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Demagoguing Feminism for Fun and Profit

This morning we’re all treated to a feminist screed by John Chait about some comments Diane Ravitch made about Campbell Brown.

If you’re surprised that someone like Chait should suddenly wrap himself in the mantle of feminism and set himself up as judge and jury as to who’s a good feminist and who’s not, don’t be. Because that demagogue party is just getting started.

If and when Hillary Clinton decides to run for the White House — and probably before — we’re going to be treated to a whole host of saggy old white men who bang their secretaries, berate their wives and despise woman who gives them “lip” as they take to marching down Main Street with burning bra in hand.

I don’t really want to get into the merits of the Ravitch/Brown comments because I don’t want to distract from the larger looming issue: the fact that we will all soon be professionally jammed up and manipulated into accepting everything from bad neoliberal interventionist policy to lawless Wall Street raiding to NSA spies in your granny’s underwear drawer or we will be accused of being woman-haters.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent your life fighting for women’s rights and women’s causes, because Feminism Inc. (or the various campaigns and their myriad “consultants”) will now get to decide whether you support women or not.

They’ll find a handful of feminists with good bona fides to lead the way. Then a swarm of professional pro trolls (and the media who love them) will be out in force using these “movement leaders” to castigate critics into mute submission regarding policies that were vociferously opposed when George Bush was in office.

And it won’t just be Hillary Clinton who will benefit from this new found wave of feminist demagoguery. That good “liberal” Elizabeth Warren is out there trying to facilitate a new round of Fannie/Freddie bailouts and give them the Good Progressive Seal of Approval even as she rails before cheering crowds against tax breaks for billionaire and the greedy 1%. The fact that her actions do not match up with her words will be beside the point. You’ll be a sexist pig if you criticize her, too.

I bring this up because identity politics has become a very effective tool for opportunistic institutions of power to beat the public (not just liberals) into submission on issues they heretofore very vocally opposed.

It demeans both the causes and the principles that motivate them to let them be abused in this way, especially by people who ordinarily could care less about them until it suits advancement of their own personal agenda. And by allowing people to throw around the accusation of “sexism” like confetti, the genuine oppression of women will be conflated with political hyperbole and get lost in the mix.

To the extent that people genuinely become engaged in women’s issue, that’s great. Using them to sling accusations against your political foes, however, is not an auspicious way to start.

John Chait simply hates liberals and will grab anything within arms’ reach to bash them. But the institutional feminism-baiters are on their way.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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