Essay: The Bespoke Feminism of Senator Sinema and the Sorority of Pinky Swears

The first rule about the Sorority of Pinky Swears is you must support women no matter what.  

The second rule about the Sorority of Pinky Swears is you can’t criticize women no matter what.

But the most important rule of the Sorority of Pinky Swears: Those women must be white and wealthy.

If Men’s Rights Activists have twisted the anarchic ethos of Fight Club to suit their patriarchal aspirations, then white women have reduced feminism to a Sorority of Pinky Swears to suit women who benefit from patriarchy: wealthy white women.

Rather than fighting for the destruction of patriarchy--that many-tentacled octopus of oppressions such as misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, transphobia, ageism--the Sorority of Pinky Swears wears a bespoke feminism that is tailored to fit their aspirations of fighting whatever hurts them individually, and fuck the rest of us. Bespoke feminism is the antithesis of intersectional feminism.

Take the three female senators  among the 8 Senate Democrats (among whom was an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats) who voted against raising the minimum wage to $15. In case you thought the Sorority of Pinky Swears was a sisterhood reserved only for Republican women, Democratic Senators Jeane Shaheen, Maggie Hassan and Kyrsten Sinema displayed that elusive bipartisan “unity” and reminded us exactly whom the sorority benefits: white wealthy women like themselves.

The pandemic is a fucking disaster for women, globally. But some women are more equal than others i.e. it is less an economic disaster for some women, than others: 

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire’s net worth: $3.82 million

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire’s net worth: $3.47 million

  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s net worth is $32,500 


    The Sorority of Pinky Swears wears a bespoke feminism that is tailored to fit their aspirations of fighting whatever hurts them individually, and fuck the rest of us. Bespoke feminism is the antithesis of intersectional feminism.


Sinema is not a millionaire. It was not her wealth that signalled “fuck you” to the Black and Latinx women who make up the bulk of minimum wage earners. It was her tap-tap on Mitch McConnell’s shoulder - Hey! watch me fuck over poor Black and women of colour! - followed by her exaggerated thumbs down and a curtsy as she voted. She managed to channel both a Roman emperor condemning a gladiator to death and Marie Antoinette scoffing at the poor with cake. 

And right on cue with a defence as facile as those “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts was Sinema’s spokesperson, who told HuffPost that asking about Sinema’s callous gestures was sexist. 

“Commentary about a female senator’s body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet,” Hannah Hurley, a spokesperson for Sinema, told HuffPost. 

The thing with the Sorority of Pinky Swears is that they will say something that sounds right but upon closer inspection is as hollow as that feminism perfectly fashioned to fit only themselves. Yes, the media are full of vacuous articles that obsess over female politicians’ appearances and you know that men do not carry a burden as heavy as that imposed on women in the workplace - both, when we were not socially distanced and even now when women feel pressure to be “camera ready” for Zoom meetings. 

So Hurley’s words sound right. But they are exactly what is wrong with the “feminism” of the Sorority of Pinky Swears: her accusation of sexism is aimed at silencing criticism of her boss and it is a hollow and toothless mockery of the goals of feminism. 

Feminism is not: supporting a woman simply because she is a woman.

Sexism is not: any and all criticism of a woman.

To claim, as Hurely does, that inquiring about Sinema’s callousness is sexist (it is not) while Sinema - a white woman - voted to fuck over Black and Brown women during the worst pandemic  in 100 years (this is sexism) is like someone wearing a “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt while beating up a woman and when confronted, they point to the t-shirt to silence any complaints. 

You would be mistaken for thinking that Hurley was channeling Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House spokesperson who happily ran interference for a fascist fuck and a sexual predator and, when she was not lying for her boss, was fond of using the Stick of Sexism to beat us into submission by insisting that it was sexist to oppose, for example, Gina Haspel to head the CIA. Other Republicans made the same argument in support of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.


Feminism is not: supporting a woman simply because she is a woman.

Sexism is not: any and all criticism of a woman.


It was not lost on those of us who opposed Barrett and Haspel’s nominations, that their boosters were so vehemently pressing them as feminist victories because their gender was a convenient way to deflect scrutiny from their shortcomings. Republicans who normally did not give a flying fuck about feminism were suddenly judging our feminism and finding it lacking because we pointed out the dangerous extremism of Barrett and the torture record of Haspel. 

The goal of feminism cannot be simplistically the elevation of any and all women. What a vacant and meaningless goal that would be, without also destroying patriarchy. Patriarchal fuckery is no more palatable because it is delivered by women. And yet, there was Sanders insisting “Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes (Haspel’s) nomination is a total hypocrite.”

Sanders was also fond of using the Stick of Sisterhood to beat us into submission to the demands of the Sorority of Pinky Swears. You will remember that she once complained that “99 percent” of people who criticised her were women. 

“I am only the third woman and the first mom to ever be the White House press secretary, and yet women attack me relentlessly, instead of, you know, being proud that we have more women doing those types of jobs,” Sanders told Fox News. If by “those types of jobs” she meant complicity in fascism, you better fucking believe that I am not proud that “we have more women.”

And what about the reverence for motherhood to shut us up! White motherhood, of course. Not for Black mothers, whose children are murdered and brutalized by police. Not for migrant mothers, whose children are stolen from them in concentration camps at the border. The Sorority of Pinky Swears dismisses, rather than reveres, those mothers.

GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel brought out that stick too when she addressed the Republican National Convention.

“Democrats started their convention last week with Eva Longoria, a famous Hollywood actress who played a housewife on TV. Well, I’m actually a real housewife and a mom from Michigan, with two wonderful kids in public school, who happens to be the only — only the second woman in 164 years to run the Republican Party,” McDaniel said.


The goal of feminism cannot be simplistically the elevation of any and all women. What a vacant and meaningless goal that would be, without also destroying patriarchy. Patriarchal fuckery is no more palatable because it is delivered by women.


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And trust that confusion is the currency of the Sorority of Pinky Swears, because when they’re not beating you with the Stick of Sexism -- insisting that you support them and other women such as Haspel et al simply because they are women and shutting down any criticism of a woman as sexism--they will also insist that they are not in their positions simply because they are women. 

“And unlike Joe Biden, President Trump didn’t choose me because I’m a woman — he chose me because I was the best person for the job,” McDaniel said.

It is that same upside down logic that drove Sinema’s spokesperson’s claims of sexism because her boss was being criticised. 

Essential and frontline workers make up a majority of those who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15.  Black and Latinx women are more than twice as likely as white men to fall into this low-wage category, and their share of the low-wage workforce has increased even as the U.S. economy enjoyed its longest expansion in history. About 46 percent of Hispanic women and almost as many Black women (39 percent) still earn less than $15 an hour. 

“This is the result of structural racism and sexism, with an economic system rooted in chattel slavery in which workers of color—and especially women of color—have been and continue to be shunted into the most underpaid jobs,” said the Economic Policy Institute.


When millionaire white women vote against the interest of Black and women of colour, it is the work of feminism to name and shame them for their cruelty but just as importantly for serving as the Footsoldiers of White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.


Feminism must aim to destroy those structural racist, sexist, and classist oppressions that hurt so many women. The Sorority of Pinky Swears - liberal or white feminism - celebrates individual, exceptional women who “make it”,  rather than target the structures that hold back all women. Bespoke feminism, the antithesis of intersectional feminism, is hollow and toothless and selfish in the best of times, and is especially callous and cruel during a pandemic.

So when millionaire white women vote against the interest of Black and women of colour, it is the work of feminism to name and shame them for their cruelty but just as importantly for serving as the Footsoldiers of White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.

And when a white woman’s vote--and her callousness while delivering it--hurts mostly Black and women of colour, it is her vote, and callousness, that is sexist, and racist and classist. Not the criticism of it.

And before I go, a brief message to the Fight Club boys, in case they’re reading. Any of you who tries to use my argument to claim “Mona says I can criticise women if I want to and it’s not sexist”: fuck off.

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Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.  

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