Is feminism over?

A short piece in USA Today suggests many young women today don’t want to be labeled as feminists:

The feminist has been portrayed as a woman who was “unhappy, angry, humorless and didn’t shave any part of her body,” says Terry O’Neill, national president of the National Organization for Women, which this weekend marks its founding 45 years ago with an event at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

The stereotype, she adds, “became very powerful.” And it’s hard to get past for many young women today…

Sociologist Michael Kimmel of Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y., finds that reaction widespread. “Most of my women students have said ‘Feminism was your generation’s issue and we won. We can now do anything we want,'” he says…

Wendy Brandon, an associate professor of education and women’s studies at Rollins, says the women’s movement has evolved to focus more on what’s termed the “intersectionality” of gender, race, class and sexual orientation.

Quick thoughts:

1. We need more data on this. This article has completely anecdotal evidence.At the same time, I’ve heard similar responses from my students.

1a. I easily found a 2002 report from Gallup on the issue. As of 2001, 25% of women considered themselves feminists. This was down from 31% in 1991. This suggests that the term has been on a decline for a while. Or perhaps many women were never willing to call themselves feminists?

1b. However, the data also suggests that when asked about specific issues (pay, etc.), more people say work still needs to be done. So the label is more of the issue, not the issues raised.

2. If the label itself is a problem (similar to the connotations with the descriptor “liberal”?), why not look for a new term? Or run advertising campaigns to change the image of the term?

3. How much have arguments within the feminist itself hampered their efforts?

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