Is Overthrowing Capitalism the Best Path to More Consensual Sex?

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S1: Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender, feminism and who’s actually making false rape accusations. Every episode, you get a new pair of women to talk about the thing we can’t get off our minds, and today you’ve got me. Kristina Cauterucci, I’m a senior writer at Slate and host of the Slate podcast Outward. And joining me is philosopher and Oxford professor Amia Srinivasan, who just published a new collection of essays this week. Amia Welcome to the waves.

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S4: Thank you so much for having me!

S1: Amira’s new book is called The Right to Sex Feminism in the 21st Century, and it covers a lot of ground that we’ve explored on the show sexual power dynamics, capitalist feminism, how to respond to sexual abusers. The book is deeply rooted in a variety of feminist ideologies and scholarship, but Amia asks new questions of a lot of those older texts, which I found just incredibly energizing and challenging. I’m so excited to talk about it on the show today. For the most part, I would say these essays don’t offer prescriptive arguments. They’re not policy papers. They’re reframing of issues that feminists in every wave of the movement have grappled with. How should feminists respond to sex work? Can we change our own sexual desires by force of political will? And once we dismantle prisons and abolish the police, what happens to the rapists? We’ll get into those questions and more after the break. I just want to take a second to welcome all our new listeners and to our old faithful. Thank you as always for being here. If you’re loving the show and want to hear more, subscribe to our feed. New episodes come out every Thursday morning, and while you’re there, check out some of our older episodes, like last week’s Where Slate writers Rebecca Onion and Heather Waddell discussed the death and legacy of teen magazines. OK. Amia, I want to start our conversation on the question of false rape accusations. You write in the false rape accusation, wealthy white men misperceive their vulnerability to women and to the state. This was an extremely clarifying statement for me. Can you explain what exactly you mean by that?

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S4: So all of the evidence suggests that false rape accusations are very, very rare. Like several orders of magnitude rarer than actual incidents of rape and false rape. Accusations are like plane crashes, right? They end up being the target of like a disproportionate amount of fear and anxiety. And the interesting question is why. And one thing you might want to say is, well, it’s because they usually happen to men. Right. So when people are falsely accused of rape, it’s typically men who are falsely accused of rape. But I didn’t even think that begins to give us a satisfying answer because so many men more men are raped than are the victims of false rape accusation. And this is especially true in the U.S., where you have a system of mass incarceration that is also a system of mass sexual abuse, especially, but not only of of men and poor men and men of color in particular. So what? What’s going on with the kind of cultural hysteria around the false rape accusation? Well, I think part of it has to do with the fact that it’s seen as a weapon that’s wielded by women against men. Even that’s not entirely true because when men are falsely convicted and imprisoned on the basis of a false accusation, it’s very often not women who are behind those false accusations, but rather other men. So specifically men who serve as police officers and prosecutors who coached false witness statements or otherwise kind of pin crimes on a conveniently situated men, right? Often men of color. Part of the phenomenon is that you have men thinking of the false rape accusation as as a tool at women’s disposal and one of the few tools at women’s disposal to kind of turn the decks against men, right? And to rig a system that’s normally rigged in men’s favor against men. But I think there’s also an anxiety about race and class, at least in places like the U.S. and the U.K., where men of color and poor men are disproportionately harmed by the coercive apparatus of the state, by the judicial system, by the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, you have wealthy, middle class white men who are generally very confident with good reason that the state is fundamentally on their side. They aren’t going to be subjected to unfair stop, and searches aren’t going to be subject to racial profiling and so on. But I think for a lot of middle class white men, the false rape accusation represents an almost unique point of vulnerability with respect to the state and state power. Not in actuality, right? Because the people who are disproportionately victims of the false rape accusation are again men of color and presumably poor men who make up the majority of people in U.S. prisons. But nonetheless, I think in the kind of white, middle class male imagination, there is this sense that the false rape accusation represents a possibility of them being treated the way in which poor men and especially poor men of color routinely are treated by the state.

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S1: Mm hmm. I mean, just thinking about the types of men who we often hear, you know, worries about false rape accusations, you know, these are usually white men in positions of power or white men of privilege, you know, at university or in other places where again, as you say, like, except for this one instance, they might expect that they would be treated better than poor men of color. But here they’re, you know, it’s almost the idea of there being possibly treated equally. That is such a site of fear.

S4: Right, exactly. But of course, the reality is that they’re not treated equally. So if you look at, you know, the exonerations of people who’ve been convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. for sexual assault and sexual violence, again, it’s disproportionately men of color. Right. So men of color, especially black men, are disproportionately put into prison for sexual crimes they did not commit. And nonetheless, the hysteria around the false rape accusation is very much focused on. Well, it very much comes, as you were saying, from financially secure white men and their mothers very often and their partners. And it’s also fixated on on spaces like the university campus. Which, again, don’t render these men particularly vulnerable to false accusation.

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S1: And in this first chapter where you’re writing about, you know, how to respond to allegations of sexual assault, you make it very clear that our current systems of addressing sexual violence are not working. This is the first of many avenues of your skepticism of state interventions for putatively feminist causes. You write that when the criminal justice system disproportionately punishes poor men of color and even affirmative consent laws, which have sort of become, you know, the new standard that a lot of feminists will push for can’t quite get at the deeper issue at a lot of at the center of a lot of cases of unwanted sex, which is a whole variety of reasons why women feel compelled to follow through with sex. Why men feel empowered to cajole a woman into sex when she doesn’t seem quite into it. So in response to these inadequacies, we’ve seen women turn to social media to air their allegations outside of these current systems. But you sort of urge caution here, too.

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S4: I do urge caution or at least reflection, a call for a reflection and the call for a greater amount of honesty about what we’re doing when we take to social media. I rush to say, you know, the reason that women reach to Twitter or Facebook and these kind of decentralized apparatuses is because of the failure, right? The huge failure of any other kind of formal system of accountability, right, when it comes to forms of sexual violence. So there is a problem here and this is a response to it. But I think sometimes people aren’t willing to fully reckon with the idea that there is a punitive aspect to going after people on social media. I mean, one thing that people are really in denial about denial of is sometimes it can cost people their livelihoods and their jobs. Right. And I think we should be very anxious about any time further empowering bosses to fire workers. So that’s one just one thing to say. And very often what it’s what ends up happening is that the really powerful men are totally fine because they are the bosses. And it might actually be people who are, you know, lower down on the food chain who are going to be disproportionately affected. But I also think that there are interesting and not totally accounted for kind of psychic costs of forms of kind of online, you know, retribution or things like that. And I’m not trying to say that, you know, feminists need to be saints by any means. I just think we need to be having a kind of more open and honest conversation about like what we actually want to do about the problem of sexual violence and sexual harassment and what do we want to do with these men? Are all of them like beyond the pale? Are we just going to imprison all of them? I mean, obviously not. I mean, are we going to just kind of reach to the standard carceral apparatus or kind of quasi castle rock apparatuses? Or can we think more imaginatively and creatively about ways of going forward? And I think that any kind of really responsible and also radical feminism has to take this question seriously, and that requires a fundamental transformation in social reality. And I don’t think that forms of genuine sexual equality can come out, come into existence when you don’t have things like racial equality or economic equality, right? This has to be part of a broader package of of a liberatory, egalitarian politics that I think is maybe the most fundamental problem with, with just trying to come up with rules and then using fear of punishment, right? Because fear of punishment will stop men from having certain outward forms of sex, right? Maybe it will stop them from having non-consensual sex or be a little bit more afraid of having non-consensual sex. But it doesn’t begin, I think, to address like the more fundamental thing that is going awry in so much of the sex that we’re having with each other.

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S1: In fact, you write that, you know, in societies with greater degrees of economic inequality and racial domination, I believe as the phrase you used, we see higher rates of gender based violence, in part because these are things that cause men to have a crisis of masculinity, and often they act that out on the women in their lives.

S4: Yeah, it’s extraordinary how strongly correlated domestic violence rates are with male unemployment the world over. The other problem with the kind of carceral approach is that it distracts from those deeper social crises that often produce or exacerbate sexual violence. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that domestic violence is only caused by male joblessness or crises in masculinity. I mean, there are plenty of rich men who also like, beat their their women partners, but it’s certainly. Very strong exacerbating factor. And as long as we’re being seen to target a few offending men, suing them, putting them in prison, it can it can feel like we are doing something about the, you know, about the problem. But really the fundamental problems are so much deeper. And so Cultural Solutions act as a kind of cover for underlying social crises that make women more vulnerable than than men. Right.

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S1: This is, I have to admit, one of the hardest things to wrap my head around when it comes to domestic violence. And this your book was not the first time I’ve encountered this, these set of facts about domestic violence and what studies have shown. But it’s emotionally a difficult one for me, and I think it probably is for a lot of feminists. You know, the fact that domestic violence arrests have been shown to actually worsen the suffering specifically of those victims who are poor women of color because they’re subjected to more violence and retaliation, or because they lose a partner and a moneymaker in the family? You know the idea that perhaps if we gave these men jobs instead of sending them to jail for assaulting their wives, you know, I think that will always feel tremendously unsatisfying, even enraging for many feminists, perhaps less so for women who are actually in the position where they’ve experienced some of these effects firsthand. But I think here and correct me if I’m wrong, but you might draw a distinction between a politics of symbolism and one of reality.

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S4: Absolutely. So I think the carceral approach to kind of sexual violence and sexual justice more generally is very intuitive. It’s very symbolically satisfying. I mean, it’s very symbolically satisfying to take an abusive man and put him in prison, having pulled out by the cops. Very satisfying symbolically to arrest men who sleep with sex workers, especially insofar as they seem to be expressing a kind of entitlement more generally to women’s bodies. But these are terrible policies. In fact, so, you know, policies that criminalize sex work in any of its forms disproportionately harm the women who work in sex work. It just makes their lives harder. It makes them poorer. It makes them more vulnerable to male violence, makes them vulnerable to the violence of the police. It’s just bad. And so you have to give up the satisfaction of those that symbolic satisfaction of both punishing, you know, the men who buy sex, but also the symbolic satisfaction of striking sex work out of existence at the level of the law. Right. Because striking something out in existence at the level of the law never actually removes it in reality. So yes, again, with the domestic violence, I think it’s very hard, right? Intuitively. A man who is physically violent, sexually violent against his his partner, you want him to be punished. So let me offer an alternative to the idea of just giving him a job. The other thing we can do is give women money, give poor women money. Because the number one thing they need to be able to leave their partners, their abusive partners is money. They don’t have the means to take themselves and their children out of that home and set up a different home. We don’t have well-funded, independent domestic violence shelters. We don’t have universal basic income. We don’t have good free public housing or child health care or adult health care for that matter in the US. You don’t have to double down on the heteronormative nuclear family as a response to these. This quite startling reality about how these domestic violence laws actually work. I think you can instead have quite a feminist socialist vision which would actually emancipate women from from the nuclear family. At the same time, I think it is important to recognize that for a lot of straight women and straight relationships where those relationships are abusive, it’s not so much that they want their husbands in prison, they just want their partners to stop beating them. And so I think a certain kind of pragmatic attitude has to prompt us to think about what conditions would be necessary to get people out of certain cycles of violence.

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S1: We’re going to stop there for a minute to take an ad break, and we’ll pick up some of those threads on the other side of the ad. Listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, just do a solid and like and subscribe to the waves wherever you get your podcasts. Also check out this week’s Slate Plus segment. It’s the first one in a new series we’re calling. Is this feminist fans of our previous Slate Plus segment? Is it sexist? Will love this new twist. The first iteration will feature Susan Matthews and Shaina Roth debating whether Dr. Jill Biden keeping her job is feminist. So.

S2: He waves listeners. We’d like your help in a couple of weeks. We’re doing an episode on how to have a feminist wedding. We need your tips and suggestions. Please email us any ideas or questions at the Waves at Slate.com.

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S1: I want to go back to your point about giving women money as a potential way to prevent and address gender based violence and domestic violence. You know, you’re highly skeptical of capitalist feminism, as am I. The idea that putting more women at the top of a hierarchy that’s already exploitative, that’s already exploiting women will somehow lead to better outcomes for working class women. But, you know, within this system and talking about ways to sort of address the social and cultural reasons for gender based violence, I wonder if getting women more money in power could help change cultural perceptions of what women are capable of, what women deserve. Does that make sense to you at all? You know, when I think about the politics of representation, for instance, and how hollow that can be. I also think maybe there is some kind of power in just changing what how people see the world and its hierarchies and who occupies which places in those hierarchies.

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S4: Yeah, I think I also have very mixed and ambivalent feelings about the politics of representation because it’s very hollow when you think of it as the entirety of your politics. And of course, that’s in the interest of capital. If anything, sexism and racism, while they’ve been very useful to capital, right by allowing us to a segment different kinds of workers and pay, you know, people who do traditionally women’s work or the work of people of color, much less. There’s another sense in which racism and sexism are a barrier to capitalism’s need for, you know, so-called meritocracy, right? Just like the best talent coming to the top at the same time. You know, I I think many of us have experienced that like that that jolt of seeing someone you didn’t expect to see in a certain kind of position. I mean, I’m struck by the fact that I was barely taught by like any women when I was an undergraduate, and I now wonder whether that had something to do with why I never thought of myself as becoming an academic right, even though I wanted to. I just never thought I could. Maybe that has something to do with it. Yeah, maybe, maybe. But I think there’s an interesting question here, though, because there’s the problem of backlash. And there’s the problem of the way in which the domestic sphere especially becomes a site of backlash as women enter into the workforce and in particular, enter jobs that were traditionally held for men and are kind of more represented, right? I mean, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that were to go hand in hand with an increase in certain forms of gendered violence. And you certainly see that. I mean, people in India talk about that as a as very much a serious phenomenon, right? You have this kind of extraordinary Amazon entry of middle class women into positions of power, but also just in kind of more ordinary positions of but that were previously reserved for men and you and and the mass education of women, higher education women. You have that going hand-in-hand with like an increase in gendered violence and a sense of kind of male dispossession. So I’m not sure exactly how the politics of representation play out here. I mean, I like the optimism that you’re suggesting, but I worry it might go in the other direction entirely.

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S1: Yeah, I mean this the more I think about these issues and sort of take myself down next up to next step to possible backlash to, you know, how to mitigate the maybe unintended consequences it feels like, are we better off just sort of addressing the symptoms of patriarchy rather than trying to somehow like rip it out at its roots? Like, I don’t even know how we would be able to do that part.

S4: I think one has to try and do it sort of all at once. I mean, one thing I do think is that what would it look like to give poor women across the world like just more time? Right. And what would they do with that time if they weren’t having to worry about poverty and about racism and classism and environmental degradation? I mean, what would they do with their time? And I think one of the things they would do with their time is, you know, sort men out slightly. Right? I mean, you could be thinking rethinking questions of gendered education and acculturation and socialization. I think one has to have a kind of dialectical relationship to this. I mean, you know, one thing that feminists of the 70s said, I mean, people as diverse as like Firestone on one hand and Adrian Rich on the other, was that what you need is the mass entry of men into childcare, right? So you need the end of this idea of childcare as a special preserve of women and for Adrian Rich. The idea specifically was that like once you require men to rear children, they they’ll have to stop being children themselves, so they’ll have to

S2: overcome

S4: their own anxiety about their primordial dependence on women. And so they will grow up for Firestone. It’s part of a broader project of just kind of emancipating us all from the kind of the sexual and gender reproduction of labor in the family. But that’s an interesting thing because what you have is a proposal that, on one hand, is just very concrete material like 24 hour free childcare like this would make the worst of people in the U.S. so much better off, and it would make women in particular massively better off. And it’s the kind of thing that you would think that capital might be able to just like, provide right? There’s the money for that. At the same time, like, that’s the kind of proposal that maybe has a kind of broader, transformative and revolutionary potential, right? It’s what Andre Gore, it’s called a non reformist reform, a change that’s possible under our current political circumstances, but that points in the direction of something more profound. And I think there are lots of those kinds of suggestions, right, that you can find in the history of feminist thought that we’re now coming back to, especially while thinking about things like care work, housework, reproductive labor, more broadly, the privatization of care, all of these things that have become a particularly acute focus under the pandemic. I think feminists have a lot to say about, and they offer a possibility for changes now that would make people in a very direct material way better off, but that also contains a potentiality for like more revolutionary and psychic transformation.

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S1: Mm hmm. I mean, even something as simple as paying child care workers more would seem to be able to attract more men

S4: to that work. Exactly. So what would it? What would it look like to take all of these areas of socially necessary work and value them and value them in the way that we do under capitalist society by paying it? What would it look like to have a more kind of egalitarian distribution of social care work across, you know, the genders and. And how would that change people’s relationship to questions of of gendering and gendered socialization?

S1: So I think we have time for just one more question. I want to address the title essay in the book, which comes from a piece that you published in the London Review of Books in 2018. That piece was called Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex? In that essay, you explore the social and political construction of sexual desire. And I actually remember reading that essay and you know, the question of how we learn to want what we want has always fascinated me. I really enjoyed reading that. And in your new book, you add a section responding to some of the criticism that that initial essay received. What do you think it is about the idea that our sexual desires might not be fully pure and fully formed from the moment of birth that triggers people so much and and makes them feel so offended by that concept?

S4: Right, so I think the most charitable thing to say is that there’s there are really good, excellent political reasons to be wary of the political critique of desire, even though I think that critique is interesting and unnecessary and important. So you just have to look at like the history of queer liberation to think about the importance of the insistence on the kind of sovereignty and UN malleability of desire and sexual desire in particular. Politically speaking, as a matter of historical political fact, it was really important for gay and lesbian people to be able to say, You know, I was born this way. The set of preferences are not preferences. They’re just like innate desires. I can’t change. Stop trying to put an identity, right? It’s an identity. And because we live in a moralize culture where we think, well, if someone can’t help it, then it’s OK, right? Then then they’re not blameworthy for it. That appealed to sovereign innate ness has been politically really important. And you see that again in the trans liberation movement. Right. So you see the invocation of a notion of like an innate gender identity or the discourse of being born in the wrong body again to fit into a logic that says this might be bad, but it’s not bad if people have no control over it, right? If they’re just sort of born this way. Now, for lots of queer people, gay and lesbian people, trans people, non-binary people, the kind of discourse of, you know, solving and neatness makes a certain kind of live sense. But for lots of people, it doesn’t write lots of gay and lesbian people. Lots of trans people will tell you that’s just not. That’s just a very reductive and simplistic account of of desire and identity for me. Like phenomena logically and and in terms of my own biography, people will feel that there’s a much more complex interplay of desire, choice, identification, right? So that feeling of having different possibilities open to you and deciding to embrace one and set other things aside, that’s very familiar, magically important to people. So I think one reason that people, as you said, are kind of triggered by the idea of a kind of political critique of desire is because there may be wary of opening out into the possibility of a kind of reactionary response. It’s like, oh, of desire turned out to be malleable, then there shouldn’t be any gay people because we should actually just put or there shouldn’t be any trans people. Now that’s a very charitable construal. I think for a lot of people, though, there’s just a defensiveness. There’s a kind of recognition. But yeah, there are things that they don’t really like or they don’t feel politically about happy with, about their way of being in the world as desiring creatures. They they want things that don’t make them totally comfortable or that they don’t want to evolve. And it’s comforting to just think to yourself, Oh, well, these are just like natural. I can’t do anything about them. There’s so inbuilt. It’s just ridiculous to subject them to any kind of interrogation. So I think that defensiveness that is often triggered by a political critique like mine

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S1: and I can see that happening even more for people who don’t like what they don’t want, whether it’s, you know, by virtue of the racism or transphobia or or fatphobia, things that exist in the culture that we are all raised in. People are attracted to certain kinds of people in the idea that, you know, racism or transphobia or fatphobia might have something to do with that. I think people feel like it. That means it’s their personal failing instead of, like you said, a complex interplay of like how you feel and the culture that you were raised in, which is not so much personal as systemic.

S4: Right. And maybe it’s part of a kind of a broader social phenomenon. I mean, this kind of neo liberal phenomenon of wanting to be like this kind of perfect subject. Right. And so if it turns out that there’s your subject to a kind of political critique like that’s somehow offensive, whereas I just think of ourselves as all well to use a religious metaphor like totally fallen, right? I mean, how could we not be like completely shaped by these social structures of domination?

S1: This was such a fantastic conversation. Amia, thank you so much for joining us. This was my brain is whirring like a computer that has too many tabs open. So, yeah, it’s so great to chat with you.

S4: Thank you, Christine. I had a wonderful time.

S1: That’s our show for the week. The Waves is produced by Sheena Rath. Susan Matthews is our editorial director with Joon Thomas. Providing Oversight and moral support if you like the show. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts. And please consider supporting the waves by joining Slate Plus, members get benefits like zero. Outs on any slate podcast and bonus content of shows like this one, it’s only $1 for the first month, so no excuses. To learn more, go to Slate.com, slash the waves. Plus, we’d also love to hear from you. As always, you can email us at The Waves at Slate.com. The waves will be back next week. Different hosts. Different topic, same time and place.

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S2: Hey, Slate, plus, listeners, I’m Susan Matthews and I’m here with Shayna Roth, we make the waves and we are here to debut our new Slate Plus segment. We are going to be talking about different topics every week and we’re going to be trying to answer the question of Is that feminist? And so this week, what we wanted to talk about is Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States, who as serving as first lady, has decided to keep her job. The New York Times wrote kind of the first profile of Jill Biden since she’s been living in the White House. It’s called Jill Biden. It’s chasing the president’s most elusive campaign promise, unity, and it talks quite a bit about what she’s doing in her official role as first lady. And it talks about the fact that she hasn’t given up her other job as English professor. So we are going to talk about whether that’s feminist of her. Did you know that Jill Biden was still teaching before I sent you this? I did not. And honestly, it seems kind of like a crazy thing. Not because the first lady shouldn’t have a job and can we stop calling her first lady? I feel like First Woman feels a little bit better. I don’t know. I feel weird when I say First Lady. These days, I totally agree. Like the first point of order here could be before even keeping her job. She could just redo the institution of the first lady started with the name right. I refuse to decorate and I refuse to be called a lady. I will be called a woman. So, I mean, it sounds like, yeah, yeah. If you want to have a job, great, do you? You shouldn’t have to give up something that you clearly love and are very passionate about and worked very hard to get to just because your husband got a new job. But there’s a lot of like logistical things that I’m very curious about the thing that she’s teaching at a school and she is the first woman of the United States. I’m so curious about the security precautions that have to be taken, what her students must think of this. I mean, great thing for them. But like totally, this story makes it sound like her students don’t even really care about who she is. And I do not buy that and I don’t buy that at all, either. She listed herself by her maiden name. So she is Jay Tracy like on the course offerings. But when you walk into the room, she’s obviously Jill Biden first woman of the United States, so I agree that it’s very cool for her and maybe sort of weird for her students to be doing this right. And it seems like she’s also still doing a lot of the sort of quote unquote typical First Lady Jobs opportunities, things I guess that they do. I mean, it sounds like she is traveling around quite a bit. And I mean, clearly, she’s juggling it just fine. But like, I wonder how that works. I taught a Class eight college course with my full time job, and I wasn’t traveling around and I’m like a lot of days. I was like, I don’t know how I’m getting all this done. I mean, it’s an incredible load for anybody to take on. Yeah, I think that that points to the main question that I had about the whole decision, which is you’re totally right that she seems to be doing so many things that former first women have done. And a lot of those things seem to be really the softer side of whatever that job is if you want to describe it as a job. So she is meeting constituents, which I guess you could say is is a bit more serious. And I kind of did like her approach to that generally. But she’s doing a lot of like hosting and, you know, I don’t know what we’ll we’ll find out. I guess, like come Christmas, time may become Halloween, like what she’s doing decorating wise, and you can bet we’ll be talking about it. Of course we will. But to me, it just kind of felt like the one reason why I wanted to push back on how cool it is. I guess it is kind of cool that she’s still teaching, but I also have this feeling that being in this position that she is ended up in, she actually has a ton of power. Not necessarily hard political power, but she could do something that I think would have a lot of impact. And so I just kind of wonder if she wasn’t teaching. Would she be able to advocate more for free community college? Would she be able to to do some sort of, you know, national project or program that would have a bigger impact on schools all over the country? And like, is it selfish of her to not do that? And how much did she sign up for this job? Like, that’s the whole inherent question of having a married couple like go into the White House and be like, We’re a tag team deal. Like that’s that’s like the whole question of of the system. The thing that I wish I knew is like, does every government do this? Is every other place so committed to the idea that, like the first spouse has all of these duties, it seems to be the case. Like when other dignitaries come to the U.S., their spouses are definitely there. But one of the reasons why I was so hopeful that we are going to have a woman as president was just, I think that. A mold of what the first lady is expected to do will only be broken when we have a man in that role as the first man, and he is like, I’m not picking out the Cheyna patterns, like there are professionals who we can pay to do that. So there are plenty of other first ladies out there. There was a New York Times opinion piece in October of 2019 titled I’m a First Lady and It’s an Incredibly Weird Job. That was by Eliza Reid, who is the first lady of Iceland, and she described it as the role of a genteel sidekick, and I feel like that is very much how we have viewed First Ladies. I vaguely remember when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, and she tried to really make it a job like a job job, like she had a policy job, right? And she just and granted, it was the 90s and we had a huge problem with how we treated women in the media in the 90s. I mean, we still do, but especially in the 90s and it just she just got so lambasted by it. And so since then, you’ve seen first ladies try and sort of make some sort of a job of it. You know, they have their own agendas, they have policies, you know, like first woman Michelle Obama, she was very committed to health with children. Laura Bush was super committed to, I think, libraries and reading, There you go. There you go. But they were Melania Trump who knows drugs. She had a thing. She had terrible Christmas trees, but they all sort of seem to be kind of like padding to what their husbands the presidents were interested in were doing. So it’s sort of not to like overshadow them, but to just sort of like it’s their own thing, but it’s also helpful for their husband’s agenda. And I got to really hand it to her for saying, I’m going to do that. But you know, I’m also I also had this job that I really loved, and I’m going to keep that job and I’m going to find a way to do it. And whenever I’m thinking about, OK, is this feminist or is it not? My question is, would we be asking the same questions if she was a man? And the answer for this one is, I’m not sure, because I still say she is taking on an incredible amount of work and people need mental health time. Totally true. But on that question of if we would be asking this, if it was a man, we do actually have one to like. The very first examples in Kamala Harris is husband. The second man, I guess, is what we refer to him as. And guess what he’s doing? He’s teaching at a university. So like while Jill Biden is doing this and kind of trailblazing for it, I feel like it was definitely a news story that Doug was leaving his his law practice, which made sense because I think there were a lot of conflicts of interest that would have come up with that. But he’s he’s definitely teaching law. And I remember when that happened, my reaction was definitely a little bit of like, Oh wow, he’s really minimizing his career for his wife’s career. And I don’t want to say that teaching law is more intense than teaching English, but I’m really curious about how their their course loads compare to one another. And just the way that we react to him kind of downsizing his career and still doing that. But to Jill Biden still doing this? Yeah. And so I feel like we’re still treating them differently and granted the role of first woman and vice president’s husband. However, we’re going to first spouse for second and second gentleman. I guess is is one of the ways we’re talking about it. I guess they probably do have different expectations and different roles, but I feel like the way we’re treating Kamala Harris as husband is, it’s kind of we treat him kind of not as a prop, but almost as like a mascot of like this adorable, adoring husband. And we think, Oh, well, he’s he’s wants to have his job. Of course, he wants to have his job, and that’s OK. But we become more critical of Dr. Jill Biden when she makes similar decisions. It seems like it’s it’s also so true that there’s like this fetishisation of the way that he loves you. And so it’s not acceptable to, like, celebrate the way that Joe Biden loves Joe Biden at all in the same way and even in the Times piece. Like, I very much noticed that it went out of its way to be like Joe Biden adores his wife. He’s so affectionate with her. He calls her all the time. He calls her Jill. He calls her babe. There was no engagement of how she kind of response to that, because I think that we still celebrate men for showing tons of affection, and we haven’t gotten to the point of being able to do that with women in a way which is like kind of sexism spinning around like 180 degrees. You would expect women to do that, and we’ve like decided, no, we’re not going to do it, but we do do it for men. And so it’s exactly getting back to that core principle when you answer that question. If it’s different between how we generally handle men and women, then like, it’s probably sexist. So final answer is Dr. Jill Biden teaching feminist or not feminist? I say yes, but I do want to just introduce into this little chat the absolutely fantastic answer. That our managing producer, John Thomas gave, which was she should give up her job, not because teaching isn’t super important, but because it’s important to model retirement if you can afford it. And I thought that I do agree with that. Yeah, I made a feminist argument that, of course, June would make. So I think we can both say yes, there are a lot of other feminist things she could bring into this job, and we are watching and hoping so. That is our new segment. Is this feminist? Do you have a burning question of your trying to figure out whether or not something is feminist or have you come across something? Do you have a piece of nostalgia where you’re looking back on it and going, huh? Was this really as girl power as I thought it was? Email us at The Waves at Slate.com. Again, that’s the waves at Slate.com, and thank you again so much for being a Slate Plus listener.