Revisiting a presumed-dead movement

When Susan Faludi described the concept of backlash in her 1991 book, she perhaps did not conceptualize how insidious it was and how far it would ultimately go. In the ’80s, backlash occurred as a direct counterattack on the forceful ’70s version of feminism. Faludi accurately described how the media paraded burned out, sterile career women across the stage to inform women of feminism’s lies. However, as she adeptly pointed out in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, polls of single women showed the majority to be incredibly happy with their careers, their lives and their ability to make informed choices.

By the time the ’90s rolled around, a new trend emerged in the media. Women were spoon-fed the idea that feminism had succeeded. This, of course, ignored the continued discrimination of women in the workplace, rising rates of domestic abuse and the huge step backward for women in places like Afghanistan. It ignored the impossible consumer image of women strolling across fashion runways and TV commercials. It ignored that stereotypical male and female roles were still played out on Hollywood screens, where women with ambition were ultimately bitchy blondes and men with ambition were manly. It ignored those young men who readily called a woman hysterical simply for being angry or upset. It ignored that these same young men felt it was–and still is–OK to call a woman “femi-nazi” or, more handily, “bitch” if she mentioned anything remotely related to the current status of women in society. What better way to control the masses than to force-feed them a set of insecurities that are reinforced every time they do anything?

About the only thing most people don’t get is exactly what the evolution of the feminist movement has done for all genders. The very fact that feminism itself suffered its own discriminatory growing pains–it was heavily criticized as a white, middle-class women’s movement–taught women a very important lesson. Not all women are the same; not all their goals for equality are the same. Women vary by colour, class and economic status, as do all people. However, women remain the largest, universally oppressed group of people in the world.

It often feels that for every two steps forward, women elsewhere experience several steps backward. To be cliché, feminism’s death has been greatly exaggerated and at great cost to society. This supplement is a brief attempt to address old and new issues facing women worldwide.

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