What percentage of Americans identify as feminist?

The call for feminism for the 99 percent

It was a picture that excited Germany: When Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took up her new office as Defense Minister in mid-July, a photo was taken for the front pages: the CDU federal chairwoman in Bellevue Palace in Berlin with her predecessor, the designated EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, next to Chancellor Merkel. Three women in top political positions, visibly relaxed, smiling. Commentators cheered - and it is the CDU that has given Germany this piece of normality.

Conservative corporate ladder

"We make up half of the population, we want our fair share", that's how Ursula von der Leyen put it militantly in her application speech in the European Parliament when she announced that she would ensure gender parity among the EU commissioners. A demand with a feminist aftertaste - no longer a problem for conservative executives. When the moderator of a panel discussion at the W20 Women's Summit 2017 in Berlin raised the question of which of the prominent participants saw themselves as feminists, the hands of Christine Lagarde - at that time still managing director of the IMF - and Ivanka Trump went up, Angela Merkel could at least not defend herself against being described as such by the audience to thunderous applause.

"The term feminism has become socially acceptable," says Hannah Schultes, social scientist and editor at the left-wing magazine "Analyze & Critique". "Not so long ago, calling yourself a feminist was a radical political statement, and that has definitely changed." This change is particularly angry with left-wing thinkers. Three political philosophers are working on the feminism of top women, whose representatives campaign for 50 percent women on supervisory boards and executive floors, in a manifesto that has just been published in German. Nancy Fraser, Cinzia Arruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya advocate a "feminism for the 99 percent" that sees itself as international, ecological, anti-racist - and above all one thing: anti-capitalist. Their enemy is a liberal feminism, like the US female professors with prominent women like Hillary Clinton or Facebook manager Sheryl Sandberg, who with her platform "Lean In" supports women in achieving their goals and creating a world of equality ", identify.

"Lean In" ultimately means giving a few privileged women equal opportunities with men of the same class. The prevailing conditions are in no way shaken, they are merely given a dash of diversity.

Global care chains

Half the power for women: Doesn't this slogan still remain a legitimate vision of a gender-neutral society despite neoliberal appropriation? The Austrian Women's Referendum 2.0 also called for shared power, it was the demand that many supporters were able to agree on - while the call for a 30-hour week caused heated debates. "Of course, women are needed in positions of power. The first Austrian Chancellor is an important sign in terms of visibility, but I would not book that as a feminist success," said Schifteh Hashemi, one of the spokespersons for the women's popular initiative, in the STANDARD conversation. Brigitte Bierlein and Ursula von der Leyen: two white, privileged women who are now equal to their male counterparts. "That doesn't mean that we have fulfilled feminist demands for all women," says Hashemi.

Fraser, Arruzza and Bhattacharya take it radically in their manifesto: There is absolutely nothing feminist about "women from the ruling class" who promote austerity politics and armed interventions in the name of women's liberation. If the "one percent" has pierced the glass ceiling, the question arises, who picks up the broken pieces. As a rule, it is women with a migration history, carers and houseworkers who, in global "care chains", for low pay and often under precarious conditions, do the reproductive work that women in the global north outsource and which all too often remain ignored in economic analyzes. Where liberal feminism comes to the fore, these questions remain invisible to the 99 percent, claim the philosophers.

Collective against feminism of the top women

"The #MeToo debate showed quite well that only certain women get visibility. Ultimately, the focus was on Hollywood actresses, not on underpaid women in the restaurant business, who experience sexual harassment practically every day at work," says Kirstin Mertlitsch, Senior Scientist and Head of the University Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Klagenfurt. Mertlitsch is convinced that instead of relying on career and compatibility issues, on individualism and personal responsibility, a left, queer feminism is asking the system question and also declaring its solidarity with other movements such as the climate protection movement or migrant strikes.

It is precisely this feminism that is driving the women’s strike movement, which is gaining strength around the globe. Wage labor and reproductive work link the striking activists with central issues such as domestic violence, racist exclusion and the right to self-determination about one's own body - whether in Poland, Argentina, Chile, Spain - and most recently in Germany and Switzerland. What is striking: In contrast to many other social movements, there are no prominent faces at the top of the strikes, the women's strike movement relies on the collective. Fraser, Arruzza and Bhattacharya see it as nothing less than a "global feminist movement that could develop sufficient strength to change the political landscape over the long term" - and which is going back to its socialist roots.

Hannah Schultes, who herself took part in the German journalists' strike on March 8, also sees the women's strike movement as enormously encouraging. "I don't think we have seen such mobilization among feminists here in the past twenty years," she says. Where the movement should develop in the German-speaking area is now being discussed controversially. "The question is also whether one is trying to agree on specific political demands," said Schultes. The activist is convinced that demarcating oneself from neoliberal ideas and elitist feminism is not enough to find a left-wing alternative.

Movement in the making

Although Fraser, Arruzza and Bhattacharya wrote a manifesto with eleven theses, their feminism is also not very specific for the 99 percent - it is about fundamental issues. The authors write briefly that the alternative can only emerge from the struggle for its realization. A common path for liberal and left-wing feminists - at least one of these remains out of the question for thinkers.

"With 'Breaking the glass ceiling' and 'Lean In', liberal feminism initially appeared very progressive, but it is not suitable for solving issues such as unpaid or underpaid care work," says women's popular initiative activist Schifteh Hashemi. Care work remains a central issue for the Swiss women's strike. After the strike on June 14th, the Zurich collective hoisted a banner. "That was just the beginning," it read. (Brigitte Theißl, 11.8.2019)