Who thinks Ivanka Trump is a feminist? Seriously, who? As far as I can tell, the only people calling her a feminist are Ivanka herself and conservatives who use her to attack real feminists as a pack of radical banshees. What there are a lot of, though, are articles by feminists explaining why Ivanka is not a feminist to the unnamed people out there who supposedly think she is one. Well, OK, message received.
Not so long ago, feminism was said to be enjoying a moment: think grassroots groups like Shout Your Abortion, pop-culture icons like Beyoncé and Lena Dunham, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But popularity bred contempt. Feminism, went the critique, had become too inclusive—too consumerist, corporate, individualist, and superficial. From being a label no one wanted to wear, it had become a label that could be claimed by anyone—and used to sell anything, to the great benefit of the real enemy, capitalism. Jessa Crispin’s just-published manifesto, Why I Am Not a Feminist, is a particularly sweeping rendition of this line of thinking. (“My feminism is not one of incremental change, revealed in the end to be The Same as Ever, But More So. It is a cleansing fire.” Etc.) So too is the demonization of “liberal feminism” as incarnated in Hillary Clinton, which one can find all over the left (even in liberal magazines like the New Republic, where Crispin blames Trump’s election on Hillary being the Wrong Kind of Feminist—because the evangelical Christians and Republican white women who voted for him are just waiting for that cleansing fire, and the nearly 3 million votes that gave Clinton the popular-vote margin only prove how fraudulent her feminism is).
There’s some truth to these critiques. A movement to fundamentally change society has to have more grit and content and analysis than “You go, girlfriend!” I don’t think one can be a feminist and oppose legal abortion, for example, because that means you think a woman is basically, as an Oklahoma politician recently put it, a potential “host” for a fertilized egg—a view that is incompatible with women’s human rights. At the same time, a movement that claims to represent the interests of half the people in the world has to have broader appeal than one is likely to find in the pages of Jacobin or The Nation. The pop-feminist website Jezebel has probably introduced more young women to feminism than anything since The Feminine Mystique (another work now criticized as bourgeois and individualist, although it was written by a woman who was close to the Communist Party).