June 10, 2008

Rumors of the Death of Feminism

Question: Is feminism over?

the short answer is no. The long answer is more like a conversation (as perhaps all answers should be):

The headlines all over the place as Hilary dropped out questioned what this means for women, feminism - will the glass ceiling come crashing down again? While I admit I'm saddened that now the articles can say "when the next president...he..." I don't think it's by any means the end. Reading a NYT article by Kate Zernike a few weeks before Clinton ceded the nomination clarifying what the next woman who runs for president has to think about and the qualifications she must have. The one that caught my attention - besides the fact that Zernike doesn't think the next candidate exists - is that "She will be young enough to qualify as post-feminist (in the way Senator Barack Obama has come off as post-racial)"...

What does this post-feminist woman look like? Someone who would not vote for a woman?

So much about this primary has pitted young, "post-feminist" women against older women who perhaps think we're resting on their hard-fought battles for equality. I'm still not sure how to reconcile these different vantage points into a coherent philosophy, but I do think that feminism is ultimately about choice - about working to create a world in which choices are not limited by gender or sex. But to say that the choices that present themselves or that we have to make aren't influenced by gender or sex is naive. I've discussed the career/family balance with every one of my female friends, plus some random female acquaintances over the past year, and it's come up maybe once with any of my male friends. My ex-boyfriend's mother recommended to me that I look into freezing my eggs, since by the time I finish my residency I'll be almost 30, and then I'll probably want to actually be a doctor. And she has had a career her whole life, with two children, so I know it was out of concern for me trying to have both.

I hope the next female candidate for president is post-feminist, but not complacent or content with the factors that influence women's choices - or, like some of my good friends, actually - feel like "all this anger is for someone else's fight, because we don't feel limited" - but post-feminist in the way that Dhalia Lithwick describes in her recent article in Slate's Feminist Blog, XX: "It's true that far fewer of us have bumped our foreheads on a rigid glass ceiling. But we're not blind to sexism and we don't tolerate it any more than our moms did. We've worked very hard to broaden our definition of feminism to include women of different classes and races and we are proud that the men we date and marry have met us halfway on the little things. We don't think our choices are frivolous. We think they are complicated."

complicated, indeed.

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