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A Few Thoughts on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Anti-Feminists’ Feminist Icon

By: Shellsea Lomeli

Watching Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the highest court in the land in 2018, despite the sexual assault allegations against him, crushed me. I am sure it crushed a lot of people, especially sexual assault survivors who had finally started to see the significant impact of sharing their stories and holding aggressors accountable through the Me Too Movement. In a TedTalk given a month after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement, described this feeling of numbness in the face of defeat. “Numbness,” she said, “is not always the absence of feeling. Sometimes it’s an accumulation of feelings.” I felt this numbness when Kavanaugh took his seat next to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a feminist trailblazer, and I felt it again when Amy Coney Barrett replaced her. 

Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice was not just a slap in the face for survivors. It was an example of how men in power step on the necks of women everywhere and society just lets them. When Congress confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination, they also confirmed to women everywhere that their voices do not matter. What women think, say, and feel is not as important as what a man does. And it made me numb as a feminist — as a woman. 

It took me a while to build myself back up to the “raging” feminist that I was before my country’s government allowed a rapist to decide what I get to do with my body. But I did. Because a woman’s fight is never over, especially when facing setbacks like this one. 

It was easy for me to see Kavanaugh as a villain and to understand his abuse of privilege as a straight, white, affluent man. But it is also easy to make the mistake of believing that men are more likely to be against you but women will always be on your side. This error in thought is probably why this year’s Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, just a month after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, brought me back to that feeling of numbness. 

In theory, the confirmation of another woman to the Supreme Court is a huge step for feminists. All but four Justices have been men with Barrett being only the fifth woman to serve at the highest court. However, this is absolutely not the case when the woman confirmed goes against everything that feminists stand for and have worked tirelessly to accomplish. 

First off, Amy Coney Barrett is pro-life. While she may not have openly stated her stance on the controversial subject in such clear wording, her recurring comments on the topic align with the ideology of those who are against a woman’s right to choose. During a discussion in 2013, Barrett stated that “supporting poor, single mothers would be the best way to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S.” Supporting mothers as an alternative to allowing women to choose whether they want to be a mother is a common strategy that the pro-life community takes. During her confirmation hearing, Barrett would not comment on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that granted women the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, but she has previously said that “Republicans are heavily invested in getting judges who will overturn Roe [v. Wade].” As a Justice nominated by a Republican administration, it is not a far stretch to assume that she will try to strip women of the right to choose what happens to their bodies. 

Barrett’s stance on Roe v. Wade is not the only component of her confirmation that poses a threat to women and the feminist movement. There is also the fact that anti-feminist people everywhere are idolizing Barrett’s accomplishment as an accomplishment for all women. Another woman has been appointed to the Supreme Court which must mean that the divide between men and women in American society is not as dramatic as the feminist movement claims it is. But we, as a collective, must understand that Amy Coney Barrett is not all women. She belongs to the percentage of women who are privileged in incredible ways. She is a white, heterosexual woman who was born into a well-off family. She went to private school. She has access to childcare. The list goes on. Of course, I am not saying there is anything wrong with being privileged. What is wrong, however, is allowing the continuation of the false narrative that Barrett represents all women. 

The truth of the matter is this. Not all women with only three years of experience as a judge would have been confirmed to the Supreme Court. They probably would not have even gotten a nomination. 

In the past few weeks, I have seen a recurring post on social media. The wording is different each time but the message remains the same: Amy Coney Barrett is a perfect example of an under-qualified white woman getting the job before a person of color has a chance. We cannot ignore that. 

Overall, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court poses a threat, both directly and indirectly to the past and future accomplishments of the feminist movement. There is a lot to be wary of in the coming years as she serves as a Justice. But, just as we persevered through the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, we will persevere once more. 

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Why is London’s New Mary Wollstonecraft Statue so Divisive?

By: Claire Armstrong

Most feminists can agree that men of history are disproportionately memorialized in public and private spaces, and that the women who have shaped our world deserve more recognition than they get. So one might think that erecting a new statue dedicated to philosopher, writer, and women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft in a London park could only be a good thing. Unfortunately, for many feminists, artist Maggi Hambling’s work was not the emblem of empowerment they were hoping for. 

The statue, which stands in Newington Green, cost £143,000, and took ten years to create, depicts a nude female figure rising out of a swirly silver mass. Hambling describes the piece as “[involving] this tower of intermingling female forms culminating in the figure of the woman at the top who is challenging, and ready to challenge, the world.” However, critics see it in a different light, and feel that it is disrespectful to Wollstonecraft, who was outspoken against society’s focus on women’s bodies rather than their minds. Regarding the damaging effect this can have on women, Wollstonecraft once said, “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.” That is to say, when women are told all their lives that their bodies and their beauty are all that matter, they themselves only invest in their bodies and their beauty, rather than cultivating their minds. 

As such, some question why a statue meant to commemorate Wollstonecraft places such a focus on the female body. The campaign for the statue, called Mary on the Green, has clarified that the sculpted figure is not meant to be Wollstonecraft herself, but “an everywoman” who “emerges out of organic matter, almost like a birth.” However, this sentiment, too, has been criticized, for the woman depicted is very conventionally attractive, with European features, and, as such, may not be the best representative for “the everywoman.” Additionally, Caroline Criado-Perez argues that instead of trying to encapsulate all women in a single statue, we should erect more statues memorializing specific women. “We’ve celebrated so few women from the past that the temptation is to attempt [to represent] all of womanhood, which is never an issue when it’s a male statue,” she says. 

The conversation surrounding the sculpture is a complex one, and is evidence that the feminist movement is vast and nuanced, with plenty of room for differing opinions within it. The controversy surrounding this particular work of art does not diminish the need for more representation and recognition of the work women have put in to make their mark on the world. 

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Why Feminism is Inherently Intersectional

By: Claire Armstrong

A few years ago, if you were to ask me who my feminist icons were, you would have thought I grew up in the seventies. Early on in my exploration of feminism, I read Gloria Steinem’s book, My Life on the Road, and it inspired me to do my research into second wave feminism and learn about the feminists who came before me. I was so inspired by women like Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan, and I would have loved to go back in time to join their ranks. I still think the work they did was incredibly valuable, but now I see issues with the second wave feminist movement as a whole. 

My biggest problem with second wave feminism, and what I think most significantly distinguishes it from my own definition of feminism, is that, at the forefront, it often was not intersectional. There was a lot of debate among activists about the inclusion of Black and lesbian rights in the Equal Rights Amendment and in the goals delineated at the National Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977. Some second-wave feminist leaders, such as Friedan (who authored The Feminine Mystique, which is often hailed as the work that kick-started second-wave feminism) felt that including explicit demands for racial or sexual equality would make the goals of second-wave feminism seem too radical and alienate potential supporters. It is important to note that there were women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and active allies of marginalized groups who did advocate for the inclusion of rights for women who were not cisgendered, white and straight. However, their voices were not at the forefront of the movement. The mindset that the feminist movement should obtain equality for cis, straight women before including the needs of any marginalized women made white feminism all too pervasive. 

In 2020, we can make no more excuses for white feminism. We never should have, so now is our chance to draw the line. Feminism is inherently intersectional. It is connected to all issues of inequality. If white women want to fight for equity for themselves, they must also fight for equity for racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, the differently-abled, and all other marginalized groups. For too long, many women have not felt included in the movement that claims to champion equal opportunity for all. White women must remember that for so many women, achieving gender equity would still not place them on a level playing field, because they also face other forms of discrimination. Feminists must advocate for equal opportunity for all marginalized groups so that when we do at last achieve gender equity, women of all walks of life will be able to access the opportunities they deserve.