I, as the Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper, am a certified girl boss. And on the day that I am writing this, it is International Women’s Day. So it’s the perfect time to discuss the problems that exist within “girl boss” culture.
On the Eric Andre show, Eric once asked Mel B of “The Spice Girls” whether or not she thought that Margaret Thatcher, who was once prime minister of the UK, had girl power.
“Yes, of course,” Mel B said.
“Do you think she effectively utilized girl power by funneling money to the paramilitary death squads in Northern Ireland?” Eric asked in rebuttal.
Mel B was unsure.
And thus the problem with our current girl boss culture was revealed. In this sketch, Mel B did not really know who Margaret Thatcher was or what atrocities she was responsible for, but at the mention of her very feminine name, she assumed that Maggie had girl power.
The same thing happens here in American politics. Over the weekend, a video from C-SPAN circulated of Democratic Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema on the Senate floor, voting ‘no,’ to an amendment introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 as a part of the COVID-19 relief package, a move that would fundamentally change the lives of millions of working class individuals and families by providing them with a closer to livable wage.
Sinema’s ‘no’ vote was significant because she was one of eight Democratic senators who voted ‘no,’ along with the Republicans, and the amendment failed as it missed the threshold filibuster mark of 60 ‘yes’s by two. It was also significant for the manner in which it was done. In the video, Sinema happily gave a wordless thumbs down before walking out of the chamber.
The happy-go-lucky vote casting is what caused many on the left to become enraged. But Sinema’s office pushed back.
“Commentary about a female senator’s body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet,” Hannah Hurley, a spokesperson for the senator, said.
This statement, which blames the criticism towards Sinema on sexism, is tone deaf. The criticism directed towards Sinema is not due to the femininity in her body language, the clothes she was wearing or the fact that she identifies as a woman. Sinema is being criticized because she voted to deny hard working Americans better wages. She is being criticized because in 2014, she tweeted about how a minimum wage raise was a “no-brainer,” and yet voted ‘no’ to an amendment that would do just that. She is being criticized for not backing a policy that is favored by many progressive members of the Democratic party.
Senator Sinema is being criticized because she is a moderate Democrat who often rejects progressive policy-making. She is a small case-study within the larger issue, which is that the modern feminist movement does not go far enough in its activism.
It is not enough to advocate for the rights of women. To be a true intersectional feminist—the only kind of feminist that matters—you must advocate for the rights of trans women, women of color, disabled women and women in the LGBTQ+ community. And you must advocate for progressive policy-making that rejects systemic racism and sexism.
It is great to uplift women and celebrate their accomplishments. It is also great to advocate for equality between the two binary genders, especially when it comes to issues like the wage gap (which is real, I promise), sexual assault or reproductive rights. But the face of your feminism cannot just be a straight, cis white woman. And your politics cannot be moderate and tolerant of discrimination.