financial feminist

A Working Definition of Financial Feminism

Texas has been named the TOP state for female entrepreneurs in 2019. As a female entrepreneur in the Lone Star state, this could be great news. I expect that Texas will top these lists for years to come, or at least finish in the top 3. Growing state population, low taxes, and a strong state economy all play nicely in Texas’ favor.

Here’s a fun fact: Texas also tried, in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen, to pass state legislation that would sentence a woman to the death penalty for receiving an abortion.

So when we talk about Texas being a great place for women to start businesses, we also need to talk about how Texas is a very dangerous place to BE a woman.

This dichotomy is startling. It’s unpleasant to think about the fact that this state would readily kill women for a legal medical procedure. But is part of the truth to being a woman in Texas. Thanks for the tax cuts, but can I also get control over my own body?

A Working Definition of Financial Feminism

And so it is with financial feminism. If your financial feminism is only focused on how rich you can get, or how successful you can be, we need to talk about how dangerous a place it is to define who is a financial feminist.

blog cover with text what is Definition of Financial Feminism

What is a Financial Feminist?

Financial feminism is advocating for financial equality between genders. (Predominantly this conversation right now refers to financial equality between women and men, but as more people identify outside the gender binary, we can expect the conversation to widen.)

Financial feminism recognizes that we live in an unequal world and seeks the rectify that. It understands that women have different experiences than men, and includes that in its work. It is the daughter of bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, and Angela Davis.

DEFINITION OF FINANCIAL FEMINISM and its Problem

And yet I see a lot of people using financial feminism to mean “I’m a rich woman and that makes me and my actions feminist AF.” The narrative we see most often is “I made millions and overcame the boundaries that *other* women face.” It’s an individual-focused narrative, that only moves one woman up through the ranks.

But the same systemic problems exist: we still don’t have universal healthcare in the US. Paid parental leave is not mandated by the government. Tampons are still taxed as luxuries. The word vagina is seen as a bad word. 1 in 4 women have experienced partner violence in the US.(And 1 in 7 men, for the record.)

Feminism is often criticized for hating men. That’s a straw man argument; feminists point out systems and actions that benefit men and harm women, and criticize those. If you benefit from something, I’m not necessarily criticizing YOU, but I am saying that that benefit you’re reaping needs to get shared around a little.

Feminism is about changing the flawed systems we live in to actually, truly equal ones. And so it is with financial feminism. It’s not just about a select group of women getting rich and doing better. It’s about changing the financial systems we live in to actually be equal for every woman.

That means it includes activism for parents, and for people who choose not to have kids. That means it includes earning more money and changing the tax system. It means that financial feminism is the work of systemic change on every level that women experience.

To some, it would seem, being a financial feminist is the newest way to market oneself as ‘woke’ without having to do any of the real work of equality.

Some are using this as the newest iteration of capitalist feminism. It’s the NFL protecting wife beaters but letting their players wear pink cleats during breast cancer awareness month. It’s Thinx promoting itself as a feminist company and firing people for getting pregnant.

If your feminism is defined by your bank balance, then yes, getting rich is an act of feminism. If your feminism is rooted in all women getting free, you being rich doesn’t necessarily help the cause.

Money Helps, But Money Can’t Be Our End Goal

It would be a dishonest argument to say that money can’t make some of these situations better. So, money is closely linked to freedom, control, and power in our current system. The more money you have, the more power you have.

For example, if your partner hits you and you have the money in your bank account to go stay in a hotel, you have options other women don’t have.

Also, if you understand negotiation tactics, you can close the pay gap between you and a male colleague.

But we need to step back and take stock of what moves the needle for all women. What creates real change in our world?

One woman hitting a $1,000,000 net worth does not erase the wage gap for all women. One woman becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company does not eliminate the bias women face in the workplace.

Celebrating individuals is wonderful, and representation matters. But selling marginalized people on YOUR success is not an act of feminism. And we need to stop pretending that it is.

Money is a Tool That We Use to Get Free

Money is a tool to be used in the fight against the patriarchy. It is not the only answer to dismantling the patriarchy.

When we talk about being financial feminists, we need to discuss the discrimination that keeps women out of C Suite positions. We need to address the pay gap between white women and Latinas. It must be acknowledged that there is a hierarchy even within the word ‘women’ and that until all of us are free, no one is truly free.

Financial feminism is the child of the feminist and womanist movements that have come before it. It wouldn’t be possible without the work that previous generations have done to get women into the workplace, to break down the barriers to women controlling their own capital. It is the natural extension of the fight for equality.

The work of financial feminism must extend beyond individuals because the work of feminism does.

To focus the conversation around simply growing wealth is to stop short of the finish line. It leaves your sisters out in the cold, instead of inviting them inside beside the fire.

To amend what Flavia Dzodan said years ago, ‘my financial feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.”

Why You Should Be a Financial Feminist

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the ultimate mic drop in her 2012 TEDTalk “We Should all be Feminists.” I hope she doesn’t mind me slightly altering it to say “We should all be financial feminists.”

Financial feminism is the child of feminism, a movement rooted in the fight for equality. In the money nerd world, people such as myself have put the focus on fighting for financial and economic equity- meaning equal pay, childcare, financial literacy, and closing the racial wealth gaps.

And around here we care a lot about being a financial feminist. So much so that we host the Financial Feminist Summit for FREE every year.

Why You Should Be a Financial Feminist

Why Do We Need Financial Feminism?

Simply put, because the world is a deeply unequal place, and that is frighteningly clear when it comes to the world of money.

We talk about the wage gap often; a lot of people have heard that women make an average of $.77 to a white man’s dollar.

But when we dive a little deeper, we discover that women of color, trans women, queer women, disabled women, single mothers- basically anyone who is a non dude is making WAY, WAY less than a white man.

Then there’s the investing gap. The debt gap. The home ownership gap. I mean, it is just raining inequality up in here!

We treat white men like the blueprint; they are not only the standard to which we are all upheld, but they are the ones that we give the most flexibility and the most chances. We treat any non dudes like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit into the already existing picture.

And that means problems, current and future, for non dudes money.

Decades of being underpaid means women are 80% more likely to retire into poverty.

Trans people are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as cis people

Women hold 2/3 of all student loan debt and are more likely to pay higher interests rates on it.

Why You Should Be a Financial Feminist

I’ve said before, and will say again, that financial feminism is not just about one woman getting rich.

Let’s not turn this into the cringey #girlboss 2.0 movement, where we focus on telling women to mimic shitty business practices and line their own pockets.

Being a practicing financial feminist is good for literally every single person on this planet. Every one.

When we pay people equally it means a couple of cold hard financial facts:

More money in the economy

There will be more money being saved and invested

More money going to more people

Let’s break them down real quick.

When there’s money in the economy, it means more money being spent on small businesses. It means more homes being bought. More taxes being paid. More businesses being started. The flow of cash runs through the whole class system, instead of being concentrated at the top.

More money being saved and invested means fewer people living on the edge. It means fewer people retiring into poverty. More people doing things like starting their own businesses with their savings, or helping their kids pay for college. It means more Americans won’t be totally knocked over by a $400 emergency. It means financial stability, and the beginning of the road to wealth.

More money going to more people means more financial equality. Studies show that when women have more money the entire family benefits. Women will spend money on children, friends, and family. That’s money that not only circulates through an immediate family, but into the economy.

Women are more likely to be on government assistance than men, so paying women equally means fewer people using those services.

How to Be a Financial Feminist

So now that I’ve convinced you to be a financial feminist, where do you start?

Advocate for equity in your workplace. That can look a lot of ways, like talking to your co workers about salary to see if there are disparities between equal positions. Take it even further and ask management to do a pay audit to see if there is a wage gap between men and women.

Follow and listen to non dudes in the money space. Financial feminism should uplift all marginalized voices. Follow, learn from, and pay women, trans folks, non binary folks. Diversify your money world.

Vote for candidates working towards equity. The most important changes will come top down. That means changes at the policy level, both federal and state. And if you are inclined at all, I want to encourage you to run for office yourself! A diversity of experience is so important in the legislature and the more financial feminists we have in seats of power, the better off we’ll all be.

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