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Feminism Needs a Leader

Updated on October 7, 2015

The history of feminism in America can be broken down into waves with clearly defined goals and leaders to represent them. Feminism has tackled a variety of issues over the decades like the right to vote, reproductive rights, equality in the work place, reproductive rights again, representation in media, and so on. Each movement had a clearly defined leader, or leaders like Susan B Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem. Today’s movement emphasizes two things, reproductive rights (I’m sensing a pattern) and having all the different movements, women’s, LGBT, civil rights, etc., all come together under one banner and is led by Tumblr.

The reason why today’s feminism lacks a clear leader is simple: wide combination of issues and social media. People have been trying to shove white and black feminism together for decades. It has never worked, yet that hasn’t kept people from trying. Now add LGBT rights, disabilities, the environment, immigration, and just about any other social issue you can think of and you can see where the issue is. It’s impossible to have a clearly defined movement, let alone a leader, when the movement encompasses so much. Trying to focus on everything will only result in a focus on nothing. Unsurprising, this shoving together of every social movement in existence under the banner of “feminism” has created a hierarchy with white, straight feminism at the top and everything else filtered down to the bottom. If anything, it should be the other way around with the struggles of colored women being more urgent than those of white women (and so on), but sadly it isn’t.

This is the biggest reason why the current wave of feminism isn’t working. It’s basically impossible to have a clearly defined leader since a good leader represents the group as a whole. You could get a disabled, transgender, pansexual woman of color leading feminism and even she wouldn’t represent the interest of everyone involved in the movement.

And trust me when I say having a leader is essential. Every other social movement in history had someone that the majority could really get behind. Today, all we have are people rabbling about the issues on websites like Tumblr or Twitter (or in my case, HubPages).

There is strength in numbers, and modern day feminism is stronger than ever thanks to intersectionality, but it is also unfocused. Social media may make it easier for like-minded people to find each other and organize, but it does not replace the need for a leader. A million voices speaking at the same time is a mess. One person speaking on behalf of the rest is much easier to listen to and harder to ignore.

All the different movements that have been awkwardly sewn together need to break a part and be allowed to do their own thing. People can be apart of and support multiple movements, but "feminism" needs to be re-defined to mean "women's rights" again. Don't call environmental issues feminist issues. They're not. They're environmental issues. Each movement needs to have its own clear set of priorities to focus on and its own leader to rally behind.

If you need further proof that intersectionality can backfire on a movement, just look at Black Lives Matter. Activists have been trying to hijack the movement and remake it into All Lives Matter. Yes, all lives do matter, but we're focusing on black lives right now and trying to take spotlight away from what black people face in America today is not helping anyone. Yes, gay lives matter. Yes, trans lives matter. Yes, all human lives matter, but that's not what the movement is about.

You can believe in equal rights for women, people of color, LGBT+, and so on. But so long as all those things are awkwardly shoved together under one banner, nothing is going to get the amount of solo attention it deserves.

But if people insist on keeping things as is, feminism is going to need a leader that resonates with a wide variety of people. Here's some suggestions:

Claire Underwood from House of Cards

Why it’s a great idea: She’s basically Hillary Clinton and feminism loves her. She'd get a lot done but when we asked how she did it, her response would be a very diplomatic way of saying "hahaha, don't worry about it." A documentary about all the back room deals she made will go viral and the team who made it will all mysteriously disappear one by one. Unlikely you say? Well her husband is the president, soooooooo.........

Sallie Mae and/ or Navient

Why it’s a great idea: They are pretty much in control of everyone’s lives anyway. Although, they would probably completely miss the point of equality and just raise the interest rates for all white men and call it a day.

Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII

Why it’s a great idea: Because a lot of feminists think punching someone in the face, just because they said something you don’t like, is acceptable behavior that should be applauded.

Olivia Pope from Scandal

Why it’s a great idea: Because she’s Olivia Pope. Equal rights would be achieved world wide in a matter of days and all it would require is a lot of intense dialogue, a few dead bodies, and a year's supply of wine and popcorn. You know what? Olivia Pope is definitely our best bet. Someone give her a call.

Failing any of those suggestions working out, we need to rethink how feminism is structured so we can actually start making some meaningful change.


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      Howard Schneider 

      3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very interesting hub, Meghan. I agree with your premise that the feminist movement needs a strong leader. This is true of most movements including the earliest days of the Women's Movement. occupy Wall Street has splintered because of the lack of one. Black Lives Matter is promising because they have some young leaders but not a strong one yet. The feminist movement has many strong candidates and I believe that given time they will get back on track. Not that they really are far off track. Social Conservatives give them much fuel. Great job, Meghan.


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