A number of women students just alerted me to Deborah Copaken Kogan’s “My So-called Post-Feminist Life” which recently appeared in the Nation. (http://www.thenation.com/article/173743/my-so-called-post-feminist-life-arts-and-letters). Kogan reveals decades of subtle and not so subtle sex discrimination, leaving her feeling misunderstood, alienated, and questioning her career as a writer. Although in different form, I too feel similarly discouraged. I was too young to have firsthand experience of the women’s liberation movement but I naively believed that feminists of the 1960 and 1970s had broken through so many barriers to equality, that my own career would be smooth sailing. Yet from the time that I entered law school, I have continually confronted sexism and I quickly learned that I was better off keeping as silent as my conscious would allow. Women have a hall pass to the corridors of male power which can be revoked easily should one actually identify, name, and voice their own discrimination. In this post-feminist world to be a feminist is to be labeled angry, humorless, weak, too sensitive, passé, irrelevant, overall a pain. “This was all taken care of decades ago, stop whining, get with the program.”
We are supposed to imagine that structural and institution sexism and racism are relics of the past, a long ago problem that has since been solved. Remnants of discrimination are understood be isolated and personal problems – a mere failure of communication or civility. In our current world, the personal is decidedly not political. If we look around and see few women colleagues well what does that matter? They had their chance. It is just another indication of women’s personal choice not to join or to stay. Such women have chosen to leave the party early. Yet few see that such decisions often mask exhaustion, frustration, and alienation. Were we ever really invited to the party in the first place? Hillary Clinton did it, why can’t you?