June 6, 2010 / Politics, Unity

Why the ‘Pro-Women Movement Should and Will Replace Feminism


The following op-ed by The New Agenda’s Amy Siskind will be appearing on the front page of The Huffington Post here as of Sunday evening.

Ever since Sarah Palin gave a speech to pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, a firestorm has erupted over whether Susan B. Anthony was pro-choice or pro-life. What we do know is that Anthony and other women suffragists battled for decades to gain the right to vote. The fruit of their labor would be the Fifteenth Amendment, granting African American men the right to vote in 1870. Of course, Anthony was buried by the time women’s suffrage finally arrived 50 years later.

I, for one, would like to see a woman president (not 50 years from now) and gender equality in my lifetime.

s-PALIN-HALEY-largeBut the current rendition of “feminism” will never get us there. The construct is divisive, proactively exclusionary and opening hostile towards women of different ideologies. Achieving gender equality is impossible in a framework where some of women are viewed as less equal.

Fortunately, there is another option. A new “pro-women” movement led, initially, by women on the right. The movement is inclusive, current, and refreshingly focused on supporting women. And why should we care whether it’s Republican or Democratic women (or both) who lead us to gender equality? After all, our historical women leadership is richly diverse in political beliefs and value systems.

Sadly, some current day feminists view this ideological diversity as a death knell. When the f-word departed Sarah Palin’s lips, it was officially an act of war. So shaken was the feminist center of gravity, that historical women were exhumed to be used as weapons.

And so began the battle for Susan B. Anthony. Never mind that as women historian Anna Belle Pfau points out: These were two very different worlds… Early feminists like Anthony would hardly recognize the debate that is being held today. Some feminists express righteous indignation that not only did a pro-life organization name itself after this historic woman, but that Sarah Palin had the nerve to refer to Anthony as “one of my heroes.” How utterly ridiculous! Susan B. Anthony belongs to us all, not just the 20% of women who consider themselves feminists!

Also exhumed was Betty Friedan. This time a feminist blogger asserts (without evidence) that “women such as Palin” dismiss and disparage Friedan’s women’s movement. Actually, Friedan, who desperately tried to make women’s rights palatable to everyday women from Peoria, Illinois, would find much to like about women like Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman and Nikki Haley. These women embody the notion of having a choice: to work, to raise a family or both.

And with the benefit of choice, came women’s work-life struggle: a crucial issue that has gone unaddressed. Thankfully, the pro-women movement is tackling it head on. We should applaud Republican women for embracing their strength, power and motherhood all at the same time. Even Democratic women find it appealing: “What I like about Palin related to this whole feminist thing is that her marriage really does seem to be an equal partnership, with her husband giving her plenty of room to shine, and her not hesitating.

We should also applaud that at a perilous time for our country, women are stepping forward to lend a hand. As Abagail Adams observed centuries ago: “Great necessities call out great virtues.” If the fraternity of leadership is failing, it’s time to give the Mama Grizzlies a chance to restore things for ourselves and our children. Even if we don’t agree with the ideology of Liz Cheney, Gov. Jan Brewer or Rep Michele Bachmann, it’s refreshing and imperative to finally hear women’s voices in our national discourse.

But the most exciting aspect of the new pro-women movement is women support women. Sarah Palin is setting the pace by not only recruiting and endorsing, but also to standing by women political leaders. And conservative women in the media like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham are continually defending their women leaders.

Which is why it’s so confusing.

The feminists who are now gripping onto the f-word so tightly that their knuckles turn white, do not support women. And not just women of different ideologies like Sarah Palin. Many of these same feminists did not support pro-choice, Democrat, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights Hillary Clinton in her effort to become our country’s first woman president. Hmmm. Let’s see: Sarah Palin, who supports women, is “fake” and “shameless”; while women who do not support women are “feminists”?

As I consider “feminism” and “pro-women,” here’s my visceral reaction: Feminism feels like a trip back to junior high school full of mean girls — ganging up and cliques that exclude. I barely made it out alive the first time and I’m not eager to go back.

Pro-women feels mature and positive. It makes me (a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, registered Democrat) feel not only welcome, but also supported, empowered and excited. I’m proud to stand alongside conservative men who explain that they “support and admire strong, powerful, independent women.” Turns out, so do I. And, yes, now I can see a path to gender equality in my lifetime.

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  • SYD

    You’ve said a mouthful this time, Amy. And my only response is AMEN!

  • Alison

    Wonderful article, Amy. It’s criminal that so called “feminists” did not support Hillary during the primaries. One prominent “feminist”, Courtney Martin of Feministing, claimed that she couldn’t vote for Hillary because Hillary reminded her of being scolded by her mother.

    Valenti also did not support Hillary and admitted after Obama one that primaries that she preferred Obama. Because, er, he’s just so liberal.

    How happy these feminists are with the 17 percent representation for women and how wrong they are. And how extraordinarily divisive they are to reject conservative women as part of the feminist movement.

    As a social liberal, fiscal moderate I would like to walk hand-in-hand with conservative women to help stop rape, domestic violence and sexism in the media. I’d also like to work with conservative women so that all women can gain more representation in politics as well as representation in the highest professional positions in all fields. Conservative women and those like myself can tackle the abortion issue on a different playing field. But we have much work to do together.

    I guess that makes me pro-women and not feminist? So be it!

  • Jessie

    And yet Sarah Palin endorsed both Rick Perry over Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Doug Hoffman over Dede Scozzafava. The women in the conservative blogosphere followed suit. There’s nothing surprising about this – in both cases they chose the more conservative candidate.

    Women on the right have always supported people they agree with and opposed people they disagree with. But when women on the left and center want to do the same, you demand that they unilaterally disarm and forget their principles.

    Why the double standard?

  • No double standard Jessie. When Palin was early on not endorsing women, we called on Palin to embrace her gender over at The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/b.....cid=hp:exc she has stood and delivered big time!

    Tell me who a woman of similar stature, Speaker Pelosi has stood by? She did not support Hillary. She endorsed Martha Coakley’s opponent in the primary (did you see Pelosi robocalling for Coakley when she was in trouble in the general the way Palin is doing for Haley)?

    And more importantly, why can’t we demand the women of BOTH parties support their candidates. Nothing less is acceptable IMHO!

  • Jessie

    I hadn’t read the article on the Daily Beast, but now that I have, it’s consistent with this one. The point of view is that women on the right support other women, except for the few cases where they don’t, and women on the left never support women, aside from the exceptions where they do. In fact, both groups are behaving identically, and accusing one of being anti-woman, as you do, is unfair.

  • Janis

    Jessie, like I said before, we can’t solve the problem of women not supporting other women by not supporting other women who don’t support other women. That’s crazy. It’s got to fucking stop somehow. This is the only organization I’ve encountered in my LIFE that appears to have cracked the code and isn’t too timid to say it.

  • yttik

    Great post, Amy. I like the term “pro-woman.”

    Too often feminism winds up being a competition and the goal is to be the last one standing and doing it right. Needless to say, that’s a bit self defeating.

  • Bes

    OMG! I am going to enjoy the comments this non politically correct article posted on Huff Puff generates! And I think you all are right to just let the left have the “feminist” label and go with “pro-woman”. After what they have done for the last 25 years, rehabbing the term “feminist” would be a waste of much energy. Going with a new term is like putting out a “under new management” sign.

  • Sandra S.

    I love what you’re saying here, Amy. But I’m too damn stubborn to give up the labels that are meaningful to me, just because they’ve been co-opted by people who are less than credible. That’s why I’ve never given up on “liberal” or “PUMA”, and it’s why I’ll never give up on “feminist”.

    But I have no problems with working with the pro-women movement, especially since I think our objectives are one and the same.

  • Juliette

    I never wished to call myself a feminist. I am and always will be an individualist and will never support a candidate because of her gender or political party again. If I had it to do all over agian I would have supported McCain Palin instead of working so hard to support Hillary Clinton. I think that Nancy Pelosi is about the worst Speaker of the House this nation has ever known. I will continue to look for candidates who behave like adults and don’t embrase the pro-Muslim anti-American fervor that is growing like a cancerous tumor in the democrat party. I am no Jane Fonda, and will not jump into bed with my countries enemy to prove how “progressive I am.” Fonda most likely thought she was being fabulously liberal when she (at her former husbands request) invited other women, even prostitutes into their bed. Their is nothing left in the liberal world that I can respect. I have said it before, but it bares repeating. They are a bunch of adolesent rebels without a clue. Warmed over hippies who refuse to grow up.

  • Great article Amy! You are on the cutting edge…keep up the good work.

  • JP

    This is a fantastic article Amy!!! I like the idea of “pro-woman” as opposed to “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. Pro-woman includes both views and so much more! And we need to get to a place of so much more.

    Another great one, Amy. Keep up the good work New Agenda.

  • leftwingfeministwithdisabilities

    I am not American, so didn’t vote in the Primaries, but chose to support Obama over Hilary, left wing wise. And was constantly “defending my sister Sarah Palin’s back,” online while fighting her politically in the front. So, I guess you’d say I supported Obama and Palin over Hilary. Why?

    I am a gay, pro choice, pro gay, bi trans rights, pro universal medicare, universal education, hell! I’m even pro Guarenteed Income Supplement, which is something discussed in my Country, but would be considered extreme socialism, even communism in America.

    Why could I not support HIlary? Vote for her? Because she is NOT my sister, she’s a Queen. A Queen Bee, and sometimes, in order to love and support your sisters, you have to be willing to vote for a Brother in order to keep a Queen out, whose would simply not be kind or loving to any woman who dared to dissent or disagree with her.

    A Queen Bee, in the most powerful position in North America, a QUEEN BEE, the epitome of the Female Bully, who manipulates, and socially agresses against, who silences, shames, ostracizes and marginalizes all women she views in any way as being a threat to HER power, to HER, HER, HER needs, feelings, desires, THAT kind of woman as the President of the United States?

    Because that’s the kind of Feminism she represents. Queen Bee Feminism. Women who believe that they are inately superior, who believe they had A RIGHT, to TAKE feminism, away from us, and hide it in an Ivory Tower, where the majority of women couldn’t access it let alone OWN it. Women who believed they have a RIGHT to declare who is a feminist, and who isn’t, a RIGHT to say, “Sarah Palin isn’t even a REAL woman, she’s “just a female.” Women who believe they are somehow inately superior, and therefor, are entitled to RULE OVER and POLICE, the rest of us. Queen Bees are not GIVEN power, they TAKE it, they do not consider themselves “sisters,” of women, they RULE OVER the rest of us.

    I am a gay woman, pro choice, pro universal medicare, pro universal education, amongst other things. But I am first and foremost a poor/working class white woman with disabilities, and let me tell you, the ONLY Feminists who have been in my corner, the last forty years, who have even allowed me to SPEAK my truth, without fear of ostracization from feminism communities in general, have been Feminists of Color.

    QUEEN BEES are NOT Sisters. They don’t consider themselves sisters, they don’t view themselves as equals in humanity to other women, irregardless of political or religious belief, they are QUEENS, they perceive themselves as RULERS. And those who support them, support a Matriarchal Power Over System, where a small group of women RULE OVER, and POLICE the rest of us.

    That is why I would never, in a million years, have voted for Hilary Clinton. Because she is NOT my Sister. Michelle Obama? A Sister. Sarah Palin, A sister. I love Michelle Obama, politically, etc. and don’t really LIKE Sarah Palin, but anyone who actually has a sister knows that just because we don’t like our sisters, doesn’t mean, they stop being our sisters.

    I would love, LOVE to see the day, when Michelle Obama or a woman like her, took on Sarah Palin or a woman like her, for the Presidency of the United States.

    Metaphorically speaking: The Black Slave Woman fighting the White Trash White Woman who worked in the fields with her, both fighting to GAIN power, both rising up, willing to use whatever means was necessary, to transform, rise above their roots, their historical oppression. Willing to get their hands dirty, to get mud under their fingernails, willing to fight with their hands, and yes, with their tits and asses, their bodies, if necessary, to empower themselves, their family members, and the sisters behind them. Rising to a point in American History, where they fought it out, for the Presidency of the United States of America. Sisters, equal in the eyes of humanity, both from the wrong side of the tracks, both with incrediable oppression historically against them, both deemed “Trash,” by the Queen Bees like Hilary Clinton. LEADERS, who came from below, and rose up, on the backs of the sisters, VS

    Hilary Clinton, a Ruler who was born into power, and who believes she is entitled to the votes of women in lesser positions of power and authority that she and her peers, have treated like ca ca, for the last forty years, believes she’s ENTITLED to votes, she hasn’t even bothered to earn? A woman who is too good, too superior, to get her hands dirty, to fight with her body, to use her tits n ass if necessary, “BETTER” then that? Then the rest of the women in the world, who simply must use whatever means they have, to gain any power, any empowerment at all?

    QUEEN BEES are NOT Sisters, no matter how much “talk” they talk, all you have to do is LOOK at how they have conducted themselves towards the rest of us, all these years. Silenced and shamed and censored anyone who dared to dissent against them, in my country and yours. The only women allowed the opportunity to disagree, Feminists of Color, who for the most part, have been tokenized and ghettoized within Queen Bee Feminism.

    Who, I’d suggest you all read, FEminism is For Everybody by Bell Hooks, and then other women of color feminist writings and you’ll SEE for yourself, how hard they have been fighting the Queen Bee feminists for the last forty years, and how their feminism, actually includes conservative, and liberal, women and men, etc. and is very, very different from Hilary Clinton style feminism. They are natural allies, to your Pro Women Movement, as they have been calling for this, within liberal wings, for decades. And might be, like me, ready to simply return to a movement, that is beyond ideology.

    Be very careful about putting down the women, like myself, who actually were willing to vote for a brother, to take down a Queen. Because I know, many of us, DID actually stand up and SAY, proudly, “I will fight Sarah Palin to her front, but I will ALSO watch her back. What I won’t do, is stab her in the back. And I won’t strip her of her womanhood, just cause I don’t particularly agree with or like her.”

    And many of us, in all sorts of western countries, all over the world, are ready, are HUNGRY, for Feminism, to return to the streets, to once again, be put in the hands of “the Sisters,” and taken out of the hands of the Queen Bees.

    Thank you for considering my and my sisters POV and experiences.

  • bruce nahin

    Great article- fair- correct and on point. Looking forward to the reaction of readers on the other shall we say less friendly blog, the HuffPo, for whom all things Sarah are bad…and for whom there will never be a kind word

  • Sandra S.


    We have a lot in common. I’m also not American. I’m also far Left. I’m also disabled. I’m also a feminist. And I have no clue what you’re talking about here. I’m very sorry that you’ve felt excluded from mainstream feminism. A lot of women have, and that is appalling.

    But when you suggest that Hillary Clinton would be a terrible President because she is a Queen Bee (whatever the hell That means), and because she was born into power (the vast power of a girl born into a middle-class Scranton home in the late 40s), without providing any kind of evidence for your claims, I have to wonder how you came to this conclusion.

    How exactly did Hillary climb to power on the backs of other women? How does she Silence and Shame and Dominate? Do you have Any evidence for any of this?

    And have you ever considered how utterly sexist it is to suggest that a woman is unfit for leadership because she thinks highly of herself, because she is aggressive, because she, in short, demonstrates the requisite qualities required for leadership? And to do so in such terms as you’ve used (including your repeated assertion that women should be fighting with their “tits and asses”, whatever you mean by that) simply clouds the issue further.

    I don’t believe in questioning anyone’s feminist credentials. But I do believe in subjecting baseless claims and arguments to scrutiny. Do you have any facts, quotes, or even anecdotes to cite to back up Any of what you’ve said?

  • Alison

    “Be very careful about putting down the women, like myself, who actually were willing to vote for a brother, to take down a Queen.”

    Words by a feminist? Amy is correct. If this is feminism I’ll gladly call myself pro-women instead. How tiring it is to constantly hear Liberal Dude Nation (and yes, it’s female feminists followers) constantly pitting the white woman (Queen nonetheless!) against the black man.

    I really don’t understand what kind of liberal sentiment that stands for!

  • Janis

    Queen Bee means “some bitch who thinks she’s all that.” And nothing more. Hillary Clinton is an accomplished woman who has worked her ass off her whole life with grace, ambition, and a real sense of dedication. There will always be people who have made nothing of themselves because they’ve never tried resenting the smart kids in class.

    When a woman is the one seething with resentment and the smart kid is a boy, he’s husband material. When the smart kid is a girl, she’s some bitch who thinks she’s better than me.

    You know what? She’s the goddamned fucking Secretary of State. You’re goddamn right she’s better than you, left wing disability whoever you are, and she worked for it. Like a motherfucker. She’s better than me, too. She’s better than damn near everyone — harder working, smarter, more ambitious. Get the hell out of junior high school. Women will never get anywhere as long as we so reliably rip down our own high-flyers out of petty jealousy, which is all this really is.

  • Janis

    You know what else a Queen Bee is — what she REALLY is?

    A woman who goes out of her way to rip down other women.

    Hillary Clinton has never been that — she has worked her everloving ass off to promote women’s interests and women themselves, even to the point of personal or political risk.

    Left wing disability, though — you’re not above taking down some bitch who flies a little too high for your taste.

    I know who the Queen Bee is here.

  • Kiuku

    Janis one thing I’ve grown to realize is that within any movement for equality, are people who really want a reorganization of power. They want power, actually, and it wouldn’t be any different with them wielding the power. Inside, they want to be judges. This would be their greatest joy; in fact, their greatest dream. But the very nature of a movement for equality allows even the most weak and insecure to take part in it. Are these the kind of people we want to have power?

    Feminism has done a great job about rewriting laws that prevent men from abusing women in a state of citizenship.

  • Kiuku

    and isn’t the problem inherent? Isn’t the enemy of Feminism fighting itself? I can see the problem as inherent, wherein misogyny is the product of men’s view of themselves as gods and not monkeys, so women, being grounded in the reality of nature, are a direct contradiction to that ideal and a constant reminder of what they are: natural animals and not gods. They can dress up as much as they want, but the body of a woman will always remind them of what they are. Then, there is some kind of inherent jealousy of women in society, which again, directly contradicts their belief that they are or are somehow dilineated from a god, whether it is the case or not. It takes a grand amount of societal restructuring to put men at the center of society and even then it just doesn’t work. Women occupy the center of society due to reproduction. So men aim to fix these problems for them which is a mental problem, and these problems cause misogyny.

    Then there is fighting. Fighting itself is a visceral pleasure and the means by which people gain power over others and abuse others. However, I think that people fight or seek power mostly for the affirmation, and there are better means for affirmation than power for the unworthy or fighting. The Constitution is the single greatest instrument yet for equality of all citizens.

  • Janis

    ” …it wouldn’t be any different with them wielding the power.”

    If you really think that nothing would change with women in power, then I really don’t know what you’re doing here …

  • lorac

    LongNamePerson – that’s a heck of a lot of racism, classism, and CDS.

    And I’m second wave, I know exactly what Queen Bee means, and Hillary is anything but. Her whole adult life she has been fighting to elevate women.

    And by the way, she also worked for minorities since she was 18, working then to get hispanics to register to vote.

    She has worked very hard her whole life for what she has. And you? Maybe you’d prefer she had been lazy her whole life and sat around whining that there was no socialist welfare state to provide for her?

    I think you know nothing about Hillary. I think your support in the election was based on color, not on content of character.

  • Kiuku

    Because I am a monkey in a zoo.