Note: On August 10, 2013 the Indianapolis Star ran an essay by two women calling themselves “The Chicks on the Right.” The piece is the first of a series, according to the editor’s note that appeared at the beginning of the column. In the essay, “Chicks on the Right: Here’s what real feminism looks like,” the Chicks begin by saying “The word ‘feminist’ has been hijacked by liberals, and we’re taking it back.” Later in the piece they write that liberal feminists are “…not feminists at all. They’re parasites.”
Dear Amy Jo and Miriam,
First thing you’ll notice, of course, is that I’ve chosen to address your by your real names. I think that’s important. Clark Kent goes into a phone booth and changes into his Superman persona to do things that he would/could never do dressed as himself. I want to talk to the two women behind the pseudonyms, the ones who exist when you are not wearing the cape and tights of the media personalities you have determined to become.
Why? Because I want to talk about something that is often antithetical to what media personalities are allowed to talk about (at least if they want to remain media personalities). I want to talk about using your voices to create meaningful change. Which is quite different than simply making noise to get attention.
Creating lasting change
In order to create lasting change one has to have a broad understanding of the constituency that will have to participate in the change. Not just conservatives, but liberals and conservatives and everyone in between. This broad understanding is necessary because creating change requires the consent and willing participation of MOST PEOPLE. You are not involved in a society made up exclusively of conservatives. So conservatives cannot create lasting change by simply banding together and attacking the people viewed as the opposition.
Human beings participate in creating change much more willingly if they feel heard, if they feel there is some empathy for the challenges they face, or at least feel there is a basic understanding of who they are and what issues inform their lives.
Calling liberal feminists, like me, “parasites” and “harpies” may be fun for you on some level, but it does nothing to make me want to participate with you in creating meaningful change, even if I am in agreement that some change needs to happen. Instead it feels so ill-informed, that it compels me to discount every aspect of your presentation.
If you have problems with my politics, perhaps we could engage in a peaceful discussion, to see if we could find some common ground, some place to start working together. But if you call me names, your posse may think it’s really funny, and that may make you feel like a good comedian, but it accomplishes nothing other than that, because I’m just going to shake my head and walk away.
Privilege can be a problem, especially if you are not aware of it
I can tell from your pictures that you fit in pretty well with societal “norms.” You are white people. You are heterosexual. I see the blond hair and the make-up, I caught your references to stiletto heels which I take to mean you are comfortable appearing attractive, in the way our society defines that. I read references in Amy Jo’s bio that leads me to believe she is a Christian. All of which is totally cool with me. That could describe several of my friends.
But, in Indiana at least, all those things probably mean that you have only had limited experience interacting with people outside of your own cultural privilege. It probably means that you don’t have a lot of friends who are people of color, or LGBTQ, or who follow spiritual paths that are not Judeo-Christian, or who are living in poverty. If you are calling liberal feminists “parasites” then it would figure there’s not much political diversity in your circle of friends either. Those deficiencies in experience, in exposure, would prove to be a huge challenge for anyone. And they will prove to be a challenge for you if you are attempting to make a difference and not just make noise.
You need to get out more! You need to seek out people unlike yourselves and create friendships with them. You need to learn how they think, what they care about, how they see the world. Because only after gaining an appreciation for the experience of the culturally marginalized will your ideas, your words, reach enough ears to have any chance of creating meaningful change.
I hold women to a higher standard
I remember the first time I heard on the news there had been a female suicide bomber. I thought my heart would wither in my chest. I wanted it to be some mistake. Because our quest for equality be damned, I don’t want that kind of equality. I want to hold onto the dream I have in which women try to make the world kinder and safer for our children and for other women’s children.
I remember the first time I was exposed to a woman commentator on Fox News. The female news commentator was calling people names! On a TV news show! I was shocked, then deeply saddened. I expect this behavior from a certain type of attention seeking male, but it had never occurred to me that a women might be convinced to participate in that type of divisive verbal violence. I never expected it.
I hold women to a higher standard, as the primary creators and carriers and teachers of life. We understand the pain and the love and the heartbreaking trust that goes into shepherding a new human being into adulthood. Even if we don’t have children of our own, we understand. And we know that each life is precious, simply precious.
It breaks my heart when I see anyone fearful or angry enough to resort to violence, physical or verbal, but I admit, it is even more poignant for me when its a woman. I can’t help but wonder what happened.
So what about you?
Amy Jo and Miriam, I don’t understand why, instead of trying to find a way to create dialog with other feminists equally concerned about making things better for everyone, you thought it would be a good idea to write something that would alienate liberal feminists, like me, with name calling and put-downs.
I don’t understand how that could ever be productive. And I’d really like to know why you did it.
Some of my cynical friends think you did it for the attention. You did it to laugh long and hard and get slapped on the back by people who enjoy participating in a game of “we’re better than the rest of you.” I know that’s possible, but I want to believe you had a better reason than that.
The only people who would be open to such words as those in your post, the only people who would continue to read your work or listen to you speak on the radio are people who already think just like you do. So how does that change anything, if the only people who will listen to you already agree with you? All this hurtful rhetoric seems to only further divide people, and make meaningful change less likely.
And a final word – about “feminists”
I’m glad you have chosen to label yourselves “feminists.” That word has been taking a beating for many years in conservative circles. I hope you two will help eradicate some of the stigma surrounding it. You may claim that liberal feminists like me are not “feminists at all” but I will not do the same injustice to you. I will not only defend your right to use that term to describe yourselves, but I will endeavor to broaden the way I have always understood feminism, in order to make a place for you in this circle of impassioned women I value so highly.
But for your part, perhaps you could examine your motives and methods. If meaningful change is your goal, you’re going about it all wrong.
Peace to you both,
Another Note: As a liberal feminist, it’s pretty clear to me the Chicks are a little confused about the people who identify as liberal feminists and their political agenda. The liberal feminists I know, and I know quite a few, have never concerned themselves with “look[ing] for a Prince Charming to rescue them, [or] look[ing] for a handout.” This misconception on the part of the Chicks was addressed in this great response on the Punchnel’s website by Ken Honeywell.
© 2013 by Marg Herder