‘Today’s young women have betrayed feminism‘ reads the headline of Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s article in the Independent on Monday 17 June 2013.
I appreciate headlines allow little space for nuance, but really? Surely, this argument is old, tired and sloppy. And more importantly, I’m not sure it’s helpful.
The last time I felt the need to write about inter-generational issues in feminism was 2011 was for Gillian Pollack’s International Women’s Day blog. Then I justified my need to comment with the excuse ‘I’ve been cranky about this for about 15 years”, but Yasmin’s article defines young as women between 20 and 40 years of age, so apparently I’m still part of a generation (or two) ‘proud that they dissed and dumped all we fought for.’
As someone who came of age as a feminist under a conservative government in Australia I certainly didn’t ‘dump’ what my foremothers had fought for. Instead it often felt we were trying to hold back the tide. And while defensive campaigning might bring with it the passion of desperation, I’m not sure it’s the same recruitment tool as the exhilarating win.
Perhaps my ire has been deliberately raised by Yasmin’s sub-editor, looking to boost circulation, as the article does recognise ‘there are always exceptions’ but we exceptions are dismissed in the very next phrase ‘but what matters are the common narratives and those, alas, are regressive and anti-women’. Although June’s Observer didn’t seem to think so when it invited us to ‘meet the new wave of activists making feminism thrive in a digital age‘.
So, I return to the question of ‘what is the benefit of writing such pieces to the women’s movement?’
It may stir a few women like me to write blogs that, at best, will be read by our Facebook friends, but few of us will get the circulation Yasmin does, or become part of the public record on young women and feminism.
Rather than blaming younger women for ‘squandering’ the achievements of feminism, would it not be more useful to ask what we can do whether as individual feminists, or feminist organisations to ensure we reach out to more women, of all ages, to engage them in the continuing work of the women’s movement?
I’m not sure that any feminist can claim that in her generation all of the women are feminists. So, there is work for all of us to do. But please remember, not all young women are new to feminism, and not all experienced feminists are older women. Women can be new to feminism at any age, and we should make sure we are always looking for ways to engage new women in the movement.