Monday, March 10, 2008

the feminist divide

Hillary and Barack are still fighting it out for the time being, and this means more election coverage---here and everywhere.

Today, catching up on my reading from last week, I saw that Jessica Valenti in The Nation, and Courtney Martin and Deborah Siegel in The Washington Post, wrote about the need for women---feminists, specifically---to come together and focus on the "bigger battle" ahead.

These writers are all critical of second wave feminists who have been furthering the divide by insisting that you have to vote for Hillary if you want to call yourself a feminist. Jessica hasn't come out to say who she's supporting, though she quotes Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, who is an out and ardent Obama supporter (and feminist, people!). And Deborah and Courtney say that one of them is for Hillary and the other is for Obama, though they don't say who's who.

The underlying unfortunate thing that's going on here is older than this election. It's something that keeps getting played out, time and time again, across all kinds of different issues: Second wavers think that third wavers (and beyond) somehow don't get their struggle. And so rather than try to bridge the gap, too many of them are critical of the choices and viewpoints of the younger generation, which causes the younger generation (rightfully so, I think---though I hasten to add that I'm part of that generation) to bristle and fight back. Because guess what? We're not twelve years old. We're in our twenties, thirties, and forties now. It's time for the second wavers to take notice that we've fought our own fights, too, and that we're capable of critical and nuanced thinking. We want to call ourselves feminists, and we don't have to adhere to all of the old rules. Apparently there's some manual that we're not privy to that details all of the ways you need react, choose, vote, and be in order to be a proper feminist.

I am a feminist. This time around I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, but I'd be a feminist tomorrow if I changed my mind and decided to vote for Barack Obama. The feminist divide definitely exists, and I'm sad to inform those who don't already know that it's not helping Hillary, and it's not helping women. It is, in fact, only hurting one group of people. That's right. Feminists.



Tara said...

Yes, I've heard women in their fifties, sixties and beyond saying they are voting for Clinton because of the generation they come from and simply because she is a woman but I totally agree with Brooke. I am not blind to the struggles that women continue to deal with all around the world today.
I made my choice of who to vote for based on the person and not their gender or race. I believe people who are voting for Clinton are not just voting for her because she is a woman but because she is a great candidate. For those that are making their choice based on sex, would you vote for Condoleezza if she was running???? I hope not.

Rachel said...

Just to add that based on the piece and what I know of their ages, it's Courtney Martin who's for Obama and Deborah Siegel who's for Clinton. I thought there's and Jessica's were both great pieces. I think we're seeing that the groups "feminists" and "women" are so so so not the same, and imo, when feminist groups try to conflate the two, they do a disservice to everyone. I think it would be a little ridiculous to think that the group "feminists," and certainly "women," would all tend to think/vote alike.

There is also a divide, beyond the election, between the idea of feminism as "sisterhood" and feminism as individual choice, and I think when you start to even hint at taking away women's choices to think for ourselves, people bristle at that.

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies. And yes, you make a good point, Rachel. Clearly women don't like it when people start to tell them that they have to act a certain way in order to be part of this or that club. And this continuing thing is a dilemma I've been witnessing in the feminist movement, particularly since being more involved over the course of my three plus years with Seal. Both Clinton and Obama are great candidates! I mean, my god, no matter what Bush is out!!! Thank god!


Cynthia said...

I think the biggest fallacy that's been perpetuated throughout this campaign season is that both candidates are "90%" the same. They're similar but there are key differences between the two, and I'm not just referencing their respective health insurance policies. One voted for the continued use of cluster bombs and okayed a bill that paved the way for us to invade Iran. Personally, those things are not okay by me.

I just posted a long essay on this on my personal blog, and also at a women's group political blog where I'm a contributing writer:

Condoleezza Rice as McCain's VP: It's a Poisoned Cookie. Don't Eat If Offered."

I think it's worthwhile and illuminating to compare Clinton's legislative record with any of the five female Democratic governors (four of which have endorsed Obama, interestingly) or the women who are currently Clinton's peers in Congress. It takes both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton out of the equation for a minute.