Transformative Feminism In The Age Of Trump

08/11/2017 11:35 am ET Updated Aug 14, 2017

The lives, well-being, and futures of girls and women in the US and around the world are fundamentally at stake under the Trump presidency. The moment calls for developing transformative feminist practices and policies that move far beyond the popular liberal feminist and corporate attempts to “empower” individual girls and women in the US and around the world.  Liberal feminism’s cozy relationship with corporate capitalism has had the effect of de-politicizing girls’ and women’s demands for a just global economy and climate justice as corporations, such as Nike, ExxonMobil, and Walmart, continue to exacerbate conditions of vulnerability for girls and women through their business practices even as they claim to be doing good.

Despite Donald Trump’s campaign critiques of Hilary Clinton’s long-standing relationships with Wall Street and other powerful corporations, he has significantly deepened the entrenchment of corporate elites and interests in his administration.  These actions are furthering the reach of corporate power and extent of corporate profit while simultaneously decreasing the rights and resources of marginalized groups in the public sphere.  The administration’s domestic and foreign agenda over the past six months – including expanding the “Global Gag Rule,” banning travel from Muslim nations, increasing deportations of undocumented immigrants, inciting violence against indigenous peoples and their land, suppressing climate change science, endorsing police brutality, and threatening to ban transgender people in the military – are fundamentally undermining the gains of the civil, immigrant, women’s, LGBTQ, environmental, and indigenous rights movements.  How these shifts influence girls and women depend upon their diverse positions vis-à-vis US policies at home and abroad. 

Donald Trump’s victory over Hilary Clinton for the US Presidency was a defeat for liberal feminism and its brand of gender equality.  It starkly revealed the fractures within US liberal feminism – a project originally of and for white women’s suffrage – as the majority of white women in the US rejected liberal feminism’s key tenants and its support for reproductive rights, paid family leave and child care, freedom from sexual violence, and right to sexual autonomy.  These white women also rejected solidarity with women of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and others who voted for Clinton, aligning themselves instead with white men to maintain the privileges of white supremacy.

Yet, rather than resurrect liberal feminism in the wake of Trump’s victory over Clinton, feminists across diverse positions and ideological perspectives should seek to transform rather than reproduce long held divisions around race, class, sexuality, and nation by building intersectional and transnational coalitions that resist attempts to undermine girls’ and women’s well-being and futures. This feminist work necessitates prioritizing efforts to dismantle white supremacy, heterosexism, religious fundamentalisms, and the exploitative relations of global capitalism that exacerbate inequities experienced by girls and women around the world.   

Learn more about the relationship between feminism and corporate capitalism in The Girl Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Ending Poverty.

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