Feminism and Focus

Linda Hirschman had a somewhat puzzling op-ed calling on feminism to “focus” more and, I guess, abandon efforts by the movement to be open to more diverse people and concerns. Less intersectionality, more single-minded focus on middle-class white women trying to climb the corporate ladder. Mostly, I agree with Jill Filipovich’s take on this but I thought I might also say that the alleged lack of progress to which Hirschman’s recipe of “focus” is supposed to be the solution doesn’t actually seem to me to have been happening.

If you think of the long trajectory of Western society, you have women being totally excluded from the main positions of economic and political power for hundreds of years. You also have a situation where since most people are women, you can’t achieve equality by simply opening the doors of existing institutions to a new group of people. Institutions actually need to be rethought, reconfigured, and in some instances remade. That’s, you know, hard to do. So I don’t think anyone should consider it a shocking sign of things gone wrong that thirty or forty years hasn’t proven to be enough time to eradicate every problem. Nor do I think the fact that many problems remain should make people think that progress isn’t being made. On the elite issues dear to Hirschman’s heart, we saw our first woman to anchor the nightly broadcast news starting in 2006. We saw the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives sworn in in 2007. Things keep changing, which is as it should be. It’s okay for people to be impatient with the pace of change, but not so impatient that they develop a false sense of crisis and decide that throwing people of color under the bus is the way to move forward.