Do we really need another feminist organization?
The founders of Supermajority think so. The brainchild of former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and Ai-Jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the group announced itself with a feel-good video and a media blitz. But the overarching message bordered on the vapid rather than the revolutionary.
As the inaugural video described, Supermajority is an organization for “women who want to build our collective power and use it to change this country for good.” No galvanizing slogans, anti-fa balaclavas, or angry mobs here; just upbeat music, some interpretive dancing by ladies wearing overalls, and hipster grandmas in T-shirts with slogans such as “I believe Anita Hill.” The group’s website reads like a parody of vague empowerment clichés: “We’re building an inclusive, national membership of women who are connected, empowered, and taking action.”
Although neither the video nor the website uses words such as “liberal” or “Democratic” (or even “feminist”), this sisterhood has clear partisan leanings. The three founders are all veterans of progressive left causes, and donations to Supermajority, which are not tax-deductible because the group is a 501(c)(4), are processed through “ActBlue Civics,” an organization that facilitates left-leaning organizations. Supermajority deploys buzzwords such as “intersectional” and “multiracial” and “grassroots,” but avoids endorsing specific policy proposals or candidates yet.
One thing the group’s leaders are keen on is creating more activists. An Associated Press story notes Supermajority’s goal of “training and mobilizing 2 million women over the next year to become organizers and political leaders in their communities.” As the AP story notes, “despite increased energy, many women find getting involved in politics intimidating and are unclear about how to do more than march or protest.”
Supermajority enters a saturated market that already includes feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women, Emily’s List, the American Association of University Women, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Partnership for Women & Families, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ms. Foundation, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Ultraviolet, National Women’s Law Center, and many, many more (including many smaller niche feminist groups and international organizations).
And there are plenty of cautionary tales about the effectiveness of such activism. Consider Pantsuit Nation, the 3.5 million-plus-member Facebook group that emerged during the 2016 presidential election to support Hillary Clinton and is now one of Supermajority’s major partners. Its members have spent Donald Trump’s presidency not channeling their post-Hillary anger into useful action, but bickering about whether or not the group is too white and too self-indulgent. The infighting culminated in a “furious outcry” when the group’s founder profited off their collective Trump anxiety by publishing a glossy coffee-table book culled from their Facebook posts.
Are angry Hillary voters really the basis for a compelling supermajority? It’s true that women voters, particularly those voting for Democrats, made a big difference in the 2018 midterm elections. But it’s not clear that younger female voters share the same warm fuzzy feelings about the older generation’s feminism, which Supermajority represents. The generational feminist divide is already having an impact on the Democratic presidential primary—see, for example, younger feminists’ dissatisfaction with Joe Biden’s sort-of apology to Anita Hill and Beto O’Rourke’s Stepford Wife problem. In its extreme (and extremely bizarre) forms, progressive intersectional feminism produces candidates like this self-identified “queer feminist mermaid” who intends to challenge Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Perhaps this is why Supermajority is mimicking the language of its progressive juniors and taking pains to point out that they are “multigenerational” as well as “intersectional:” One of Supermajority’s founders told BuzzFeed they wanted to create a “women’s New Deal for gender equality,” echoing Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a Green New Deal. And the group’s Twitter feed features images of Wall Street’s Fearless Girl statue with slogans such as “One woman can be ignored. Two can be dismissed. But together we’re a supermajority. And we’re unstoppable.” They even have an online store that sells branded T-shirts and tote bags.
As for the policy message they’re selling, or any agenda beyond training activists, BuzzFeed reports that Supermajority plans to launch a “listening tour” over the summer “during which Supermajority staff will travel all over the country, meeting with women and compiling information on what issues matter most to them.”
If funding Cecile Richards’ retirement so she can go on “listening tours” is your idea of money well spent, then, by all means, open your wallet to Supermajority. But if you really want to make a difference and lack tolerance for shopworn female empowerment messaging, there’s a simpler, cheaper, and gender-neutral way to do it: vote.