Use These Words

How is it that Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, was able to write a 900+ word article about using the old "hysterical" canard against Hillary Clinton, but never once use the words sexism or misogyny?

I mean, yes, fantastic, great, superb, the article is all about the long history of marginalizing women with variations on the ancient "hysteria" diagnosis, which was a disease of the uterus and ergo unique to women. And, sure, there are references to how playing the hysteria card is "the go-to weapon for people who would keep women down."

But where is the name for a weapon used singularly against women; where is the name for the institutional oppression of women?

Hirshman and/or her editors have disappeared the words "sexism" and "misogyny" from her piece just like the word "rape" is being systematically disappeared from news stories. And, whether conscious or not, it has functionally the same effect—to promulgate the idea that there is not a systemic problem affecting women.

Erasing all traces of systematic oppression is the most effective way to subvert the rationale for feminism/womanism. It is the disappearing of institutional inequality that underlies the passive feminist backlash represented by casual questions like, "Is feminism even necessary anymore?"

That's a question that no one would have cause to ask if we hadn't erased from our common language the descriptive words of systematic oppression. If incidents of sexism were identified thusly every time they were reported, not only would the rationale for feminism still be bloody obvious, but it would highlight the absurdity of the exasperated eye-rolling at feminists/womanists who do the unpopular work of naming this stuff when no one else will.

The painful irony is that Hirshman was just quoted in Amanda Fortini's much-discussed New York magazine article "The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the Fourth Wave" (about which Chet posted here):
Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, said she thinks the feminist movement, even the third wave, may have seen its final days. For another movement to reach critical mass, she said, women in society may need to experience what she calls "an accretion of insult."
"An accretion of insult" is just another way of saying that women need to understand that sex-based inequality is a systemic problem—that it's not just a dude grabbing your ass on the train here and a smaller paycheck than your male cohort with the same experience there, but an institutional problem endemic to the whole culture.

If Hirshman has an interest in seeing a new feminist wave, or a new sex-based movement altogether, develop in response to the "accretion of insult" all sentient women experience (despite whether they choose to acknowledge it), then she also has a vested interest in using the terminology that describes that accretion. It is called sexism, and, specific to women, it is called misogyny.

Talking about the history of "hysteria" being wielded like a cudgel against uppity women is great—but it needs to be described as sexism, as misogyny, as part of the larger history of women's oppression. These words exist for a reason.

Use them.

[H/T Shaker Brian in Bloomington.]

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