In an increasingly angry and divided America, where every word is dissected and every statement scrutinized, the newest phrase to attract passionate response was uttered by a woman who has not been seen much since the election.
“Despite all the challenges we face,” Hillary Clinton told a cheering crowd in a video statement released at AOL’s 2017 MAKERS conference a few days back, “I remain convinced that yes, the future is female.”
The former Democratic candidate was addressing a group of women and men gathered in California to learn about leadership, policy and female empowerment. And she worked the crowd with such buzzwords as “glass ceiling breakers” and “dare greatly and lead boldly.”
But what made headlines and sent the Twitterverse into a tailspin was a string of four words packed with power. Not unexpectedly, #TheFutureIsFemale rocketed to the top of all kinds of trending lists.
For some reason I’m trying to thread out, #TheFutureIsFemale doesn’t sit well in my gut. The reaction it evokes closely resembles the visceral response I experienced a year ago, when two feminist icons, women I admire, exhorted women to vote for Clinton because ….well, because she was a woman. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said young women were backing Bernie Sanders because the boys were with Bernie, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously chided, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
Maybe it’s the quiet but deep contrarian streak in me or the fact that I don’t particularly like to be told how I should think because I can check off a box as (a)woman, (b)Hispanic, (c)working mother, (d)immigrant or (e)grandmother.
#TheFutureIsFemale is a catchy phrase that traces its roots to a lesbian separatist movement of the past century. It was the power of the hashtag, though, that nudged it into the mainstream. Now it’s intended as an invocation, a call to arms.
But is it a summons or a dismissal? If the future is female, then where does this leave our men? And if we are to create a more equitable world order, shouldn’t we be inclusive in both our language and our actions?
Look, it remains true that women in today’s work world will, sooner or later, taste the bitterness of discrimination, often doled out in deceptively silent ways. We still don’t earn equal pay for equal work, we’re a minority in boardrooms and in C-suites, and when we get to the tippy top, new research shows that even stock analysts tend to be biased when they evaluate women-run companies. What’s more, policies that ease the burden of work-life balance — something that would help both women and men — are so few as to be nonexistent.
Much needs to be done, much needs to be fought for, but excluding half of the population, even if only in words, isn’t the way to forge ahead.
Trump’s presidency already has galvanized many. More women are voicing an interest in running for office and the century-old League of Women Voters says it’s seeing a resurgence. We can’t do it, however, without the help of equally committed men.
As a mother to one daughter and four sons, as a grandmother to six girls, I want a future that offers opportunity to all, not just to the anointed. I want a future without trace of bias or bigotry, without any new strains of chauvinism. I want a future for everyone, a future that is ours, regardless of race, creed or gender.