Young Feminists Exist

by | August 27, 2010
filed under Feminism, Politics

This post is part of the This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like Blog Carnival organized by Fair and Feminist. For a list of the other participating blogs, check out their site.

The reason for the blog carnival is to counter the complaining by some 2nd wave feminists that young women refuse to embrace feminism because they don’t realize how hard their foremothers fought for their rights.

I wrote about this back in January in response to a New York Times piece about feminists’ disappointment over younger women turning their backs on Hillary Clinton. This followed Gail Collins’ open letter to young women, admonishing them for taking the feminist struggle of the 60s and 70s for granted. Since then there’s been a Newsweek piece claiming that young women don’t care about reproductive rights (find Jezebel’s rebuttal here) and most recently a NYT interview with Gail Collins and Stacy Schiff that echoed the same themes.

Clearly there are some young women who fit the bill. I know a few young women who don’t believe discrimination against women still exists and many more who do, but don’t want to call themselves feminist because they’ve bought the stereotype that all feminists are hairy, humourless man-haters. My roommate recently told a friend, “Jarrah writes a feminist blog, but don’t worry because she’s not one of those crazy feminists.”

But there are also older women who have these views. But even if we assume there is a trend of declining feminist involvement, minimizing young feminists’ activism and lecturing young women is hardly the way to get them to identify with you.

Luckily, as the other young bloggers in the carnival will tell you, young feminists exist. In addition to the many awesome young women (and feminist men) that make the feminist blogosphere so dymanic, there are young feminists on college campuses, working on the front lines of  progressive non-profits, volunteering at abortion clinics, and calling out friends and relatives for oppressive comments.

They’re motivated. Last spring at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Young Feminist Leadership Conference I met two teenagers in their first year of college who were determined to start an FMF campus club at their conservative Texas college to take on the claims of the Genocide Awareness Project. I met two more girls in highschool who had fundraised to fly themselves to the conference from California so they could learn how to start a highschool club. If Gail Collins can’t make it to the next conference, I think she should take some time to drop into Feminist Summer Camp to check out the inspiring young feminists there.

They’re using technology. Holla Back New York uses their website, Twitter, and users’ cell phone cameras to fight street harassment. About-Face uses their website to mobilize activists to take “covert dressing room action” to fight unrealistic body image standards. They’re forming national and international networks, helping build a movement that recognizes the multiplicity of women’s experiences and acknowledges different forms of oppression.

On another note, there are also several women – young and old – who choose not to identify as feminists because they don’t see gender as the main reason they’re discriminated against and they see the history of the movement as having too much of a focus on the struggles of white, middle-class, able-bodied, straight women. They have a point.

Which is not to say that we forget what feminists fought for and won. The impact of the feminist movement in history on the lives of women today cannot be overstated. But for mainstream feminist organizations to keep going and grow, they have to adapt to changing technologies, to acknowledge the ways in which they may have excluded some women in the past, and to collaborate with instead of lecturing to younger members.

Many are taking steps in the right direction and showing how feminists of all generations can work together. There are too many struggles left to fight for us not to.

And to Gail Collins, Newsweek, Geraldine Ferraro and the others who lament what they think their daughters have become, This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like:


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