The Failure of Mainstream Feminism
© Illustration by INJECTION
Why mainstream feminism is exclusionary and creates new forms of inequality.
The mainstream feminism movement has long been criticized for focusing mainly on white, affluent, non-disabled women. It creates inequality and exploitation by eliminating women who face oppression due to their race, social class, sexuality or disability. This movement is basically centered on helping white women achieve equality with men, and because of that, it is also assumed that every woman in the world shares the same perspectives and experiences with oppression as they do. This is not feminism.
Feminism, by definition, is the advocacy of women's rights based on political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. The real issue with mainstream feminism, however, is that it’s not intersectional enough and not inclusive of all women. The movement often forgets to include people of colour, queer, trans, disabled, and lower-class women and has become a rather biased movement based on first world problems of Western society. The feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser has even linked the values of liberal feminists to neoliberal economic values. Their perspective may be based on the idea of equality and sharing universal values, but it discriminates against every other woman who doesn’t fit their ideology of what a “true” feminist is all about.
The problem with this type of feminism is that it concentrates on empowering educated, middle-class women to climb the corporate ladder. Their “liberal values” are only beneficial for boss women in powerful positions, where gender equality is given according to the capitalist system. Don’t get it wrong, power is indeed important, but women seeking power within capitalism rather than interrogating the structural oppression of capitalism itself in relation to social class and race - that doesn’t make a real difference.
Surely, it’s great to finally see striving women in positions of power within organisations, but feminism should be about overcoming those existing social hierarchies. Celebrating only "successful" women as liberated merely creates further inequalities. It devalues housewives and caregivers who are regarded as less successful and old fashioned by society or even labelled as not being true feminists. Yet, these “real feminists” can only benefit from the values of mainstream feminism by relying on “others” and they do so by passing their own household and care work onto usually low-waged, racialised and immigrant women. For women who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, this whole movement is not about being paid equally with men, but it starts with the demand for equal opportunities and access to education.
We all have to understand that real feminism is about fighting for equal rights for all women. It’s about having a choice and the freedom to choose. No woman should feel judged and devalued by society because of unfair opportunities due to systemic oppression or simply for the chosen path she has taken in life. Real progress will only be made if the movement becomes inclusive of all women.