent a message that such modes of behavior towards women are acceptable. The fact that Favreau was interacting with an image of Senator Clinton makes his actions no less reprehensible. Images are symbolic and they have meaning.

    By selecting Tim Kaine as the new DNC Chair Obama missed an opportunity to name a woman as Chair while selecting a man whose views on choice are less than rigorous.

    Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Invocation on Inauguration Day is a sad statement of what little regard Obama has for women’s rights, as Mr. Warren has made it clear that he believes domestic violence is not grounds for divorce.

    With Larry Summers on Obama’s economic team, he has yet again sent a message that he welcomes into the fold men with degrading views of women, in this case a man who thinks women are genetically inferior to men in areas of math and science.

    Meanwhile, having named only 5 women to his cabinet, Obama has set women back as President Clinton named 7, and even George Bush named 4. In the 21st century, is it not yet time we had gender parity at the highest levels of government, including the Cabinet?

    As for Obama’s economic rescue plan, his focus is on infrastructure that will result in jobs for men, but few for women.

    I could go on.

    In sum, Obama is no feminist and Ms. Magazine of all magazines should not be in the business of disseminating such disinformation. Women already have plenty of that to content with in the mainstream media without those who should be our allies abandoning ship. I strongly urge you to change the cover in order to maintain your integrity as a voice for women’s rights.

    Sincerely,

  • Anna

    ADDING CONTACT NAMES AND TITLES FOR THE INFO BELOW PROVIDED BY ER FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO FAX AND / OR MAIL A LETTER
    _______________________________________________

    The Feminist Majority has East and West Coast Offices:

    1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 801
    Arlington, VA 22209
    703-522-2214
    703-522-2219 (fax)
    Ellie Smeal, President

    433 S. Beverly Drive
    Beverly Hills, CA 90212
    310-556-2500
    310-556-2509 (fax)
    Kathy Spillar, Executive Vice President

  • Karen

    I just sent in a letter to the Feminist Majority, but I forgot to put down the names of the women in charge. I’ll go do that right now.

  • Karen

    Here is my letter:

    Your corporation owns Liberty Media for Women, LLC, which is the publisher of Ms. Magazine. Ms. Magazine plans to print a cover featuring President-Elect Barack Obama in a superman pose with the words on his shirt “This is what a feminist looks like.” Whenever I think of feminism, I think of Rosie the Riveter and of real-life women such as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin who are strong and powerful heroines whose hard work and dedication provide inspiration for women within their respective political parties.
    A man never comes to mind when I think of feminism. If the ideal image of female empowerment is a man, then that image declares men to be the guardians and providers for women. This image states that women need men to care for them; it was the argument used in the 1800s to deprive women of jobs and of the right to vote. This image is what the founders of female empowerment such as Susan B. Anthony and many others fought against.
    Furthermore, I wonder sometimes what Obama thinks about women. True, he loves his wife and daughters. They are, after all, his wife and daughters. However, his reactions to sexist and degrading behavior are nonchalant. He displayed no outrage at the picture of his speechwriter Jon Favreau groping a cardboard cut-out of Hillary Clinton, and he did not mind in the slightest all his supporters wearing “Sarah Palin is a cunt” T-shirts. He also chose a pastor named Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration. Rick Warren believes that women are spiritually inferior to men and that divorce from an abusive husband is immoral. Barack Obama is perfectly comfortable with sexism and degradation. How is this type of comfort supportive of female empowerment? It is not.
    And for these reasons, I urge you to reprimand Ms. Magazine for this betrayal of the feminist cause and to compel Ms. Magazine to display only women and women who adhere to feminist causes.

  • Anna

    Karen – FANTASTIC letter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Karen

    Thank you! ^_^

  • Just an update….

    I am being taped by CNN tomorrow morning regarding the Ms. mag cover. The LA Editor of Ms. also being interviewed. Will air likely Thursday a.m.

  • The media renamed our Movement to Equality and then tried to force us to accept it’s parameters.

    Our culture, that is determined to keep women “in their place” has used divide and conquer as usual to separate and dissipate our movement.

    I have never liked being called a feminist – I’m a woman. I’ve never seen or heard the term masculinist – NO! Men remain men and are mostly allowed to have differences from each other; women are not.

    Feminine describes what our society tries to forced all women into being. Trouble is, we do not all fit in that frilly, polite, empty headed box. We, like men, have differences from each other. We are each unique and many of us reject a lable that characterizes our actions or values.

    Back in the day when we were meeting in watch parties, we used the words woman’s groups to describe ourselves and we became aware of the wonderful variety of womanness.

    “I am woman, hear me roar!” Can you sing “I’m a feminist, hear me roar” without laughing?

  • Sis

    Feminist is a political stance. I do not support the left, or the right. I’m a feminist.

  • Anna

    Amy – Wow! Just saw your post! That’s so great! It sounds like you’ve revisited your live interview only positon, which I think is good. Please keep us posted as to when it will air, etc.

  • ER

    Wonderful Amy!

  • Anna

    Geez, ER. Every time see a post from you I hop right on it figuring you’ll have a neatly organized action item. So, now I go here and read your brief missive. (sniff) No pressure or anything!!!

  • ER

    Thanks Anna. I’m swamped with work right now, so not much time to blog! However, for now I’d suggest watching Amy on CNN. We’ll see what slant CNN takes on the Ms. Mag story, and can then figure out what the appropriate action might be. I’m hoping the CNN story will be a big break.

  • ER

    To elaborate a bit further: I hope the CNN story will get everyone’s attention about sexism, misogyny, etc. Anything that increases our voice in the media is good.

  • Zee

    “When black men and gay men start acknowledging our issues, the way the feminist establishement has bent over backwords to acknowledge and propagate theirs, we will have real allies that well share a platform with us for the equality of all poeple. But when women are the only team players on this front, we find ourselves on the outside looking in.”

    amen, Kendall.

  • Zee

    ER, thank you for the groper update! Anna, I live in MA, and will try to get a letter published…

  • Zee on January 14th, 2009 2:24 pm
    “When black men and gay men start acknowledging our issues, the way the feminist establishement has bent over backwords to acknowledge and propagate theirs, we will have real allies that well share a platform with us for the equality of all poeple. But when women are the only team players on this front, we find ourselves on the outside looking in.”
    amen, Kendall.
    ——————-

    This year suggests that we’d better not hold our breaths waiting for that.

  • Anna

    Hey, Zee. Good to know that you can be an on the ground MA person!!! (Lived there many a lifetime ago. Boston: great city. Berkshires: gorgeous. In between: Amherst and other pretty interesting places.)

  • portia9

    I first read this article (which is fantastic) at the Daily Beast and was somewhat dismayed by the comments there, especially those purportedly posted by women. They don’t surprise me as much as they would have however, had I not witnessed the nasty behavior exhibited by women toward members of their own sex during the primaries. Many female Obama supporters engaged in sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton and her supporters and later against Sarah Palin and her supporters. Prominent female media figures gleefully engaged in behavior that really could be construed as misgynist. The question I have been asking myself for months now is why? Why would women behave this way, and why do they seem oblivious to the consequences of their own behavior, not just to the women they target but to themselves as well?

    The only thing I can come up with is that they are ignorant. If we are ever going to have a meaningful feminist movement, woman must be educated about the methods our society uses to continue to keep women down. Females in America are constantly being bombarded with messages about what it means to be female and those messages are sent down to us by the patriarchal corporate hegemony. We are taught that our value lies in our sex appeal, and our sex appeal is narrowly defined for us as young, thin and airbrushed to perfection. The standard is impossible on purpose because it keeps us feeling constantly inadequate and yet hopeful that if we purchase yet another hair/skin/weight loss/cosmetic product we can get that much closer.

    Of course, this type of manipulation isn’t news; it’s been going on for centuries and many of us are painfully aware of it, but how many of us realize what a denigrating impact it has on us and how we view ourselves and other women? Then there is the way that women are portrayed outside of advertising. As a general rule, women are seldom portrayed as worthwhile unless they fit the ideal. No wonder those junior high school girls are giving oral sex to be popular. They have thoroughly absorbed the message that their worth is directly proportionate to their sex appeal, and with few adult women wanting to identify themselves as feminists, that isn’t too surprising.

    I once foolishly thought that it would be enough to educate my own children about the ridiculous way women were portrayed in advertising and the media. Now I see that many adults sorely need to be educated as well. We have little chance of effecting any real change while our culture is completely inundated with messages belittling women.

  • ER on January 11th, 2009 5:02 pm,

    ER, I’ve copied some of this great info to my http://pumaresponders.blogspot.....st_14.html

    If that’s not okay with you, I can remove it or replace it with anything you like, or you can post a new comment there and I’ll remove my version.

  • ER

    Zee, thank you for writing a letter about the groper. I can’t believe that the Boston Globe is so in love with Favreau . . .

    fsteele, I’m delighted you posted my action plan on puma responders. Thank you for asking. I like to get the Action Plans out there.

  • BAC

    Amy I can agree with much of what you have said here, but not everything. I think your comment about clique’s rings true, and is probably the single biggest reason for the decline in membership in some of the national women’s rights groups.

    Where I disagree with you is in the suggestion that someone can be a “feminist” even if that person does not think women are capable of making decisions about whether or when to become a parent.

    Reproductive rights to me is the acknowledgement that women are intelligent and moral beings, capable of making this decision for themselves.

    Reproductive justice doesn’t have to be a partisan issue, but the rise of the religious right within the Republican party has made it one. Leaders of some of the largest religious right organizations in the country were pressuring McCain to select Sarah Palin, precisely because of her position on birth control and abortion. That’s why I opposed her.

    I also think there needs to be some acknowledgement of how the backlash harmed the second wave feminist movement. I think the turning point came with Ronald Reagan’s election, and his swift move to deregulate corporate America.

    I began my career in broadcasting, and when I graduated from college in 1975 there was a limit on how many television and radio stations could be owned by a single corporation. In today’s media market, broadcasters are only limited by the amount of cash they can get their hands on. Clear Channel, for example, owns more than a 1,000 radio stations — so they get to decide what is news and how it’s covered.

    Hundreds of corporations owned media in 1975 — today the number is about five. That has had a huge impact on the ability of women’s groups to get their message out. I think one of the best examples of this was coverage of the 2004 march on Washington. More than a million women and men came to DC, yet the event received almost no media attention.

    I agree that issues of violence against women, pay equity and gender balance in government, education and corporate America must be addressed — and I think the best way to address these issues is as an organized movement. I have concerns about how effective a movement will be if it includes individuals who don’t fundamentally respect women.

    BAC

  • BAC,

    It’s really quite simple. TNA is focused on the 85% of all issues that we can agree on that impact ALL women (see our goals).

    Choice has been used by political parties and religious groups to separate and divide women and take away our power. Women are roughly 50/50 split on choice; however, a recent Gallup polls shows that 73% of women do not think that reproductive rights should be restricted, regardless of their personal beliefs.

    Here’s what we say – belong to many of the wonderful national organization that represent your point of view on choice. When you come to TNA, leave that issue aside and focus on OUR COMMON GROUND.

    Women of this country will never have true power so long as we let political party and choice divide us.

  • Amy,

    Hear, hear!

  • Maggie

    Well said, Amy and all of you…

    Ms. magazine was instrumental in my identifying myself as a feminist so many years ago, but I haven’t looked at it in a very long time This past year was like deja vu consciousness raising all over again. Is it really true Ms. never had Hillary Clinton on it’s cover for the entire campaign? If so, shameful and sad.

    I believe the women of this country are ready for a new movement. Count me in.

  • BAC

    Amy,

    I do hear what you are saying. I’m just not sure how much power women can achieve if we are not allowed control over our own bodies.

    I am not suggesting that everyone must support abortion rights. My point is that for me a “feminist” is someone who respects women and the decisions we make regarding our lives.

    Former FL Gov. Lawton Childs is an example of what I’m talking about. He personally opposed abortion, but said that he would never sign into law any bill that would restrict women from making decisions about abortion for themselves.

    Reproductive justice is central to many other issues that affect women. Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy can disrupt a young woman’s ability to complete her education, causing economic hardship. Pregnancy can trigger domestic violence. And not being able to have control over when to start a family can hinder women from advancement in their careers.

    But more than that it’s about respect. Women must be seen as individuals capable of making decisions for themselves.

    I wish you the best of luck in getting The New Agenda going.

    BAC

  • Joy

    I also thought the cover of Ms. missed the mark. After all, Obama was the guy who called the woman reporter “sweetie” and wouldn’t answer her question because he was too busy. Remember that?

    However, I can’t agree that feminists would or should invite into the tent people with all views about reproductive rights. Equal pay is important, but women’s control over our own bodies is fundamental. Anyone who doesn’t get that is not a feminist.

    Joy

  • Joy,

    The women of this country are roughly split 50/50% around the issue of choice; although a recent gallup poll shows that 73% of women, despite their personal beliefs, do not think that there should be restrictions.

    When we split the women of this country in half, we take away our power as a voting block. Period.

    So what we are suggesting is that since you are pro-choice, you should further those aims through many of the wonderful national organizations. When you come to TNA, we work together on the 85-90% of issues that impact all women. We find our common ground.

    The women of this country are moving backwards. It is time that we all work together (with like-minded men) and take back our power. Then, Joy, our gov’t which is composed of 84% men will not be telling us what to do with our bodies!

  • BAC

    Unless the government is comprised of people who support reproductive rights it most certainly WILL “be telling us what to do with our bodies!”

    “Power” must include respect for the right of women to make decisions regarding their lives. Without that, there is no power.

    BAC

  • Amy
    I really like the way you write. i can’t pretend to agree with all- I especially don’t agree with the misognyist reference made in “comments” about our President, a man I deeply admire and can’t even begin to pretend to know what his job must be like daily. I do agree with this; the word feminist and movement are marginalized. My feeling, it always has been. I’m older than many here and remember the second wave well-I was a teen. This group of women have always been elitists, perhaps by neccessity. I’ve interviewed many and always come away with the same feeling: queen bee syndrome. Despite this feeling i’ve always had, i do my best to add my voice because I don’t have to like everything these woman stand for in order to support what they’ve done and do. I am the mom of three young women. For my lifetime and theirs, i’ve observed the inequity and always strive to do what i can to advance our issues just as i believe Barack Obama has spent his lifetime doing what he can do. No man can be in love with a woman like Michelle Obama and be a misognyist. He can be a lot of things but not that in my humble.
    Glad I found the New Agenda.

  • Great piece and so much thought provoked from your words…though i haven’t read the thread thoroughly, i’ll comment on MS. cover of Obama….
    my interpetation of it was simply this: There was no way a black man would ever be the nominee without women voters- no way- that’s how i viewed the cover.

    Dialogue here re: MS’s snub of Clinton—perhaps her nomination conflicted them as it did me. I didn’t view her as a feminist. I viewed her as a woman who took full advantage of the movement as many of us did…but she stood in the shadows of her man, in my humble….Ironically, it was a man-President Obama-who has given her the opportunity to stand alone….as in Bill? Bill who?

  • jenniferintexas

    Bravo Amy. Bravo. But thanks a lot for making me sob.

    Feminism will never return to its glory because it never had any glory. The suffragettes maybe, but after that we just go along to get along. Except for some women like Andrea Dworkin, and many many women whose names we will never know, most women settle.

    I know, because I have. And it rips my heart out every time I think about what I should be doing vs. what I am doing. When a people are put upon, beaten down, when everything and more are taken from them, they should rise up and take back their god given rights. Women, from the beginning of time until now, are those people. And instead we wear 4 inch heels, starve ourselves, buy $20K purses, and do unspeakable acts behind close doors and allow them to be photographed and sold.

    When the day comes that women come to terms with what has been done to us and the anger represents even 1/1,000,000th of that reality, I truly pity those that stand in our way. Well, not really.

    And f..k democrats and their faux leader for what they have done to race relations and women and freedom of speech and a free media and this country. a million times over and then some.