Feminism

Kirsten Gillibrand's Ann Taylor Feminism Is a Loser

Her brand of feminism has little appeal beyond a narrow band of white professional women.

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The polls show that New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is going nowhere fast. She received absolutely no bump from her lively performance after the last debate. Her support is stubbornly stuck at around 1 percent.

She is an attractive and well-spoken candidate who had generated high expectations. Why is she flailing? Essentially because she is selling a brand of feminism with little resonance beyond Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's white professional female devotees, especially when the country is preoccupied with so many other pressing issues.

Gillibrand declared in her closing statement at the debate that this is "not the time" for Americans "to be afraid of firsts" because they "need a president who will take on challenges, even if she stands alone." If this sounds like she is making her gender a resume item, that's because she is.

She wasn't always this way. In an earlier incarnation, she was a career lawyer who represented Phillip Morris, the tobacco giant, for what liberals consider crimes against humanity. Yet, interestingly, she failed to target Big Tobacco when she attacked insurance companies, drug manufacturers, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for "corporate greed" during the debate. She was pro-gun and anti-immigration which is why she handily defeated her Republican rivals in an upstate New York congressional district where few thought a Democrat could ever win. She was also part of the Blue Dog Democrats House coalition that voted against President Obama's financial bailout because it was fiscally irresponsible.

Her metamorphosis into a dyed-in-the-wool liberal began—surprise! surprise!—when she got appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat after Clinton left to become President Obama's secretary of state. Since then, there is hardly a position that Gillibrand has not renounced. She is now anti-gun and pro-immigration and believes in public funding of campaigns and every other liberal position down the line.

But she still managed to catapult herself into the limelight as a woman of principle when, at the height of the #MeToo movement, she led the charge for the resignation of her Senate colleague, Al Franken of Minnesota, after several women accused him of sexual misconduct. She also broke ranks with other Democrats and declared that President Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

It's not clear whether she did all this with an eye toward a presidential run. But she clearly thought that she could use her actions to turn herself into a feminist hero who would ride the wave of female disgust against President Trump's misogyny all the way to the White House, especially since none of her Democratic rivals have made women's issues part of their central pitch to voters.

But that is turning out to be an epic blunder.

According to a Hill-HarrisX poll this week, Gillibrand is the first choice of only 1 percent of Democratic women. Lest one chalk this up to her lack of name recognition, consider that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of a tiny city like South Bend, a veritable unknown, is the top choice of 6 percent of Democratic women. How does Gillibrand stack up against her female presidential rivals? Not well. About 11 percent list Elizabeth Warren as their first choice and 8 percent Kamala Harris (although, interestingly, Harris, unlike Warren, draws more support from men than women).

Why are other candidates making more headway with Democratic women than Gillibrand? Because, regardless of what one thinks of their narratives, they are at least painting on a large canvas: Buttigieg is a millennial "synthesist" drawing his platform from both the conservative (fiscal responsibility, opposition to freebies like free college) and liberal (minority rights, social justice) camps; Biden is a pragmatic centrist who stands squarely in the middle when both sides are veering off their respective extremist cliffs; Sanders is the radical democratic socialist who wants to turn America into Denmark (or Venezuela if you listen to his critics); Warren is a fierce opponent of crony capitalism who is striving to create a level-playing field for the little guy; and Harris is (disingenuously) trying to re-invent herself as a social justice crusader who wants criminal justice reform and equal rights for persecuted minorities.

What are Gillibrand's big issues? Defending abortion rights, to be sure. This is a genuine vote mobilizer—except that many women mobilize in the other direction. She also proposes a "family bill of rights" that would offer national paid leave, universal pre-K, and affordable daycare. But many of these items are implicit in the broader agenda of the other candidates; Sanders-style socialism would certainly cover them. Gillibrand also wants to eliminate the wage gap and end workplace harassment and discrimination. But who does this affect most? White professional women like herself on a career path. There is not much in Gillibrand's platform for women with different profiles—a single black mom whose partner is serving an inordinately long prison sentence for petty drug violations or a self-employed Latina who is forced to spend 5,000 hours in a classroom to learn hair-braiding before she can obtain a license to open a salon. And what about men? Who needs men!

Gillibrand got pilloried for her tweet last year when she haikued: "Our future is: Female… Intersectional—Powered by our belief in one another. And we're just getting started." Quite apart from its sophomoric earnestness, what is striking about the tweet is its cluelessness.

Intersectionality, properly understood, is the notion that when people who occupy positions of power and privilege identify a social justice agenda, they inevitably tip it toward their own concerns rather than those of the truly persecuted or oppressed. The real problems of the truly marginalized inevitably get co-opted by the marginal problems of the relatively privileged. By her bubble-brained use of the term, Gillibrand turned herself into the poster child for the very problem that intersectionality raises.

Trump's populism has fundamentally shaken up the political landscape. He is smashing liberal institutions, trashing norms of executive accountability, openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism of the kind that the country has not witnessed in over 150 years, fueling fear and hysteria toward vulnerable minorities, transforming America's posture toward the world and much more. Gillibrand's Democratic rivals have correctly sensed that Trump can't be countered—nor can the possibilities his iconoclasm is opening be captured—without a grand narrative and a grand agenda. This is not the time to picayunishly focus on a narrow interest group. But Gillibrand drank so much Kool-Aid at the Women's March that she's fighting to eliminate the barely existent gender wage gap with the energy and enthusiasm of suffragettes fighting for the right to vote.

This is just plain tinny. It is hard to see how her Ann Taylor feminism can capture the imagination of women outside her be-pearled sisters—let alone the general public—with this kind of messaging.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

NEXT: Trump—Who Once Said Jeffrey Epstein 'Likes Beautiful Women as Much as I Do'—Moves to Distance Himself From the Disgraced Palm Beach Billionaire

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  1. to be sure

    Drink!

  2. This is racist.

    1. I would go with sexist: “Gillibrand drank so much Kool-Aid at the Women’s March that she’s fighting to eliminate the barely existent gender wage gap with the energy and enthusiasm of suffragettes fighting for the right to vote.”

      “Anne Taylor feminism…pearl-wearing sisters?” This just can’t be real Shikha, can it? It’s like she’s going after her own.

    2. “Her brand of feminism has little appeal beyond a narrow band of white professional women.”

      Would Shikha have said the same of Kamala Harris and “brown professional women”, or would she shriek “Nazi!” if anyone else dared to say it?

      Think she wants to destroy America because she hates white women?

      1. “Trump… is openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism”

        More verminous race baiting from the white hating, America hating foreigner, in an article that starts with open hatred of white women.

        Shikha is a malignant societal cancer.

  3. Gillibrand is a shallow sexist.

    But why use the patently false “openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism ” against Trump?

    Absent that cheap swipe this was your best, Shikha.

    1. Agree; had to do a double take at the byline


    2. Trump… is openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism of the kind that the country has not witnessed in over 150 years, fueling fear and hysteria toward vulnerable minorities…

      The dark cloud of fascism is always descending upon Republicans but it always turns out to be composed of progressives and Democrats.

      Antifa Mob Viciously Assaults [gay Asian] Journalist Andy Ngo at Portland Rally

      Andy Ngo, a photojournalist and editor at Quillette, landed in the emergency room after a mob of antifa activists attacked him on the streets of Portland during a Saturday afternoon demonstration.

      1. The Left always projects their crimes and hatreds onto the Right.

  4. “she is selling a brand of feminism with little resonance beyond Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s white professional female devotees”

    Sounds like an NPR contributor

  5. Dalmia should write more on things that aren’t immigration related.

    1. While she is the world’s most effective advocate of open borders, I’m still waiting for her to present “The Libertarian Case for Reparations.” She’s obviously passionate about racial justice, and the US owes its African American residents tens of trillions of dollars.

      #LibertariansForReparations

      1. Never leave us.

    2. Agreed; not so off the rails until she overly identifies with POCs wanting to jump the fence. But there’s still the TDS…

      1. When immigration isn’t the subject, she isn’t too bad. Especially when you consider that the target audience is not the H&R comentariat.

    3. When I read the tacit acknowledgement that Gillibrand’s pro-immigration stance might be between disingenuous and morally wrong without clarification you could’ve knocked me over with a feather.

      I’m still astounded that Shikha would leave the notion that a clear and honest but restrictionist immigration policy might be better than an illusory lie about open immigration scurrying about is astounding.

      I can only assume she’s got her horses lined up and Gillibrand wasn’t diverse or flagrantly pro-immigration enough to be considered a good contender. Until she’s out of the race, she’s only drawing votes away from Harris.

  6. This started out to be the best Shikha article I had read (tallest midget category), then quickly went off the rails.

    Can someone explain this to me?
    trashing norms of executive accountability, openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism of the kind that the country has not witnessed in over 150 years

    Trashing norms of Executive accountability???Wasn’t it Obama who did the pen and phone thing and ignored court precedents he didn’t like? Hasn’t Trump dutifully gone back and appealed every single forum-shopped decision that has been levied against his administration? Which laws has he decided to ignore? Isn’t he RESTORING Executive accountability?

    Blood and Soil Nationalism? Is Lincoln a Nazi now? Many Southerners have thought so for a long time. Were FDR, Truman, Ike, and JFK any less “nationalist” in their policies? Didn’t Silent Cal, the GOAT libertarian POTUS, sign the immigration restriction acts? Didn’t FDR build the concentration camps? Didn’t Ike have Operation Wetback?

    Where does she get this shit?

    Where does she get this shit?

    1. Didn’t you know? Just liking the country is paramount to nationalism now.

      1. tantamount*

          1. Dismount (that high horse)

    2. While it is true that Trump is hardly anything new when it comes to executive overreach, he isn’t doing anything to roll it back either. And nationalism and nativism are hardly new things in politics either.

      For starters, he has wildly misused emergency powers to impose tariffs and fund a border wall.

      Trump has done some good things, but moving back towards the proper constitutional role of the president is not one of them.

      1. For starters, he has wildly misused emergency powers to impose tariffs and fund a border wall.

        Wildly? In a discussion that specifically references interning the Japanese? Zeb, please tell me you’re up to date with your TDS booster!

        1. Locking up innocent people based on ethnicity is certainly worse, but I’ll stick with “wildly”. Please note I am not implying a comparison to any other president. He’s far from the worst.

  7. Her metamorphosis into a dyed-in-the-wool liberal began—surprise! surprise!—when she got appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat after Clinton left to become President Obama’s secretary of state. Since then, there is hardly a position that Gillibrand has not renounced. She is now anti-gun and pro-immigration and believes in public funding of campaigns and every other liberal position down the line.

    This has been pointed out by commenters here in the past. Once she became Senator, she moved from representing her district to representing New York City, where the population, money, and power are centered.

    A guy like Guiliani getting elected NYC mayor was a black swan event because people were so sick of several decades of Democrat incompetence in the seat, and the city itself was such a shithole, that they were willing to put up with his “broken windows” style of mayorship to at least make it presentable. Prissy nannyscolds like Bloomberg, De Blasio, and Anthony Weiner, who probably would have won the mayorship if he hadn’t got caught chasing teenage girls, are where the city’s true soul lies, though.

    1. she got appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat

      And that was a might big seat to fill. Mighty big.

      1. Are you saying that Hillary has a large posterior, and that you are incapable of prevarication?

        1. You other male siblings can’t contradict.

  8. I doubt many people care about her specific brand of feminism. More likely she’s changed positions more often that a porn star and everyone thinks of her as having no position worth remembering. She’s a big nothing burger, politically.

    1. Really, she’s about as bland and whitebread as they come. I’m reminded of that time she was campaigning in a restaurant and the lady pushed past her to get to the ranch dressing. Plainly that lady had her priorities straight.

      1. How could that lady tell the difference between Gillibrand and ranch dressing?

        1. Ranch dressing doesn’t yak.

  9. I totally agree, and I think the point of her running isn’t to win, it’s to sell books to the rich white women who run the progressive agenda. They’re bored and lack purpose in life, just like KG

  10. Is she squishy enough to be a VP?

    Is this just a hit piece because “pick on the white girl who thinks she’s woke”?

    Do we not want candidates who take a stand for a position rather than trying to politick into office (noted she’s a bigger flipper than John Kerry at McDonald’s, but not likely in response to Trump’s appeal)?

    Is there any way out other than a space ship?

    1. She’s picking on Becky.

  11. “…Biden is a pragmatic centrist who stands squarely in the middle when both sides are veering off their respective extremist cliffs…”

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/26/opinion/sunday/republican-platform-far-right.html

    Even the rag NYT recognizes that only ONE party has veered sharply away from what it stood for just 10 years ago. This was even covered in another Reason article. Stop lying, Shikha.

      1. Probably a direct function of so many college-degreed individuals aligning themselves with the Democrats. Because these schools are basically operating as left-wing indoctrination centers now for cultural and economic Marxism, the longer someone is in that social cocoon, the deeper their alignment to the far left becomes.

        There was a recent study called “The Perception Gap” which discovered that the more educated someone is, the more inaccurate their perception of someone on the other side of the political divide becomes. IOW, those with a high school diploma showed a better understanding of their political opposites than someone who’s been in college for many years.

        But the funniest deviance showed that educated left-wingers had the widest perception gap by far, and that gap increased exponentially the longer they remained in college. A high school dropout was more accurate in their perceptions than a Democrat with a PhD. The deviance was far lower for Republicans with college degrees, and wasn’t that much different from Republicans with just a high school diploma.

        The lesson here is that if you’re a left-winger, the longer you remain in college, the more socially stunted you become. It’s Benjamin Button on an intellectual/emotional scale.

        1. I think it’s social media. I love to bash on the colleges, seriously I do, and I don’t think they’re without blame, but I really believe it’s social media. Not in a conspiracy theory way, where I believe the social media companies are “warping our minds” but the pure anthropological phenomenon that we now live in a world where we know what everyone really believes, all the time.

          Douglass Murray made a point about this which was spot on. There was a time where people could live amongst their friends and neighbors and never know about their inner thoughts and feelings on every single issue in the public sphere– and we all got along just fine. Now with social media, I know what everyone around me thinks about immigration, or welfare reform, or gay marriage, or wedding cakes, the police, the IRS, some congressman in flyspeck Montana, healthcare, GMOs– simply everything. So everyone is unfriending everyone else when they hear their neighbors spout something they disagree with, and it’s just sowing discord.

          1. I think that is a very big part of it.

            I think it was John McWhorter who also had some good observations on that subject when he did the interview with Reason a while ago.

            1. Murray was definitely very articulate in his point (guy is like Oscar Wilde). But he essentially said that you lived next door to people with whom you probably had profound disagreements on various and sundry issues, but it simply never came up. Now it’s just in your face all the time. You become facebook friends with your neighbor, and there he or she is, saying that “Republicans are the most evil, racist people on the planet and have no place in this country.” That kinda makes it harder to get along with your neighbor… if you identify as (see what I did there?) a Republican.

              1. That’s probably the biggest reason I generally avoid Facebook and such like the plague. I really don’t want to be exposed to my friends’ and acquaintances views and hot takes on every political and social topic. It rarely makes me think better of them.

                Someone needs to start a social media site where politics and news are forbidden entirely. Baby pictures and party invitations only.

                1. Someone needs to start a social media site where politics and news are forbidden entirely. Baby pictures and party invitations only.

                  I’m on one social network site and one site only: Instagram. And that’s because you can get into niche photo groups that are about ONE narrow interest area. Facebook et. al are really broad communications sites where people wax philosophical about whatever. That’s where it gets sticky.

          2. Social media is a late-stage leveraging tool. The issue began with the left’s philosophy “the personal is political” and accelerated with their march through the institutions. First they began to erase the traditional American social contract of rarely speaking politics, supporting free speech (which has always been more than the limited First Amendment), and interpreting others fairly. The left’s institutional control then insulated them from financial repercussions of breaking the social contract allowing them to become even more aggressive.

            This was going on decades before social media.

          3. Possibly. But academics are political creatures by nature–everything tends to be framed against their personal ideology. I attend 1-2 academic conferences a year for work, and for all their pretensions about how worldly and sophisticated they are, it’s incredible how sheltered and provincial these people can be. I’ve had grown-ass men tell me, unironically, how worried they were that Trump was going to cut funding for the humanities in the nation’s universities. My thought was, “shit, if only.”

            The whole “white privilege” stuff, for example, didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in the last 5 years, Peggy McIntosh had introduced that stupidity in 1989 and it had become a standard topic of study in graduate programs by the time I went through in the late 90s. It was a stunted pejorative from the get-go and was meant to be, because the Boomerlibs couldn’t agitate for various ethnic or queer studies degrees anymore to make themselves feel righteous.

            I’ve found that most studies being done in academia outside the hard sciences are mostly just esoteric, intellectual circle-jerks.

        2. Universities are the seminaries of the Postmodern Marxist Theocracy.

  12. trashing norms of executive accountability

    Kay.

  13. Her brand of feminism has little appeal beyond a narrow band of white professional women.

    By the way, that IS the current going brand of feminism– it’s exactly what Camille Paglia has been excoriating modern feminists over: It’s white, upper middle class and entirely Victorian.

    1. Yeah, the notion that it’s white is, intentionally or not, a sloppy portrayal as well. Third Wave feminism was ‘branded’ by women of color and intersectionality wholly exists within that construct.

      The underlying issue is the absolute mindlessness that inaction or lacking of specific opinion on a specific topic is synonymous with disdain or oppression.

      1. Yeah, the notion that it’s white is, intentionally or not, a sloppy portrayal as well. Third Wave feminism was ‘branded’ by women of color and intersectionality wholly exists within that construct.

        Paglia’s portayal has less to do with identity politics than a simple observation that modern feminism seems to be pushed by upper middle class, educated white women in the first world.

        She does some great talks on all the Transgender bullshit, and how working class women of the third world are the strongest women she ever meets– and they are (in her opinon) the feminine ideal. They’re strong, opinionated, don’t take any shit from men, but keenly aware of their identity as women, and understand their power which includes sexuality.

        1. Paglia’s portayal has less to do with identity politics than a simple observation that modern feminism seems to be pushed by upper middle class, educated white women in the first world.

          I’m not sure we’re elucidating Paglia’s interpretations with regard to Gillibrand, through Dalmia’s coke bottle lenses, the same way. It’s the same race baiting that played out well before the women’s march and in other non-feminist arenas. Whether it’s Shikha, Camilla, or Kirsten making the argument, the idea that (e.g.) Gillibrand is supposedly making the world better for just white women or that Camille wasn’t making it a better place for black women is patently false assertion/assumption.

          The message “Her brand of feminism is inferior because it’s white feminism, led by white women.” should rightly identify the speaker as racist rather than the object of their speech as an inferior/superior feminist.

          1. Yeah, I don’t want to get into a nitpick because there’s a spirit to what’s said and how it’s said, and I’m taking them very differently. And I may actually be portraying Paglia incorrectly. Primarly, she focuses on the upper middle class nature of modern first world feminism and repeatedly uses terms such as “bourgeois”. And she never specifically talked about “women of color” (again, because Paglia is pretty good at avoiding the thread-worn identity politics of our day– in fact she seems to despise them). She just talks about working class women of the third world where, yes, color might be implied- or better said “inferred”.

        2. I want to listen to Paglia more, but the way she talks just makes me tired and anxious. Slow down and take a breath.

        3. Paglia’s portayal has less to do with identity politics than a simple observation that modern feminism seems to be pushed by upper middle class, educated white women in the first world.

          And really, she’s right about that in a broader context–most progressive positions have been pushed by the white upper middle class for decades, and continue to be so to this day. In the bigger picture, most people hate their guts, but they’re very effective at getting their positions implemented because they have so many allies in the gatekeeper institutions.

          Because voters are stupid enough to give these people power, even in cases where they soundly indicate that they don’t want certain policies implemented, judges, governors, or state legislatures will simply tell them, “fuck you, that’s why,” implement that policy, and then it becomes nearly impossible to change. I honestly think that’s the biggest reason they freak out about Trump signing all these EOs when they cheered Obama for doing the same thing–because Trump’s basically using his EOs to undo the shit Obama passed. It’s why that judge’s ruling that Trump can’t end DACA was so ridiculous. Trump should have just told the judge to fuck off in that case and make them take the issue to the Supreme Court.

  14. openly promoting a blood-and-soil nationalism of the kind that the country has not witnessed in over 150 years,

    Is the a reference to…the civil war? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

    fueling fear and hysteria

    Well it could be worse: he could be a Reason writer. Can’t wait for Welch’s next fundraising pitch touting their reason based approach and rejection of over-emotionalism and appeals to fearmongering.

    1. #LibertariansForRaceBaiting

  15. “…Biden is a pragmatic centrist who stands squarely in the middle when both sides are veering off their respective extremist cliffs…”

    Sure, so long as we understand someone “squarely in the middle” of America (this reference is to the middle of America since the “both sides” referenced are to Dems and Reps) believes Republicans want to put blacks “back in chains”.

    Seems totally reasonable.

  16. “declared that President Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky”

    The earliest comment from her on that subject seems to be 2017, over a decade and a half after it would have made any difference. Did she say something earlier?

  17. Would not vote for her. Still think she’s a bit bonable though.

  18. Missed the most central point, her behavior towards the potential Dem nominee, Al Franken, was calculated, as PoundMeToo is a fraud, it was conjured out of thin air to push a Dworkin-Agenda, as Ms. Donegan finally admitted as much recently. A corp hustler JD saw her competition, saw the fraud of PoundMeToo and seized the day. But is it a real opportunity? This feminism you speak of, call it, gender feminist, misandrist, bigotry, yepper, KLAN in white lingerie. Prove the talking point, XXs can elect a President without XYs. Ok, I will write in Bill Weld. Trumpland landslides, Gloria actually gets a decent haircut and goes away. Then hard left is done, not enough votes to win anything. Say it with me, we lose.

  19. Intersectionality? A word? A front word for racism, we do not like white people, except gay white women or maybe gay-leaning white women. I have a color density calibration tool, so I measured how white I am. What is my “whiteness”? Unbelievible, I am an anglo, I have alot of Malanin, I am white so I am white privileged. Do I feel privileged or what, no more paying US taxes, I can text while driving, all sorts of things. Yeah.

  20. Shikha isn’t quite so crazy when she’s not writing about destroying the entire 1st world with open borders… Who knew?

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