In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.
My own view - shaped, I'm sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises - is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name. What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim. They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.
They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.
What they don't do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable. Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did? How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents - especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me: how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?
To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity. But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.
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Republished with thanks to Barnard College, it was originally posted here