First-wave feminism was about getting women the vote. Second-wave feminism was about getting women out of their homes and into the job market, whether they liked it or not—and also about getting them out of their marriages, or maybe out of marriage altogether, as what could be a more soul-killing patriarchal institution? Third-wave feminism was about getting women angry: at men, at society, at “backlash,” at microaggressions.
And now we have what I call fourth-wave feminism. It’s about getting women under the thumb of other women. And it may be the most militant form of feminism of all.
Everyday Feminism contributor Lara Witt wrote a December 8 article titled, “10 Things Every Intersectional Feminist Should Ask on a First Date.” She’s merciless. “Walk away from anyone who believes that ‘boys will be boys’ and that women are supposed to be mothers because we’re nothing but ambulatory incubators.” “Your date thinks Native Americans are tropes or relics of the past? NO THANKS.” “Don’t waste your time and energy on dating someone who thinks that Islam is inherently violent or misogynistic.” Also, on your first date you must screen your potential boyfriend to make sure he’s up for boycotting Israel (“I shouldn’t even have to express that, but being pro-Palestine and BDS is a necessary part of intersectionality”), denouncing capitalism (it’s “exploitative”), and learning “how to decenter… male privilege.”
Then there’s Netflix talk-show comedienne Chelsea Handler on White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. No, not on Sanders’s political views. On her looks. During a December 1st episode of her show, she scolded Sanders for everything from her face to her makeup to her necklines: “I mean, one day she has no makeup on at all, the next she has six-foot-long eyelashes, she’s got cleavage and summer whore lipstick all over her face.” Doubling down in a December 7 tweet, Handler added Sanders’s weight to her list, linking to a video of comedy writer Fortune Feimster doing a Sanders impersonation in a parody makeup tutorial. Feimster/Sanders called her face “a big fat biscuit” as she applied moisturizer and then smeared on eyeliner with a paint roller. What happened to the idea that it was sexist to judge a woman by her physical appearance?
U.K Guardian fashion columnist Hadley Freeman, in a November 13 column, ordered women not to wear clothes designed by Harvey Weinstein’s now-estranged wife, Georgina Chapman. Apparently, “Bathrobe Man” Weinstein bullied actresses into wearing Chapman’s Marchesa line of dresses when he wasn’t allegedly bullying them into foregoing dresses altogether. Wrote Freeman: “Marchesa clothes are lovely, no question. But their success is inextricable from Weinstein…. [T]their success was helped by his aggression. And frankly, it’s a little hard not to feel, well, live by the Weinstein, die by the Weinstein.” Never mind that the unfortunate Chapman is trying her hardest to get out of her former association with Weinstein.
In former days, the days of first-, second-, and third-wave feminism, feminists focused their energies on schooling men, whether for good or for ill. Men were to give women access to the ballot box, to hire and promote them on the job, to do their “fair share” at home of washing the dishes and folding the laundry, to make sure that “yes” really meant “yes” when it came to sexual matters, to lay off on the wolf whistles, and not even to joke about having their female office co-workers make the coffee.
But fourth-wave feminism, as I call it, is all about schooling women: whom they’re to date, what kind of makeup they should wear and clothes they should buy. Second- and third-wave feminists used to say that the personal is political, but for fourth-wave feminists, the political is personal: no evening gown or tube of lipstick escapes monitoring for correctness. A cynic might say that feminists have run out of ways to make men miserable, so now they’re turning to making other women miserable. But it may simply be that feminists have run out of ways to gain control of previously male institutions, so now they’re trying to gain control of that most female of institutions, private life. And that struggle for control means that sisterhood is definitely not powerful these days.
Image: Netflix Video Capture
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