“The Future is Female.” You’ve seen this slogan in the media, on T-shirts worn by celebrities or on tote bags in Facebook ads. Originally conceived by the lesbian separatist movement in the 1970’s and repopularized last year due to its usage in a speech by Hillary Clinton, “The Future is Female” is a slogan that is now ubiquitous. This phrase is purported to be a feminist rallying cry, and if you question its merit you are seen as anti-feminist. But what if you are a feminist who does question the merits of this phrase? What if you see it as more insidious and harmful than people realize and much less revolutionary than people want it to be?
Well, then you’re someone like me. I see this phrase and I cringe. I see the word “female” and I think of a non-consensually assigned and socially-constructed sex category that is automatically tied to a specific and equally socially-constructed gender. I see a wave of pink pussy hats largely worn by white women who claim the term “feminist” and are more than happy to exclude our cis, trans and non-binary sisters and siblings of color. I see a history of white suffragettes intentionally separating themselves from black women because it was a more expedient way to secure rights for themselves. I see Rose McGowan chastising Ellen DeGeneres for talking about LGBTQ rights when she should be talking about “women’s issues,” as if there are no queer or trans women. I see the 52 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump and the 63 percent that voted for Roy Moore. I see the inherent violence of a term that is used to medically identify someone that has a certain set of genitals, whether they identify that way or not. I see my trans siblings being referred to as someone who “identifies as a man although born biologically female,” or as someone who “identifies as a woman although born biologically male,” and knowing they are both excluded from the “future” being talked about. I see my non-binary siblings erased altogether.
So no, I do not wish the future to be female. I wish the future to be a place where children no longer have a gender and sex forced upon them based on the appearance of their genitals. I wish for a future where these outdated terms, that do not accurately describe reality, are no longer in use. I wish for a future where you can’t openly exclude one or many marginalized groups in your fight and still be labeled and seen as a feminist. I wish for a future where queer, trans and non-binary people of color are in power and are seen as the full, whole, valid, extraordinary individuals that they are. I wish for a future where black lives matter to everyone, everywhere, at all times. I wish for a future where there are no prisons, no borders and no boundaries that keep anyone from living a fully realized life.
I do not think that everyone who wears or buys something with this slogan on it is willfully excluding the populations that I mentioned above (and the many more I did not). I would like to believe that most people have good intentions, that they are trying to be liberal and progressive and feminist and don’t know any better. But it is my experience that when people learn, they don’t necessarily change. If everyone who has a “The Future is Female” T-shirt knew the connotations and knew that they were excluding many groups who are fighting for their civil and human rights as we speak, how many do you think would stop wearing them? How many do you think would instead buy a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt or a tote bag supporting DACA recipients? I am not sure, and that is what scares me. So above all, I wish for a future where, to paraphrase the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou, people that know better, do better.