Feminist Wars

At first I was supportive of Jessica Valenti when she voiced her disapproval of Anne E. Kornblut‘s comments about younger feminists and their voting habits. Kornblut wrote in The Washington Post on December 27, 2009 that younger feminists voted for Obama rather than for Clinton because they would rather see the first African-American as President than the first woman:

Mothers and grandmothers who saw themselves in Clinton and formed the core of her support faced a confounding phenomenon: Their daughters did not much care whether a woman won or lost. There was nothing, in their view, all that special about electing a woman — particularly this woman — president. Not when the milestone of electing an African American president was at hand.

Valenti took issue with that statement: “Like women who voted for Clinton,women who voted for Obama had their own nuanced, thought-out, intellectual, political reasons to do so.” [Bold type Valenti’s]

However, I applauded Valenti for sticking up for her generation before I read her entire essay. This is how she ended it:

The feminist movement’s existence and future is dependent on young people. Instead of insulting their intelligence and belittling their politics, let’s tell the truth about their passion, knowledge, and adeptness. Because I can’t imagine that a generation of young women is going to want to stay (or become) part of a group that consistently describes them as stupid.

I agree that no one should be insulting anyone else’s intelligence or belittling their politics. I also agree that younger feminists have a lot to offer, that they’re passionate, knowledgeable and adept. But I do not agree that the feminist movement’s existence and future is dependent on young people. Excuse me, but is that a not-so-subtle way of saying that older feminists are extraneous? That they had their moment and now it’s over? That only young people have what it takes to steer the feminist movement into the next decade?

Weren't we all?
Weren't we all?

It’s true that all of us Second-Wavers will be dead by mid-century, but we’re not dead yet. And Valenti and her cohort are in their thirties–where do they think they’ll be in forty years? Women younger than they are will be breathing down their necks, too. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take advantage of the wisdom and experience of older feminists while they’re still around?

Second-Wavers probably didn’t pay enough attention to older feminists either when they were the ones running the movement. So perhaps we’re just receiving our due. I would like to think, however, that young people today are smarter than that, that between the two (or more) groups, we can bridge the gaps that divide us and work together for all women, not just the ones in our age groups.