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Cosmopolitan Feminism

This Week in the Narrative 73

Nigel Clarke

This week, Walmart announced it is banning Cosmopolitan magazine from its checkout lines.

“This is what real change looks like,” the executive director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said in a statement.

It reminded me of this:

This was a piece of art associated with the Women’s March last year. It received, as a representative of the bigger picture, some criticism, specifically for what was written inside the speech bubbles the girl or woman is examining.

“You’d be so much prettier if you wore makeup.”

“You’re going grey, you ought to dye your hair.”

“You need to lose weight.”

It is not that the problems represented by the words are unimportant, this was not the criticism. It is that they represent only a very small piece of what women might have been marching for.

Walmart bans Cosmopolitan from its checkout lines, presumably because of the skewed and unattainable image of women those types of magazines present.

I can’t say that I am in disagreement with this thought. Admittedly, I would prefer not to be hit over the head with advertisements for cultural expectation while I am just trying to get some discount meat and socks. I would imagine the feeling is even stronger for many women.

But … Walmart? Seriously?

This is a company which has been repeatedly called both  “the worst company in America,” and the “worst-paying.” It is a company synonymous with the exploitation of workers.

Certainly working broadly towards facilitating the ability of women to enjoy a healthy body image free from the negative demands of culture is important. But here is a different stat: Over 80% of low-wage workers in the US are women.

Companies like Walmart, who do not pay employees a living wage, offer benefits, or allow unionization, are, if you are being kind, part of the problem; they are the problem if you are being less so.

No matter what magazines they carry, Walmart disenfranchises millions of women simply by existing.

“Girls can’t do that”

This fracturing of feminism relates to another story from this week. At an event at Rutgers University, Hillary Clinton responded to criticism that she should “go away” by saying I was really struck by how people said that to me,” and following with, “They never said that to any man.”

Regardless of the validity of Hillary’s propensity to find sexism under every rock, her opinion stems from the idea held by many that having a woman as President would be a major moment for the country. Hard to disagree with this.

But I think back to a piece I wrote in during the 2016 election exploring the Democratic Party’s systemic discrimination against and subversion of women of color candidates. One such woman was Lucy Flores.

Flores grew up in poverty as one of 13 children of a single father and “fell through the cracks,” as many do, when she dropped out of high school and became involved with a gang. But she turned her life around and earned her GED, a college degree and a law degree before she was elected as a Nevada State Representative. In 2016, Flores sought election to the US House of Representatives.

Just when it looked as though Flores would become the Democratic nominee, and perhaps the national representative after that, the Clinton campaign machine swooped in, subverted Flores, and dragged her Democratic opponent over the finish line.

This type of thing happened repeatedly under the leadership and direction of Hillary Clinton, though it also took place for many years before her. I would suggest looking into Cynthia McKinney for a prime historical example.

The point is that having a woman as President would be great, but so would taking input, advice, and experiences from different types of people, say … women of color, women who grew up in poverty?

The Democratic Party advertises itself as the party of the marginalized, to which the marginalized say, ‘Great, because we have some ideas!’ This is where Democrats then respond, ‘go away.’

Do you think that a young girl today growing up in a mansion in a private community, as Hillary Clinton did, going to the finest private schools then the finest universities, as Hillary Clinton did, don’t think she can be anything she wants to be? Conversely, do you think a girl growing up in poverty in Nevada believes she can be anything she wants to be? She probably doesn’t believe that because, evidently, she can’t.

The criticism of Hillary Clinton, of the Women’s March and its associated art pieces, of Walmart banning Cosmo, isn’t that their contributions to the plight of women are irrelevant, it is that they overrepresent one piece of feminism, while totally ignoring another.


Quote of the Week:

Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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