Hillary Clinton’s efforts to cast Donald Trump as a sexist have abruptly been dropped after his forceful counter punches. Her campaign has chosen to narrow its focus on attacking Trump on foreign policy, immigration, tax returns and leadership ability, moving away from positioning herself as a champion and role model for women.
But while the issue of sexism is now on the back burner, this epic presidential campaign has already exposed modern feminism as disingenuous. From playing the “woman card” to fighting for “women’s issues,” it is clear that feminism is now misunderstood by its own advocates who no longer want equal treatment, but instead demand special treatment.
Consider the campaign rhetoric itself. Like many Americans, I have found it distasteful. The personal insults have been cringe-worthy but anyone who has been following knows the charade has left no one — male or female — unscathed.
On both the left and the right, women have stood alongside men on debate stages in front of millions of people to compete for the job of president of the United States. But while Carly Fiorina held her own, drawing on her business experience and knowledge of the issues to win over voters, Hillary Clinton time-and-time again seeks an edge for simply being a woman. What could possibly be sexist about Bernie responding to her interruption in the March debate with “Excuse me, I’m talking”? It looks to me like Bernie is treating Clinton has a formidable competitor – isn’t this what the feminist movement sought?
And on the Right, we have seen Donald Trump mock a male reporter for his disability, belittle Marco Rubio by calling him “little Marco,” and malign Ted Cruz by calling him Lynin’ Ted. How is it then that using the same tactic to destroy his male opponents, to destroy his female opponents is sexist? It’s not, it’s just unkind and wrong. As Mark Cuban noted on Your World with Neil Cavuto, “There’s nothing he [Donald Trump] has said about a woman that he hasn’t said to me. He’s called me ugly.”
But this is all just a more theatrical display of the broader inconsistency with what many women today seem to be demanding under the guise of feminism: special treatment.
Let’s start with business. If we really want to be respected and treated equally, why do we allow the law the categorize us as having a handicap? Indeed, government programs exists that both reward businesses that contract with woman-owned businesses, and government agencies require that certain amounts of government contracts are awarded to women-owned businesses. This is not competing on merit, this is asking for an advantage and it’s insulting.
As a business owner, I want clients to choose to work with me because they believe my company is the best for the job. And, if it is truly the best – the free market has a great way of making that happen: self-interest and profit. And, having to compete to earn business only makes my company better.
And men and women business owners should compete on a fair playing field. Where is the evidence that women are disadvantaged? Women now outnumber men in college and graduate school completion rates.
We see the same request for extra help in the work place when it comes to negotiating pay. Politicians that promote government involvement in negotiating our pay are called “champions” for women. Why does someone have to be a champion for us? I think we can be our own champions.
Hadley Heath of the Independent Women’s Forum spotlights what this looks like in action: House of Cards’ Robin Wright’s story in which she demands the same pay as her male co-star. As Heath points out, Wright didn’t scream sexism – she pulled evidence (her character was more popular), complied a case, and went to bat for herself! Compare this to Jennifer Lawrence story. Lawrence laments that she didn’t request more money for role in American Hustle because she didn’t want to appear “spoiled.”
The reality is that asking for more money, more vacation time, more flexible hours is hard, uncomfortable and a risk, but Lawrence is on the right track in blaming herself. More women should look to themselves before looking to the government and make sure they’ve done all they can do to be their own advocates, first.
Make no mistake, sexism and other forms of discrimination exist and we have the Equity Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to offer legal protections against discriminatory pay practices. When true discrimination exists it should be addressed, but women should first look to themselves, be honest about evaluating their contributions and value to their company or organization, and then ask for what they want — have the tough conversation and take the risk. They’ll likely discover a new way of feeling like they earn it! And, this feeling isn’t one government intervention can replicate.
I’m not discounting the work my foremothers have done, but somewhere along the way, feminists have gotten confused about the goals: equal opportunity, respect, choice and earned success. When it comes to staking our claims professionally, Robin Wright offers a great role model for today’s true feminist.
Christine A. Goss is Founder and President of Pixton Public Relations.