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 into 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?
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 that is to define who is a financial feminist.
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.
Financial Feminism’s 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, than 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. Money is closely linked to freedom, control, and power in our current system. The more money you have, the more power you have.
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.
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.”