Thursday, 2 October 2014

Why Mainstream Feminism is Corporate Feminism

I have deleted the link to the liberals’ hate list (originally located on my last post) after a woman featured on the list stated that the link should not be shared. My blog is not very popular at the moment so I doubt I was generating much views for the hateful (how ironic) liberals, but I wish to respect the wishes of women targeted by the site. Feel free to share links to my blog on friendly sites.

This post will add to the economics-related arguments I made in the last post. The term “mainstream feminism” in the title is merely another way of saying “liberal feminism”, since the tenants of liberal feminism are more in line with the status quo than those of radical feminism. The use of the word “corporate” in place of “bourgeois” was also a way of avoiding repetition.

Thus this article can be thought of as the conclusion to a three part discussion of how race and class are related to feminism, which began with this article. The current article will mostly focus on how liberal feminism favours those with more wealth and excludes women who have not managed to pull themselves up by their bra straps.

1. It is Opposed to “Classism” rather than Class Divisions

While radical leftists argue for the abolition of all class divisions and all power inequalities, liberal feminists advocate for an end to “classism”. In a previous post I stated that the term does not adequately describe why capitalism is harmful or oppressive. I also said that I would include a critique of the term “classism” in a future post. Well, here it is.

If I understand liberish correctly, the term “classism” refers to prejudices which are based on economic class. The first problem with this term is that, when defined in such a way, it implies that the oppressed masses are not allowed to have negative feelings towards the wealthy capitalists who rule over them, but I am going to be charitable and assume that “classism” refers mostly to the snobbish attitudes of rich people towards poor people. Even so, the term is a weak critique of capitalism, because it assumes that social disapproval is the worst problem faced by poor people. The term fails to condemn poverty itself. In fact liberals often assume that labelling a particular group as “exploited” or “victims” is itself a form of prejudice (they apply this reasoning to prostituted women, women who conform to femininity and people with disabilities.) Thus ideologies which advocate for the abolition of classes (e.g. socialism, communism and anarchism) would have to be deemed “classist” by liberals.

The term “classism” implies that poverty is yet another “empowering choice” that people make and that we should stop disapproving of those who make it. In reality, poverty is rarely a choice and even if it were it is still generally harmful to people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, the division of society into classes creates a sitution in which workers and poor people have to subordinate themselves to governments and corporations and have  little control over what is produced within their society and how it is distributed. Thus they are unable to make decisions about how energy is produced, what kind of food is available to them, what conditions people should labour under and whether or not children should be taught that boys ought to be violent and dominating, while girls ought to be submissive and obsess over their physical appearances.

Those who truly value liberty, equality and democracy and want the problems discussed above to be solved should favour an end to class divisions, not just an end to “classism”. This is not to say that poor and working class people do not experience prejudice, nor do I wish to imply that hateful feelings towards such people are not a problem. What I oppose is the notion that prejudice is the only problem that lower class people face and the assumption that class divisions are just a natural part of how the world is and yet another neutral identity that people should embrace and feel pride in, rather than a brutal hierarchy which needs to be abolished.

2. It Promotes Expensive Means of “Empowerment” 

Liberal feminists believe that “empowerment” (as they call it) mostly comes, not from banding together to form a political movement which takes to the street and demands change, but from consuming products that radical feminists have been criticising since the 1960s, including make-up, high heels and even breast implants, along with other forms of plastic surgery. This liberal path to empowerment is not one which poorer women can follow, unless they go into debt or forego spending money on more important things (like food, rent and healthcare.)

Breast implants alone cost between 10,000 – 15,000 Australian dollars and that’s not even including the costs of regular checkups or any corrective surgeries which may be needed if the original surgery goes wrong. One could buy a new car with that amount of money or pay for half of a university degree (at least until Tony Abbot’s policies raise the price of tertiary education to multiple times its current cost) or buy between 200 and 300 copies of the latest radical feminist literature. Any of those options would be a better use of one’s money, yes, even the last one.

The economic cost of make-up and fancy clothes may seem trivial by comparison. However, since fashions are constantly changing and make-up is used regularly, the total cost of such prettification accumulates over time. Throughout their lives, most women will spend thousands of dollars on such methods of prettification. The only women that are actually empowered by such practices, and the viewpoints that justify their use, are those few who are part of the capitalist class and profit from the sale of these products. Most women do not gain more social or political power by consuming such products and thus are not truly empowered by them.

The type of “sexual liberation” and “sexual subversion” advocated by liberals can also be expensive. In my view, a genuinely subversive sexuality would be one which challenges the belief that sexiness consists of one person dominating another. Instead the liberal version of “sexual subversion” reinforces this belief through the use of whips, chains and nipple torture devices. Obviously, these objects are not naturally part of either male or female bodies. They must be manufactured and are thus a source of profit for businesses. If there ever was a time when BDSM was a threat to capitalism, it is long over. Now companies that sell BDSM equipment are generating additional profit due to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and the growing popularity of BDSM practices.
Within walking distance of my home, sits a BDSM sex shop named after an aristocrat (that tells me more than I need to know about which class the BDSM community admires.) I will not reveal the actual name of the shop or the website I used to learn about its products lest I generate more publicity and hence income for it. I will tell you that a whip from that place will cost you 80 dollars (in US money.) A complete set of restraints costs 160 dollars. The “deluxe” set costs 245 dollars. Dressing up like a sexualised Hitler costs 450 dollar. Showing complete disrespect for survivors of the Holocaust and their families is probably priceless in the owners’ minds. 

In case you think the Nazi costumes and the rib crushing corsets (which cost even more than the Hitler costume) are optional, BDSM events usually have dress codes which mandate that attendants turn up in BDSM-related outfits. One is not required to dress like a fascist, but turn up wearing ordinary clothes with two digit price tags and they will kick you out for being too “vanilla-looking.” They might as well stick a “no Jews or poor people allowed” sign above the doors to their events.

3. It Celebrates the Rich and Successful

When trying to determine whether a piece of media is “feminist” or not, liberals look for “strong female characters” or strong real-life individuals who overcome social barriers to become successful. They believe that individual success stories, whether real or fictional, will inspire other individuals who watch them to live out their own American Dreams. This notion of female empowerment is clearly very capitalistic and in line with the dominant narratives about how the goal of the individual should be to advance their own status in a hierarchical world. The individual empowerment narrative is used to defend hierarchial orders by asserting that they pose no real harm and that anyone can overcome them, unless of course they are “weak” or “not inspired enough”.  

Among the women who are celebrated by liberal feminists for being “inspiring” are celebrities who have the superficial appearance of being empowered, such as Pink, Lilly Allen, Katy Perry and most of all Beyoncé. To my knowledge none of these women have sung about the need for women to form a movement to fight oppression and Katy Perry has explicitly distanced herself from feminism in her interviews (which does not really bother me because women who know nothing about feminism have no right to claim they represent it) and continues to have little understanding of what it means.

These “empowered” female celebrities sing about their personal success and not about the need for women as a group to fight against oppressive social structures. Songs such as “Stupid Girls” by Pink and “Hard out Here” by Lilly Allen attack less empowered women for supposedly being stupid, the former even goes so far as to mock women suffering from eating disorders. Then you have the song “Independent Women” by Beyoncé, which does not explicitly attack anyone, but which implies that women who are strong, independent and, most of all, rich, belong to some superior breed of women and that women who are not making their own money (and lots of it) do not. In fact the importance of an individual becoming rich or powerful or both, is a common theme in these supposedly “feminist” songs and liberals who claim they are “anti-capitalist” eat it right up.

The celebration of rich, successful individuals is taken to extremes in the case of “empowered sex workers”. Like the celebrities discussed above, these “sex workers” (as they call themselves) brag about how wealthy they are and how much expensive and totally unnecessary junk they can afford to buy. They assume, without question, that wealth, consumerism and prettiness should be the centre of a woman’s existence. Thus they reinforce all kinds of nasty stereotypes about prostituted women and women in general. 

Unlike strong female celebrities, self-proclaimed "sex workers" do not even try to argue that they earned their money through their own efforts. They blatantly claim that they are being paid excessive amounts of money to have orgasms and be physically attractive. These women do not represent the majority of women in prostitution and I doubt they are even representing their own experiences in their entirety. They use their own success to justify the exploitation of other prostituted women throughout both the first and third world and perpetuate an industry that harms these "weak" women. Self-proclaimed "sex workers" speak as if such women barely exist and are mostly an invention of "oppressive" sex negatives. Their contempt for the "non-empowered" is clear.


The reason I am complaining about the way in which liberal feminism excludes poor people and celebrates the rich is not because I want in. Rather, the fact that they came up with their brand of “empowerment” without taking into account the fact that not everybody can afford to follow it constitutes further evidence that the liberal feminist ideology does not truly represent the interests of the oppressed of the world, regardless of the intentions of its proponents.

If liberals really want to stand up for the oppressed of the world they need to recognise that not everyone chooses to be in the situation that they are in economically or in terms of work and not everybody “likes it”. They also need to recognise the difference between an inner sense of “identity” and a social role imposed onto people as part of a hierarchical system. So long as they continue to push the paradoxical view that being dominated economically, socially or sexually can somehow be a form of freedom and individuality, they cannot claim to be fighting for a better, more egalitarian world. 
That concludes my critique of liberal feminism’s approach to race and class issues. Such themes will be discussed again in the future, but for now I would like to address other issues, such as how to distinguish liberal feminists from true radicals.


  1. Great post. You've articulated many of the thoughts and feelings I've been having lately towards mainstream feminism. I've begun to suspect (although it could be paranoia) that media, corporations and so on are showcasing "feminism" in order to distract or turn women (especially younger generations) away from systemic analysis of the numerous oppressions that women deal with every day. In its place there is a hollowed out version that espouses capitalist values. I am so glad that you made the point about consuming our way to empowerment because I am feeling that once again, the decision to opt out of fashion, make-up and so on is a decision that is not favoured or expected - there's the threat of being less socially desirable if you don't conform, for instance. I know that on the occasions I have spoken out against the fashion industry, that it has been met with silence, even disdain. There are no true alternatives because not every choice is equally valued. And not everyone has the means to make the choices that we are nonetheless expected to make anyway. There are women on my FB who make updates about new purchases - clothes, shoes, make-up. I have often marvelled (and not positively either) at the cost of looking as a woman should look; companies have commodified almost every part of the human body, even the soul. There is a product for everything. There have been times when I've wasted money on a lipstick in the hopes I'll feel more confident (i.e., more likely to be socially validated if I look how I am expected to look) and in the process I feel like such a fool. My insecurity sometimes outweighs what I know to be true. I'm still affected by these things and it pisses me off. This concept of choice is a huge lie. I feel alienated by so-called feminists who suggest that twitter hashtags and Beyonce are the epitome of feminist thought and achievement (which also has the effect of further ignoring if not erasing the voices of brilliant feminist writers, both in academia and on the internet). I am tired of being thrown under the bus by so-called feminists who would rather appease men in a desperate effort to show that they're not man-haters or "extremists." God forbid they're one of *those* feminists.

    I'm sorry I've gone on a rant all over your page, but your words always mean a lot to me and I hope you keep on writing. x

    1. The media is definitely promoting liberal feminism to people. It is the first form of feminism to have mainstream approval which should be setting off alarm bells in radical's heads. Liberal feminsim does indeed promote capitalist thinking, but I don't think it's being promoted as a means of discrediting socialism.They already have plenty of media devoted to that.

      I think liberal feminism is being promoted as a means of erasing the history of radical feminism. The liberal feminists I speak with seem totally unaware that radical feminism every existed. They seem to think that all feminists who have ever existed have been pornography-loving and choice-centred.

      Even some academics (academics in the field of sociology none-the-less) seem totally clueless about the history of second wave feminism. Of course this all ties in with capitalism, because radical feminism does indeed pose a threat to the sex industry and the beauty industry, as well as to the various other industries which have economic ties them (e.g. the media, advertising, etc.)

      I think there are some women who consider make-up purchasing to be a legitimate choice that is benefiting them, but these people seem to have very narrow imaginations. They cannot comprehend the idea of world in which women do not care how they look. It's not that they are stupid or incapable of reasoning. They can use reason to figure out how best to acheive their goal of looking pretty and thus getting the self-esteem boost that a woman gets when she convinced herself she looks pretty, but liberals fail to interrogate the basic premise that prettiness is important and that prettiness is a healthy path to high self esteem (it isn't.)

      Women do make rational choices, but they make them within the conditions that are imposed onto them and when someone has spent their entire life living under a particular set conditions it can be difficult to imagine an alternative.

      By obsessing over Beyonce, liberals are indeed ignoring those who have put serious thought into understanding patriarchy, but more importantly they are ignoring those who are impoverished and uneducated, whose status has not been raised by Beyonce's "inspiration". When will learn that poverty is caused by something other than not trying hard enough? Probably about the same time that conservatives do.

      It should be noted that not all liberals brag about being moderate. Some call themselves "radical" or use the word "radical", but they have no clue what that means. "Radical" and "extreme" are not the same thing. Liberals can never be radicals, but they can be extreme liberals.

      I don't mind that you ranted. I could use with more comments, but I would prefer it if you broke your comments up into smaller paragraphs. I get the sense you are trying to respond to different parts of my article, but you have bunched your response up into one section and that makes it a little confusing, because I can't tell when you have switched topics.

      It amazes me that the BDSM community can get away with Hitler costumes while the slightest criticism of Israel is denounced as anti-Semitic. It's as if the liberal understanding of what is offensive is completely upside down, which may explain why it is so difficult for radical feminists and liberal feminists to get along and why their interactions always end in angry arguments.

  2. p.s. Absolutely disgusted and yet not surprised at the BDSM Hitler outfit. Wtf.

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  4. A self-proclaimed pro-BDSM feminist left a comment on this post that ended with a personal insult directed at me. I do not allow personal insults in the comment section of my blog, so the original comment has been deleted. However, I have copied it into this comment so that the less blatantly insulting parts of the comment can be perserved. I want to encourage debate and disagreement, but that does not mean I need to subject myself (and possibly my more supportive readers) to bullying.

    Here is what the BDSM defender said (minus the blatant insult.) I might respond to it when I am not busy with more interesting and important tasks.

    "You try to describe the whole of numerous and evolving bdsm communities in one small comment. It's not even worth disecting other than to say the argument isn't well thought out and hinges on "sex toys are expensive" and "You can't be feminist if you like power exchange". Plenty of BDSM events in my area have dress codes. Do you want to know why? Because if you go to a BDSM community vanilla event it could ruin someone's life. People have lost children in divorces because of their fetish despite being model parents. Other kink events often do have dress codes two, I've only seen a handful of events requesting specific outfits(masks, corsets, etc) and truly it is no different than any social event that has certain standards. That being said I have never heard of someone wearing such an outfit in my area. Anything like that is frowned upon and regarded as anti-Semitic. Same as people openly invoking slavery dialogue with black submissives. It is generally frowned upon. I expect you to say nothing. I'm tired of fighting people like you who are generally entrenched in the belief that people like me are completely brainwashed and should be shamed for our sexual desires."