Julie Anne Genter : Promoting a neoliberal brand of feminism.
Women apparently now fill more than half the top jobs in the state sector. The Minister for Women's Affairs, Julie Anne Genter, claims it will lead to 'a more inclusive and fairer society'. She's wrong. It leaves the machinery of power untouched and undisturbed. Having more women in influential positions means nothing if all they are doing is helping maintain the capitalist status quo.

IT DOESN'T COME as any surprise that our parliamentary politicians are all mostly rejoicing in the fact that the number of female chief executives in the state sector has for the first time exceeded 50 percent. "This is an outstanding achievement," State Services Minister Chris Hipkins has declared, giving himself a slap on the back. 

Meanwhile the Minister for Women's Affairs, Julie Anne Genter, has claimed that "more women in leadership means better decision making, better organisational resilience and better performance." She didn't provide any evidence for this big claim on behalf of corporate feminism, sometimes described as 'lean in' feminism.

She also said that having more females in the top jobs within the public service "... also opens up more opportunities for women to succeed and contributes to a more inclusive and fairer society." That's another big claim which Genter also provides no evidence for. This is nothing more than 'trickle down' feminism. Genter would like us to believe that the benefits amassed by a few privileged women at the top of the pile will somehow trickle down to the majority of women at the bottom.

You might recall Julie Ann Genter complaining earlier this year that there aren't enough women in the boardrooms of corporate New Zealand. Capitalism has coopted feminism and liberals like Genter have helped that process.

Sarah Jaffe : More women in boardrooms is not liberation.
As journalist Sarah Jaffe comments: "As long as feminists are lauding the ascension of women to boardrooms for equality’s sake and not questioning what happens in those boardrooms, true liberation is a long way off."

Call me old fashioned, but I've always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women we are also concerned with  building a better world, a world freed of the chains that bind it.  Anyway, that's what Laurie Penny told me and she knows about these things. But when I listen to women like Julie Anne Genter I just don't hear the same message. Of course Laurie Penny is also a socialist and Genter isn't.

Genter and others of her soft-centred liberal persuasion, talk about feminism purely in individualist terms, shorn of any sense of social solidarity. It's all about advancing the careers of a select number of women while the majority of women get left behind. It is the feminism of the one percent but its the brand of feminism that women like Genter are most comfortable with. But she tries to give it a progressive veneer when, in reality, it is a feminism that has become entangled with the concerns and priorities of 'the market' and of neoliberalism. This is a feminism that Genter can comfortably display as Minister of Women's Affairs in a centre-right government pursuing neoliberal economic policies.

Rather than wanting to overturn the political and economic status quo liberal feminism wants nothing more than more women pulling the levers and flicking the switches of the machine. But this brand of market-led feminism eats away at any sense of political and social solidarity and pushes women into competition with each other for the top jobs. But most of us, men and women, aren't 'winners'. Liberal feminism, with its obsession with smashing the 'glass ceiling', disregards this.

But having more women in influential positions means absolutely nothing if all they’re doing is helping to maintain exploitative capitalist conventions. Genter's claim that it will lead to a 'more inclusive and fairer society' is delusional.

Laurie Penny : Too many boardrooms and none of them are on fire. 
As Laurie Penny writes in her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, lies and Revolution: “Public ‘career feminists’ have been more concerned with getting more women into ‘boardrooms’, when the problem is that there are altogether too many boardrooms, and none of them are on fire.”

Professor Nancy Fraser has described the kind of feminism that Genter advocates as 'the handmaiden of capital'. Liberal feminism, she says, is a feminism for a small elite of women focusing on getting women of the upper classes into the same positions as men of the upper class. But the obvious flaw is that if you focus primarily on cracking the glass ceiling you will leave most women in the basement.

Nancy Fraser says that we need  to put more emphasis on the fundamental structures of society that generate racism, sexism and class inequality. She says that we need a feminism of the 99 percent rather than the one percent. She observes:

'I understand this feminism for the 99 percent as the counterpart of left-wing strands of other progressive social movements. We need, for example, an anti-racism for the 99%, LHBTQ for the 99 percent and environmentalism for the 99 percent. Just as the feminism for the 99% aims to supplant “Lean in” feminism, these currents would aim to replace liberal-meritocratic anti-racism and sexuality struggles, as well as “green capitalism.” And all of these left-wing currents must understand themselves as close allies, who share common aims and common visions, even as their emphases may sometimes differ.'


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