Tomi Lahren, Why Are You So Bad At History?
If you want to take the pulse of the nation, with regards to feminism and how people feel about it, who do you go to? Well, if you are Brian Kilmeade of Fox News, you go to Tomi Lahren. Last night, these two geniuses discussed a recent poll conducted by Refinery29 and CBS News showing that only 46% of millennial women consider themselves feminists. Tomi Lahren knows why that is, and it's because feminists refuse to embrace Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Obviously.
Transcript via Media Matters:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Let's talk about women -- millennial women. They have a definite feeling about who they are. And according to a recent poll, the most Democrat females over the next generation, 63 percent say they are feminist, a total of 46 percent overall when you factor in independents and Republicans. How do you explain that?
TOMI LAHREN (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, this isn't surprising to me because I know many millennial women who though they believe in female empowerment and women's rights they don't consider themselves feminists anymore. Because truth is, modern-day feminists have hijacked the term and have changed it into something that the original feminists would be horrified by, they'd be rolling in their graves if they saw what feminists have done with the movement. It's become less about equal treatment and equal rights and more about special treatment. It's become about man bashing and demanding free things and marching in the streets getting attention with hats and being anti-Trump. It's not really about lifting up women, empowering women, because if they were to do that they would have to empower women who are conservative women and as we've seen especially in the last six months they've done everything but that. The feminists have not come out to support people like [White House Press Secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders, like [Secretary of Homeland Security] Kirstjen Nielsen, like the rest of the women in the Trump administration who have ascended to very high positions under this president. All they have done is demean these women. So that's why I think we're seeing a lot of millennial women say you know what? Feminism isn't for me anymore.
Oh, how very sad that we have not followed the footsteps of our feminist forbears, the Spice Girls, and focused specifically on "women's empowerment." Zig-a-zag-UGH, indeed.
Alas, all of the Spice Girls are quite alive, but outside of 1990s Girl Power, I simply cannot come up with a single feminist movement in all of history that Lahren would fully approve of. So who is it, exactly, that is supposed to be rolling in their graves? Who were these very polite, non-marching, now dead feminists, who never criticized men? Who never asked for "free stuff?"
Well, I can tell you who it sure is not. It's not Mary Wollstonecraft, often considered the godmother of feminism, because she was kind of an anarchist. It's not any of the suffragettes, who also marched in the streets, getting attention. Gosh, it couldn't even be Susan B. Anthony, who said "The woman who will not be ruled must live without marriage." That could be construed as anti-male! Icky! Couldn't be Anthony's fellow feminist Rochesterian Lillian Wald, who is pretty much the godmother of universal healthcare, and founded the Henry Street Settlement, which provided health care, social services and education to not only indigent Americans, but to immigrants as well. Couldn't be foundational black feminist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, because she advocated for labor rights and aid to poor black people who had been screwed during Reconstruction. It wasn't Lucy Parsons, who advocated stealing the means of production from the rich -- "My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in, and take possession of the necessary property of production."
Maybe Lahren is inspired more by international feminist movements? Perhaps British suffragette Emmaline Pankhurst? Maybe, but only because she became very conservative in her old age. But before then bitch was setting shit on on fire, hanging out with socialists, breaking windows, being pissed off about the conditions in workhouses, and assaulting police officers. Tomi would not approve! Was it the Mujeres Libres of Spain? Gosh, I don't think it was them, either. You know, because they were anarchists and socialists. Was it the International Feminist Collective of Italy? Nah, they wanted wages for housework. And, again, they were anarchists.
I am really racking my brain here, and still I cannot come up with a single dead feminist who would fit Tomi Lahren's criteria here. These mythical feminists who never marched, never disparaged men or were considered anti-male by anyone at the time, never advocated for social and economic reform, and never upset conservatives with their fashion choices.
Haha! Get it!? It is because she is wearing PANTS. Like a MAN.
I'm trying to think of a historical dead feminist who would have been super chill with Trump and his habit of grabbing women by the pussy, and I'm coming up empty as well. Simone de Beauvoir was pretty sex-positive for her time, but I still don't quite see her being down with that.
Lahren also seems to imagine that feminists of the past supported literally every other woman out there, regardless of whether they were supporting their objectives or not. Also not the case. The suffragettes didn't get along so well, oddly enough, with the women leading the anti-suffrage movement. Even more shocking, second-wave feminists were not super fond of Phyllis Schlafly. It's almost as if we support women -- speaking here of individual women, of course -- based on what they believe and advocate for, rather than their identity as a woman. Weird!
This historical revisionism is partially due to the sanitized way we teach history in schools. When learning about advocates for social change, we learn only about the things they advocated for that are now considered socially acceptable. The feminism we learn about is one in which some nice wealthy white ladies decided one day that women should vote, and then everyone said "Yes, that is a good idea!" and then women could vote. Ta-da. The labor movement we learn about is one in which everyone collectively and peacefully agreed that people should have weekends and child labor was bad. The black liberation narrative we learn is one in which sure, people were racist, but then Martin Luther King gave a very nice speech one day and then everyone immediately stopped being racist. We don't really learn about the parts where people made trouble, because they don't want to teach children that it's OK to make trouble. We don't really learn about the more radical aspects of the fight for social change, because they sure didn't want kids turning into commies.
There is an even darker side to this kind of historical revisionism -- this imaginary, happy past where those advocating for radical social change were gleefully welcomed by those whose dominance they threatened, where these battles were fought with politeness and no true disruption of the status quo. The reframing of early feminism as something eagerly embraced by all women, by all people. The reframing of Martin Luther King as a conservative Republican who literally only said one line about anything ever (which, as we all know, was about how much he would have hated Affirmative Action), and who was universally beloved by everyone in America, especially Richard Nixon. By warping history in this way, people like Lahren seek to use it as a cudgel against those who seek change today.
Luckily, this is only effective if we are all just as ignorant as she is.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse