Sunday, February 3, 2008

Missing the Point

Well, it appears feminism is still pretty well misunderstood. This article in the NY Times pissed me off today. It pits second and third wave feminists against each other and suggests we need to kiss and make up.

The focus of the article is Jennifer Valenti, founder of Feministing and author of Full Frontal Feminism, and Marcia Pappas, head of the NY state chapter of NOW. Ms Pappas released a statement this week indicating that she (and in her capacity, the NY state chapter of NOW, and by extension, a significant proportion of feminists) felt betrayed by Ted Kennedy in his decision not to back Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. She accused him of not being able or, perhaps, willing, to handle a female president. The brief article compares the women, who have very similar backgrounds, and contrasts them, highlighting where they appear not to agree.

So, two women with similar backgrounds disagree and the NY Times needs to comment on it? Is this news? There are as many different types of feminisms as there are feminists and not all will agree all the time. Radical, liberal, cultural, Black, Jewish, eco, post-modern, socialist - and that just scratches the surface. The Times article seems to be looking to reinforce the so-called "rift" between second and third wave feminists. Third wavers have been accused of not paying proper respect to the second wavers for all the progress they stimulated, that they wouldn't have the opportunities they have without the hard work the second wavers did. They're accused of being privileged and ungrateful and abandoning much of what are seen as the basic tenets of feminism (i.e., wearing heels and make-up - seriously). Second wavers are often painted as bitter, resentful old bitches who are jealous of the youth and opportunity in the third wave movement.

Wow, pitting two groups of women against each other. What gain could that possibly have? If we pit them against each other, maybe they'll get so caught up in their un-ignorable need to be catty, they'll forget about fighting the patriarchy?

The answer, however, is not to encourage these girls to sit down and work out their differences. They both serve in different capacities. I think we're fortunate to have so many different women working for us. The more diversity among the leadership, the more women will see someone like themselves and feel better about themselves and possibly see themselves as having options. Isn't that part of the goal?