The other day, I ran across an article at National Review Online that discussed the current online “thing” called “Women Against Feminism.” Today a Facebook friend and colleague of mine had a post on the same topic (apparently, the Today show had a feature), adding, “Crazy thing is that the women posting seem to have no clue about what feminism is. Sad.”
After I read the NRO article, I asked the Spawn (who was unaware of the article, having spent the day at band camp) whether or not she considered herself a feminist. I thought her answer was interesting. Basically, she identified herself as what we might call a “first-wave feminist,” with aspects of the second wave. From the NRO piece:
First-wave feminism (from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries) was characterized primarily by the fight for women’s suffrage. The sexual revolution and abortion rights came during the second wave, in the 1960s and 1970s. Contemporary feminism, the third wave (from the 1990s to the present), has incorporated post-colonial and post-modern thinking, treating what used to be considered biological facts or innate tendencies as arbitrary social constructs.
Now in fact, there’s a decent case for suggesting some overlap between the second and third waves here, but ultimately, that may be moot.
The Spawn specifically noted that there is a difference between supporting women’s suffrage and believing in “rape culture.” She went on to say that she’s weary of what she sees as specious arguments like the “pay gap” — which she attributes to such factors as hours/years worked and women departing the work force for stretches of time that men typically don’t — as part of the feminist package. Meanwhile, she has no problem with so-called “slut shaming”; the distinction she draws is that sluttery is not gender-specific. But she argues that promiscuity is indeed something of which to be ashamed. She also sees choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom as a legitimate, feminist option — but not as an option treated as legitimate by present-day feminists.
So, where does a young woman like the Spawn fit into things? More to the point, can one be a feminist while disavowing what one sees as latter-day excess? That really seems to be what many of the “women against feminism” are doing; while they value and respect the work of the Susan B. Anthonys of the world, they aren’t so keen on the Mary Dalys.
And the flip side of the question, I think, may be this: In order to be a feminist, is it necessary or expected that one support the full panoply of the current movement, “wage gaps”, “rape cultures” and all? Are the so-called “women against feminism” apostates, or merely commonsensical brakes on excess? And if it’s the latter, what does it say that the movement seems to have become the territory of the extremists, to the point that it’s alienating its own future?