Pro-choice Anti-Feminism: The Case of Tomi Lahren
I cringe every time former Blaze commentator and Republican blonde bombshell Tomi Lahren comes up in the news. She's from Rapid City, SD, and because South Dakota doesn't make the news much, it's always a bit cringey when someone from my home state makes the news by making a fool of themselves, as Lahren does consistently. Or, at least, does so from a liberal perspective, as she's known for such hits as calling Black Lives Matter "the new KKK" and saying the Clinton Foundation donors "literally stone women and throw gays off of buildings."
I keep my head down about her, shrugging and rolling my eyes, knowing that if I'd been handed a national platform as a conservative South Dakotan, my arguments would have sounded nearly the same. I was queen of learning and parroting conservative talking points, and not so great at developing my own thoughts about it (though if you'd pushed me on it, I'd have claimed quite strenuously that these were my original thoughts).
But Lahren recently made headlines for something entirely else: she commented during a visit to The View that she's pro-choice on guns and on abortion. This pro-choice stance—a weak one, considering she supports a president who has commented that women should be punished for abortion—has cost her her job as a conservative commentator. Ironically, the party that proclaims the left is the punisher of free speech and political correctness is punishing one of their own for a public disagreement.
Lahren's predicament, however, does highlight how words and actions frequently don't line up. When it comes to feminism, as we've seen, many public figures seek to position themselves under the umbrella of feminism in order to position themselves as a brand. Their actions as CEOs or as content creators don't, however, match up to the basics of this feminist idea.
Lahren didn't proclaim to be a feminist; she is vehemently anti-feminist, in fact. But that hasn't stopped many from opening their doors to her for her luekwarm pro-choice stance. But Lahren's actions don't match up with her stated pro-choice stance. She continues to throw her weight behind politicians who use their platforms to restrict access to reproductive rights. Her personal pro-choice stance hasn't translated into any kind of action, and merely declaring oneself to be pro-choice isn't saying anything if you're continuing to vote for and actively promote people who want to take away a person's right to choose.
Feminism is a big tent, and I'm willing to give a lot of leeway on a lot of different issues for people who proclaim themselves to be feminist. There are any number of feminist stances that I have trouble getting behind or trusting from my perspective. But while those disagreements happen, it doesn't give me room to doubt a person's commitment and ability to learn. I'm much less inclined to write people off because of one mistaken sentiment or lack of knowledge about particular things.
But when a person's career is built upon the violence and cruelty of promoting bigotry, one feminist stance does not whitewash any number of sins. Just as one mistake cannot erase years of feminist advocacy (though such mistakes should be apologized for and ameliorated), one supposedly feminist statement does not a feminist make. Just as you can say "I love the Gays" and still participate in a church culture that does us harm, you can say "I'm pro-choice" and still actively promote harmful anti-choice policies and politicians. Neither of these makes you an ally.
To be an ally and to be a feminist requires action. It requires a sacrifice and an understanding of power. If you are straight and seek to be an ally, you have to sacrifice your desire to be the center of conversation. There is not some grand organization that grants credentials: it is work, and hard work at that. There has to be an expression—beyond showing up to the march, beyond saying you're pro-choice for guns and for women. There is a lifelong commitment to equality and calling it out and being active in fighting for feminist ideals.
We are sometimes too eager to accept the scraps from the table of the privileged. We must sit back and think more about the role our own critical thinking plays in the era of feminism and feminist branding. Does our big tent hold up under scrutiny? Or are we just that desperate for an ally?