In today’s globalized tech world, the perception of a mainstream feminist is in likelihood to be one that is trendy, fashionable, and sexy but somehow also sexually empowered. This is the stereotypical image we are bombarded with on a daily basis. However, this perception does not portray the reality of women, in their diversity, across the world.
Jessa Crispin claims that “it wasn’t America’s rampant misogyny that doomed Hillary Clinton, it was the failures of mainstream feminism” to speak the language of daily struggles of different women in American society.
The theoretical framework of mainstream feminism is distinct from radical or socialist feminism. It imbeds its roots in the first wave of feminism, mostly with liberal feminism. Liberal feminists Mary Wollstonecraft was an advocate of education rights. Other first wave feminists including Stuart and Harriet Taylor Mill advocated for women’s right to vote.
Mainstream feminism draws upon first wave feminism, which does not seek to challenge the traditional patriarchal structures but to reform them to fit and incorporate women’s needs and wishes. This was not feminism for all, it was meant for a particular set of women, mostly elite white women who were tired of being ‘caged like pigeons’ at their husbands will, sacrificing their power, prestige and beauty.
Mainstream feminism feeds into the notion of liberal capitalistic values where societies operate freely as if social relations are free from power relations. If patriarchy is the cause of all ‘isms’ such as sexism, classism, among others, a radical transformative approach embedded in feminist epistemology is needed.
Muslim women, for example, should be the women who tell the rest of the world whether the veil is their right or whether it is a tool of subordination. They should also be the ones who tell us if this dichotomy is a false one, or whether the question of the veil is one that is even relevant in light of other more pressing matters including polygamy, employment, sexual harassment, political rights, etc.
Conclusively, mainstream feminism assumes all women are homogeneous; that for women to be free, they need to go through equal liberty and the suffrage question. Mainstream feminism needs to come to its senses and collaborate with other feminists be it Muslim, cultural feminists and other women to overthrow the system of competition, power, greed that replicates patriarchy’s needs.