Fair-weather feminism? You’re probably thinking “What the hell, lady? How exactly is the female climate fair right now?” Okay, keep reading and just give me a chance.
What has marked every moment of 2017 since the 20th day of the year? Adversity. And what does adversity foster? Resistance. I contend that there hasn’t been such an uprising of like-minded women since the 1960s and 70s, during what is commonly referred to as the second wave of feminism. But if that was the second wave of feminism, then how (and why) have decades passed without another significant wave rolling into town? And when was the first?
A brief history lesson: Women have been saying “Hey, we’re here; we want our rights,” for approximately always. Because, hello, common sense, folks. In America, the abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century spurred things into action. Women made up a large portion of those who supported and contributed to the effort to eradicate slavery. The limits of their participation brought to light the inequities that faced women in American society, as well as under American law. Thus, the suffrage movement was born and, despite many achievements and setbacks, it has ever since persisted.
To return to the question at hand, why has it taken such an enormous number of years for feminism to once again gain a popular foothold? Why have we waited for the effects of trickle-down feminism to reach us, instead of cultivating a grassroots movement of our own? Simply put: Complacency. Although the Equal Rights Amendment, introduced to Congress for the first time in 1923, has yet to be signed into law, we as women have been coaxed and appeased and slyly convinced not to care — and it has worked marvelously.
Fun Fact: The Equal Rights Amendment is only three sentences in length. Its sole purpose is to guarantee total gender equality under the law, nothing less and nothing more. And yet, nearly 100 years later, it remains a mere idea, a whisper of a promise that parity is a worthy cause after all.
The Equal Rights Amendment
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Now here we are in 2017, the year of the pink pussy cat hat. Women are marching in the streets, demanding to be seen by a governmental administration that is determined to overlook them. The thing is, women have been overlooked for far longer than DJT has been President. His rise to power has served to make us aware of the fragility of women’s rights in this country. Our bodies, our families, our futures are still primarily dictated by middle-aged white men whom we’ve never met, and finally, finally that bothers us.
The problem is that we must continue to care. Every time we gain momentum and then lose traction, we slide backward and erase the progress that we’ve made. Even worse, we allow too much time to pass and we erase the memory of the progress that we’ve made. Let’s break that cycle. But how?
Well, let me assure you that you already have everything you need to become an eternal, lifelong, card carrying member of the feminist movement. Not convinced? I’ve compiled this handy checklist for you.
- The intrinsic belief that women and men are equal
- The willingness to share this concept with those around you, through words (the kind variety) and actions (the strong variety)
- Optional: Feminist paraphernalia, i.e. t-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs, ideally from an obscure online startup
What else should you be armed with? The knowledge that our ultimate goal is complete legal equality. It will take longer to fully shift society’s mindset, but with the weight of the law on our side, we can get there. It’s also vital to remember that you will be a feminist for a greater length of time than a single presidential term. You may even have to be an active feminist under the leadership of a President you vote for. The point is, we have collectively accepted good enough for long enough. From this point forward, we will be mindful of the false sense of security and we will blaze ahead.
Be extremely wary of those who tell you that girl power is a trend. It’s not. Women are graduating from college in increasingly higher numbers and female entrepreneurship is exploding, but this is not a fleeing aberration. This is the future. It’s time to join together to protect the legacy that we are creating.
If you know a fair-weather feminist, or if you are the fair-weather feminist (hey, it happens), then step up and work to keep our numbers strong. We want every last nail polished fist to be raised in solidarity. This train is no longer making stops, but there is plenty of room for everyone to jump aboard.