Corporate feminism needs to die
Updated: Jul 6
I hate funerals and I'm wildly uncomfortable with death, but if corporate feminism died, I'd be the first to sprinkle dirt over its coffin. It needs to die a quick and sharp death, be buried in the ground, never be resurrected, and it doesn't deserve an obituary in the local paper. Corporate feminism needs to die.
If you're not familiar with the term, you'll know the concept. It's the #GirlBoss energy, the ~special~ Women's Day morning tea at work, complete with purple cupcakes that read girl power! It's events and speeches that talk about the gender pay gap and basic stereotypes like they're a revolutionary and new discovery. It's overwhelmingly white and usually exclusionary. It's a speech that ends with the declaration that 'girls can do anything!'. It's #FEMINIST T-shirts made in sweatshops by underpaid women, and male bosses who think they're allies for giving the 'girls' a long lunch on a Friday.
It's the 'feminism' that just barely scrapes the surface. The more palatable and softer version of feminism. It's Feminism Lite. At first glance, it's harmless. A bit of fun. Perhaps a gateway to a more inclusive and intersectional feminist education. But on closer inspection, it's a cheerleader for capitalism, the cousin of white privilege, and I truly believe is detrimental to the cause.
Corporate feminism places the responsibility of inequality on women. It tells us that we! can! do! anything! if we just put our minds to it. It tells us we can become an engineer, scientist, or doctor if we study hard and get the grades. It neglects the biased education and hiring systems and harassment and discrimination in the workplace. It ignores systematic barriers for women of colour, First Nations women, women with disability, working class women. It's a system that works really well for white, highly educated, middle and upper class women in white collar industries who can, with a bit of determination, usually achieve their dreams.
You could say 'live and let live,' allow the women who gain something from corporate feminism to carry on their way, enjoy their purple cupcakes, add 'Feminist and Girl Boss' to their LinkedIn profiles. But Feminism Lite causes too much harm to allow this to happen.
Corporate feminism has a strong theme of 'just do it!' It tells us to just push those stereotypes aside, and if we try hard enough, we can achieve our dreams. It puts a focus on the individual, and pulls attention away from structural inequality and systematic barriers. There are plenty of women who would just do it if they could, but simply don't have the opportunity, resources, nor support system. Feminism must be intersectional, inclusive, and cognisant of the barriers facing marginalised individuals and groups.
Much like the American Dream, which is sold to every US citizen and migrant as possible and achievable, even in reach (it's not), corporate feminism doesn't provide and blueprint nor plan for its 'followers.' It's more a platform to celebrate women who were almost at the top and made one final breakthrough for industry domination or leadership. The women at the front of the movement are the most privileged among us. Women with enough money or networks to allow them to climb the ranks without being held back by their gender. Something not plausible for most women.
Corporate feminism fosters an environment for privileged women to ignore the unique issues and barriers facing women who don't hold these privileges. It also runs the danger of convincing young marginalised women that they haven't ~made it~ because they simply haven't tried hard enough. It puts the responsibility on the individual, not the system. It encourages women to play by the rules of the patriarchy.
And with that, the only thing left to do is write the eulogy.
Time of death: 2021 (hopefully)
Here lies corporate feminism. It served the 1% well, which is why it took so long to die. It was protected by the elite, by the privileged, and by people like a certain woman we won't name who wrote a book entitled something rhyming with 'mean min.' It lived a long life. Too long. And it lived a happy life, as ignorance is bliss. We hope it rests peacefully and stays in the ground forevermore. We hope it's replaced by a more intersectional and distant relative. So distant that you wouldn't even pick them as related. We pay our respects with a girl power cupcake, the very last of its kind. Farewell and good riddance.