by Sunetra Senior

Part Two (of Three): Bladerunner 2049 and a Tragic Trajectory. Read Part One here and part Three here.

Yet, a year on and the opposite seemed to manifest. Last year’s big, sponsored march was populated by blatant careerists and women who seemed to think the Feminist conclusion lay in just stony vocational power. This was the severe, stifled energy I’d been feeling.  It wouldn’t have been surprising to see a placard that read: ‘Good women Go to Work!’ No wonder then, that there was also interpersonal tension and division between the various organisations at the demonstration: women were feeling competitive. Here, I will emphasise: to fixate on external acquirement such as an invincible social status and intensive office hours and treat them as if a modern romance, is to internalise a toxic masculinity that does not oppose but instead reinforces historic gender inequality. Follow this regressive trajectory, and not only do women begin to undermine their previous progress, but too, start to become foot soldiers in a universally dark tyranny.

A visceral example of this of this is the depiction of the two female officials in the dystopian world of the gender-centric film: Blade Runner 2049. Cinematic visions have long been an uncanny projector of looming world futures and this creative work essentially shows women as ultramodern matriarchs. In a world dominated by a single conglomerate, the ironically named Luv is the right-hand woman to a very authoritative male. Professionally slick and very agile, she also exhibits an alarming degree of callousness while the second female authority in the film, Joshi, lower down in the world’s hierarchy, is more compromising and sentimental, repressing her conscience to survive. There is an excellent scene in which the two characters square off against each other, and the two women’s optional niches become poignantly clear.

not only do women begin to undermine their previous progress, but too, start to become foot soldiers in a universally dark tyranny.

As Luv fatally crushes a small domiciliary glass into Joshi’s unyielding but vulnerable hands, we cannot deny the terror of either becoming a well-oiled robot in a new patriarchy or the alternative of continuing to care and suffering basically to death. Furthermore, as Joshi dies and her more loving role is rendered obsolete, it is clear that Luv cannot even see what is happening to her. In being subsumed by an organisational superiority, she cannot see that she is part of a system that simultaneously takes from her: she continues to sacrifice humanity to feel utter prowess.

The desecration of compassion and sisterhood through this type of ferocious female character is thus telling – screaming even: stop short at the previous waves of Feminism, those that focussed on systemic and fiscal parity, and you risk overturning and drowning the entire movement: both its inherent democracy and the individuals it set out to protect.


The epitome of such despotism detrimentally affecting progressive women this way today is Germaine Greer. Taken by a traditional male model of aggressive supremacy and its absolute thinking, she has become an intellectual hypocrite: an Ayn Rand of the Left-wing. Tellingly unable to embrace more fluid definitions of the self, she has forsaken her own gender rights movement. As a result, there is an emerging Fourth Wave Feminism: a younger, more vibrant canon that explicitly invites revision of the previous waves, and asks for a better model for inclusion.

Fourth Wave Feminist scholar, Nicola Rivers, writes in  Post Feminism and the Arrival of the Fourth Wave: ‘within such apparently ‘empowering’ discourses the burden of change is still placed upon women (…) aspirational celebrity feminism seemingly presents a commitment to inclusivity, its homogenised understanding of success in fact erases and devalues women’s experiences who fall outside these narrow, neoliberal parameters, where successful woman are characterised by labels such as ‘strong’ and ‘independent.” Effectively, celebrating women for moving forward despite an obstructive hierarchy and chastising those who express discomfort and anger within it, somewhat misses the autonomous point. If the aim is to claim a separate voice outside of the male commanding coloniser, we should be encouraging women to stand up outside of that societal infrastructure completely, expressing themselves and achieving on their own terms: whoever they are and whatever their financial, racial or indeed, general biological background. This is a true embrace of individuality and thus Feminist freedom.

rashida tlaib womens march

Rashida Tlaib

In fact, recently, US Democrat politician, Rashida Tlaib was scrutinised for swearing in frustration, which elicited the apt question from a few alternative minds in the media: why can’t women swear? This is symptomatic of the ongoing external pressure on women to demonstrate a pragmatic masculine restraint, effectively proving that they are male, even as they try to honour themselves. Keep being that emotive or outspoken, and, of course, you’ll lose your job – especially if it’s high-profile. Thus, still predominantly relying on the current economic order for validation only propagates social subjugation and preserves a sexist polarity, which makes either mindless persecutors or marginalised innocents out of those striving to be recognised.

Here, it is also pertinent that Nicola Rivers identifies a superficial affinity with Feminism or ‘aspirational celebrity feminism’ as an issue. As mentioned at the beginning, this was another worrying sign at 2018’s widely covered spring demonstration. A cursory commercialism is most definitely crawling over the Feminist movement. Corporate billboards call to female empowerment to sell items across the city. Here, the need to push a subversive, distinctly feminine, Feminist revolt gains a new, urgent dimension. In a third piece of mine, The Troll Vote: What Tipped Trump to Victory? I talked of a national narcissism, evoked by the current US President with the sole purpose of winning the election. Essentially, using a cheap TV character and crude rhetoric, the businessman turned ‘politician’ bypassed the social realities of his unlikely electorate – racial inequality, institutional poverty, xenophobia and limited employment for the young – and appealed to a selfish short-sightedness to procure a seemingly diverse voter base: “essentially more people were invested in broader politics, but through the lowest common denominator.”

Significantly, this same right-wing agenda is showing itself cannibalising the women’s movement.

Rather than examine the nuances of the difficulties faced by respective voters then, he employed the cheap advertiser’s gimmick of: ‘everyone should have everything and right the fuck now.’ Thus, it is more accurate to say that a general spectrum of voters responded and not so much with the view to untangle their complicated life predicaments as to feel an instant, sheer power. Significantly, this same right-wing agenda is showing itself cannibalising the women’s movement. As well as the egoist initiative demonstrated through the many bolshy businesswomen and privileged liberal go-getters, there was that symptomatic eruption of surface stragglers, carrying simplistic slogans such as ‘women can be engineers too’ and ‘you know, I have a vagina?’ I made that last one up, but you know, ‘when in Rom-a.’ Of course, this is not to say wanting to identify as a liberated woman is bogus. As with the far spread feeling of disenfranchisement during the fated US elections, and indeed British Brexit, this is valid. But not at the expense of exploitation, continued oppression, and what is fast-revealing itself to be a robotic descent to the anthropological bottom.




All images by Sunetra Senior, except featured image © Warner Bros./Sony Pictures


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