The Good Old Days

Why do I harp so much on whether or not there is a feminist movement in this country? Part of the reason is nostalgia. I long for the good old days when feminist issues were on the lips of everyone in the country, when news magazines and programs ran stories about feminism at least once a week, when you could feel that you belonged to something bigger than yourself, when you had leaders and scads of literature to inspire you, when it actually meant something to declare that you were a feminist.

That doesn’t mean that it was always smooth sailing for the feminist movement; on the contrary, part of its allure was knowing that it was controversial, that you were shaking up people’s preconceived notions about men and women in our society. Reactions were often negative, but that was taken to mean that feminists were hitting close to home.

Nowadays feminism is much more personal and in the background. One of the best parts of the recent political campaigns was the way it brought feminism to the fore of public discourse. Second Wave feminists were being asked what they thought. One of the candidates was a woman who lived through the ’60s and ’70s and who was well-versed in what feminists found important. The other might not have known much about feminism–she merely equated it with women having equal rights (except the right to do what she wanted to with her own body)–but she herself was an example of a woman crashing through the glass ceiling.

But now that the campaign is over, are feminists going to be pushed into the background again? Will sexism become a non-issue? Will women like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin be held up as examples of the success of feminism–and therefore proof of the lack of necessity for a feminist sensibility? I sincerely hope not, for all our sakes.