Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Feminism Dead?

Is feminism dead?
Posted by Courtney E. Martin
27 November 2007

What picture pops into your mind when you read the word feminist? Is it a woman layered in petticoats with a big, swooping hat, picketing the white house for her right to vote? Is it Gloria Steinem in her aviator glasses, sleek, straight hair hanging down both sides of her pretty face?

These are the dominant images that so many people associate with feminist history, and for good reason. The first image—the suffragist—represents the so-called “first wave” of feminist history. These women, philosophizing and organizing, from the late 1800s through the 1930s, were primarily focused on legal and institutional changes that would allow women to gain more
power and autonomy.

The “second wave,” then, was most active in the 1960s and 1970s, and was concerned with social and psychological liberation (think dishes, contraception, and objectification). This era is best explained by its most effective slogan: the personal is the political. (Disclaimer: This, of course, is only a modern western history I’m referring to. Feminism has taken all kinds of triumphant and fascinating forms in other parts of the world, at other times.)

But what about now? Is feminism, as Time magazine and other short-sighted publications like to claim, dead?

Well of course not. My vibrant community of feminist friends and I are, last time I checked, breathing. Our hearts are pumping new feminist blood. Our minds—the most educated in history—are formulating visions of what feminism can and will be in the twenty-first century.
We are sometimes called “third wave,” though perhaps it could even be argued we are the fourth, after our Gen X older sisters and mentors (women like Deborah Siegel, Daisy Hernandez, Jennifer Baumgardner, Amy Richards, Sarah Jones, etc.).

My vision of feminism is defined by three major components: educated choice, genuine equality, and radical authenticity. Ask my friend Jessica or my pal Daniel and you will get slightly different answers, but you can bet that we’ll all be talking in the same general language and in the same philosophical country.

Educated choice: Both men and women need to have access to choices and, even more, they need to have the tools necessary to make good choices. It is not enough to just say that women should have access to abortions, for example. They also need to know all of their options and feel like they have a full understanding of the health risks and quality of life issues that each entails; they also need to have the economic provisions to make whichever choice fits their lives and values best.

Genuine Equality: We all deserve the same opportunities, the same access. This is a pretty straight forward concept in theory, but in practice, it is hellishly complicated. Take something like U.S. college admissions. Sure anyone can apply to Harvard, but not everyone comes from a family that can pay for an SAT tutor or has the cultural capital to encourage college. Until the U.S., and other western industrialized countries, recognize the way that networks and subtle class/race/gender dynamics influence supposedly non-discriminatory institutions, our work will not be done.

Radical authenticity: This facet of feminism gets talked about far too little in my opinion. A visionary twenty-first century feminism should aim to support both men and women to be their most authentic selves in the world, shedding prescribed gender roles and really getting in touch with their authentic desires, passions, and ethics. Feminist workplaces, for example, would nurture both men and women having present relationships with their children and fulfilling work lives. Men should be empowered to express a complex range of emotions, just as women must learn how to handle conflict healthily and assertively and take care of themselves, not just everyone else.

The most exciting thing about feminism, is that it is ultimately about leading more fulfilling, ethical, joyful lives, characterized by more healthy and genuine relationships. Who could argue with that?

16 comments:

Malcolm B said...

I have to agree with author on this one. It does not seem feminism is dead, but has rather taken on a different shape.

I think politically women have pretty much achieved equality, and in social issues, their progress is impressive, and injustices are harder to seek out than ever before. When I ask women if they feel at all discriminated against in current society, the overall answer is typically a pretty resounding no. The new feminism, with women pretty well off, now not only heralds the social rights of women, but also of men, for minorities, etc. The current feminist movement, according to this article, I feel is a pretty great thing.

Many think men expressing their feelings, or women being assertive providers will destroy a sort of social balance from the family unit up. I wouldn’t know If it will or not, but we are heading that direction. Maybe it will hurt, maybe it won’t matter, or maybe, with the People of society better rounded this feminist objective will aid society.

I support new feminism, I don’t think people having choice will be a bad thing, it will make people happy, and that is one of the objectives of society. Business in the country will still get done and life will still go on, but people will have more choice, hence more individuality. This is good so as long as people do not become selfish.

kingkong said...

I agree with the author. I don't think that feminism is dead at all but it has changed a little bit I guess for the better. In the political world woman have excelled and have pretty much reached equality, I mean there is a woman running for president in the next election. According to this article the new feminist movement is a good thing. The new feminism is a good thing I guess, it is giving people more choices and making people more happy witch is a good thing for society. It seems like the new feminism is leaning toward more women being individual and that is a good thing for women. I don't know if this new feminism is really changing the gender roles of men and women. Sure there are more women in the workforce but I don't think that means that there are more stay home dads. I mean I guess some gender roles for men and women might be changing, but I don't really see that as a bad thing necessarily. It might be a good change for society, but I don't really think it is a bad thing. So I really don't think that feminism in America is dead.

Wolfgang Amadeus said...

I agree with this view of feminism much more than many others I have read in the past and recently. The general developement of Courtney Martin's "Is Feminism Dead" gives us examples of what feminism is meant to be educated choice, genuine equality, and radical authenticity. These still have strong meanings even in the world today but they also move feminism away from the stereotypes most feminists have forced upon them.

Obviously feminism isn't dead or their would not be women still claiming to be feminists. Whoever the idea of feminism has evolved with each victory much as a general would lead an army feminists leaders change their tactics to target a new problem. Once that problem is dealt with they do the same thing and move on to the next. Each problem makes the next generation of feminists evolve with more rights and more ideas of how to make the world a better place for women.

Simone De Beauvior's "The Second Sex" describes what I believe this evolution is doing for good and could possibley being doing wrong in the passage "Every time transcendence falls back into immanence, stagnation, there is a degradation of existance into the "en-soi"- the brutish life of subjection to given conditions--and of liberty into constraint and contingence". That is to say by moving forward or advancing the cause can become tainted and thus the subjection can cause relapse of previous problems unless they are addressed.

i.c. toowell said...

Martin is indeed right, no one really can argue with her ending statement, it’s the really the only relevant message in the whole passage. I strive, as well as feminists do, to gain a fulfilling and joyful life, but is this really the issue. The issue here is whether or not feminism is really on our doorstop. Everything that “feminism” stands for is great, and the idea of equality-for-all is necessary, but what’s with the impatience? Since the beginning of time the social order has been dominated by men, and only in the last century and half has a shift really be made towards equality. I think it’s absolutely great, but I have some bad news to all of the feminists out there, huge social changes like these don’t happen over night, and in the scheme of things a few hundred years or so, is nothing. In order for women to gain complete equality a fundamental transformation has to occur that reaches deep to the roots of society. In my eyes the only true way to attain this conversion is through time. Yes, frontline persistence by passionate individuals is needed, but the final goal of equality is years done the road, and for some that might be a hard pill to shallow.

GueveraGurl_But_Soldier'sSweetie said...

I agree with the article and am delighted that the author made a point to stress that feminism entails all people of all walks of life, not just women.

I also agree with the statement made by i.c.toowell, that major social changes like this do not happen overnight. We all have heard the saying: "Rome wasn't built in a day". Well, neither was Feminist America.

Just because you don't see explosive, in-your-face results of the feminist movement, doesn't mean that there isn't one. Feminist ideals have gained strength and reverance over the years, and no longer are played down by people who would simply patronize them as "cute female notions". Feminism is being taught every day by parents, in schools, and amongst peers as a societal norm...and thats a good thing! So just because the results aren't as obvious as we'd like, it doesn't mean that they aren't there.

Peace and Love said...

Is feminism dead? Courtney E. Martin incorporates her own personal views on what feminism is by purging names and waves of time periods, but fails to present any facts. There is no conclusive evidence as to why feminism is or is not dead. She claims herself to be queen bee in the fight of feminism, but it’s all a scam. Martin writes about how much she wishes things would change and people would ignore the apathetic movements of the sixties and seventies.
She falls into erroneous claims when she brings up abortion as a step forward in feminism. That’s a very sensitive topic to just lush around as if it were an auxiliary or possession. It plays on people’s heartstrings, but doesn’t give reason why. She fails to portray feminism as a definition for what it is. Martin writes about what it means historically as some concrete platform, but it’s not. The views of feminism have changed. Feminism simply means equality. Martin’s article would have been brushed up a lot nicer if she had stuck with evidence of feminism than the rhetorical swish-swash bash of nothingness that she construed. Feminism is most certainly dead if she has full reigns of the knowledge behind its ideals.

John said...

Is Feminism Dead?

According to Courtney E. Martin a self-labeled third wave feminist feminism is not dead, it is alive and well. In my opinion Martin is a third wave women who shares with us the following “The most exciting thing about feminism is that it is ultimately about leading more fulfilling, ethical, joyful lives, characterized by more healthy and genuine relationships. Who could argue with that?” is seeking equality.

I feel Martin deserves what she is asking for--and more, as feminism is not dead. As a man, I feel authentication of feminism by men is a most. The structure of gender roles should be equal and non-subjugated. Women throughout the years have struggled concerning women rights and slowly have earned their place in society. Women today have played big roles in work forces, politics and in society’s structural management, but still struggle within those structures.

Their hope for radical authenticity, genuine equality, and choice of education has always been a concern. Although civil modernization is upon us, women today still struggle with the issues of equal human and civil rights; same as those of diverse ethnic groups in America. Martin wisely separates the feminist moves into three categories or waves. The first wave “power and autonomy”, second wave “social and psychological liberation” and in the third wave women seek “educated choice, genuine equality, and radical authenticity” these waves are backed today by women who enjoyed higher education and seek equality. The gap is closing, but men still have to do their part.

Martin speaks about the right to make choices, the right to be equal and the right to coexist in a society where men and women are gender equal. She speaks of the hope for mutual respect for their professions, healthier and above all genuine gender relationships.

Bryant said...

Alright, let's see... "The Third Wave"... hmm... I guess Martin is right in the sense that she and her friends are a third wave of feminists simply because they just haven't made much of an impact as the first initial waves that shocked America. Honestly, earlier feminists have made larger impacts on modern societies than modern feminists have. The so-called "waves" of today aren't nearly as lively as the initial ones. Seriously, Abortion... pardon my cliche', but abortion is such a broad topic that can be tied into so many other issues other than feminism.

Justifying that feminism isn't dead because Martin and her friends aren't isn't much of an argument. Feminists of the past had to deal with the uprising of pornography and the continued exploitation of a woman's weakness such as physical inferiorities.

This "third wave" of educated choice, genuine equality, and radical authenticity is none other than another way of saying, "I'm going to do exactly what the waves before us did, but with not as much authority." The impacts of Martin and her friends, in my opinion, will probably only be felt by those who read this blog, or her actual post.

Catherine Mackinnon, on the other hand, does a much better job in proving that Feminism still exists in modern America. Though I personally wouldn't have heard of her works until I took Intro to Political Theory, Mackinnon does a better job in proving that Feminism still exists because of her active roles in issues dealing with male dominance over females. Mackinnon actively engages issues, such as pornography, without hesitation... which proves much more than Martin's "third wave" theory.

I do agree with Martin that feminism is far from being dead, but I strongly disagree with her reasons why it is still alive. Women today, have more rights than those of the past, yet there still are inequalities throughout our society. These issues are the same issues that feminist of the past have always tried to prevent. Feminism today, still fight for the same reasons as feminism of the past. Though times have changed, Feminism has not changed and is still as strong as the "first wave", in my opinion. I believe the "first wave" is what still exists today.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the author that feminism is not dead. In my opinion it is very much alive. Feminist are continuing to fight for their rights every day. Many of them do not think they are being treated equally; which is what they have been fighting for, for decades. Women in general feel like they have equal rights, so maybe this is a huge reason that some feel feminism has died.
One of the things women feel is still unequal is the way they are treated by men. A lot of men treat women horribly and nothing is done to them. They receive a small slap on the wrist and then they are put back out in society to do the exact same thing again. Feminism is very much alive in the way that women are fighting against men every day; they want equal justice. Women want men to pay for what they have done.
Women do have choices now when it comes to education, health care, employment, politics, and many other things that have to do with general society. Today, women have the same rights as men do in many ways. Feminist will continue to fight for what they believe is right and without their continuing fight women would suffer everywhere.

Paul Castle said...

I partly agree with what Courtney E. Martin talks about, mainly the notion that modern feminism does not only incorporate women but men as well. I personally do not believe that feminism is dead just has taken on a different form then it has been in the past. This is due to the great advances that have been made for the advancement of women by the great leaders of the movement in the early year and some even today. Today there is not a total equality but it is getting better, there is still much work to be done but other issues have been brought up to the foreground that still need to be tackled. So I would say that feminism will continue to evolve into an entity that is neither male of female. because it has evolved into a cause that men and women are both apart of, and that the issues are shared by both genders. There is still some issues that impact women harder but there is many men out there who gladly will fight with them.

Anonymous said...

I agree that feminism is dead but I say that meaning the old feminism. I see the old feminist ways as being about protests and shouting for equality and I have to admit I did see them as male hating women but I don’t think that way now. I see people like Hilary Clinton being a good example of feminism, she stands up for what she believes in and shares her thoughts about women being equal to men. She is proud to be a women and lets everyone know, that is what I think feminism is today. It isn’t about women standing outside beauty pageants and protesting how negative they are against women, in today’s society it is more about women just doing what those women were preaching. We see women taking over positions that were mainly for men and that is the new wave of feminism. Many people have that negative view about feminism because if many people were like me then they heard about women burning their bras and they hated men and basically everything that Courtney E. Martin states. I feel that everything that Ms. Martin talks about is the truth and I also say it is the new feminism. It is a more effective form of feminism, a form that takes action and not only talks about change but makes the changes as well.

Mumia Abu-Jamal said...

i am a stern feminist. i was raised by a single mother and relate much better to women then men in the realm of social equality. this author brings about a very key issue. i feel as if we are in a strong period of resistence to feminist ideas. as discussed in class, Dr. Caric pointed out the pornographic nature of our society. as time goes on we find new ways and extents to objectify the female state and essentially reconfigure society's view on what a women should be.

of particular interest to me is this authors choice to bring about the issue of abortion. many people look at the issue in terms of life or choice. i, however, feel that the anti-abortion movement is an attack on women's rights as well. to seldom is this issue presented as a right of women. just as with race issues our culture is tattered with sexist ideals and practices. this issue is huge and catastrophic to the equality i would like to see on earth.

sara early said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog. I am a women's studies minor, and just recently I've learned how much of a problem it is that our country does not treat women and men as equals. It is ridiculous that women do the same amount of work as men, and don't get paid the same. This is a very evident problem, that is not being kept a secret, yet no one is doing anything about it. It makes me sick to think about all of the women out there that are trying as hard as possible, just to support their children, but they aren't getting paid the same as the men working for their employer. I would also like to see more women in public office. Just two days ago, for the first time, two female judges swore in the Governor and Lt. Governor in the state of Kentucky. We are making progess, just not fast enough!

Anonymous said...

The first thing that came to my head when someone said feminist, before I took intro to political theory was a little bull headed. Well, really bull headed. If you’ve ever seen the movie Borat you could kind of get my picture of what a feminist was. I pictured a woman, with really short hair, kind of chubby, and acted really dikey… That’s just how I pictured one, and that’s because that’s what the conservative media has portrayed a feminist being. After that class, the picture changed. Now the picture that I see in my head is pretty much every woman in my life. I even think of myself and pretty much everyone I know because a feminist is just someone who believes that women should have the same rights and opportunities as males. I agree with this author because I think that everyone should have the right to equal opportunities and that should be pretty easy for everyone to agree with if you ask me. But I also agree that things aren’t equal, and feminism won’t be “dead” until everything is equal and balanced as it should be.

Anonymous said...

In my very own opinion feminism is not dead! Before taking this class I would not have considered myself to be a feminist, I consider myself to be a sort of carefree person, and really didn’t take much interest in women’s right or for that matter, rights at all. But now after reading much of the theorist points of views and realizing how much men really want to keep women in their places I have no choice but to stand up for myself since I am in fact a woman. From Hobbes to Lock to Plato to Confucius all theorists do not choose to have women as a vital role in any society. They are merely a means of reproduction. I believe woman are not talked about much because men live in fear that if given the same equal opportunities us women may have no need for a man. I enjoy the part of this article that states, “Men should be empowered to express a complex range of emotions, just as women must learn how to handle conflict healthily and assertively and take care of themselves, not just everyone else.” This statement makes me think that there is a compromise occurring and men and women are moving toward one another and creating a greater connection with what truly make males a man and females a woman. Feminism is not dead; we are now just putting our thoughts into action and converging a world of equality.

davidb said...

Perfect article stressed a problem got out a very set order of ideas and opinions and educates the reader of what the author wants. Finally a reasonable person with a legitamate way to solve a problem. I love how martin seemed passionate about her topic but at the same time looked at it from a very non radical point of view. Educated Choice, Genuine Equality, and Radical Authenticity all seem like very reasonable, positive, suggestions and as a moderate kind of dont have a care kind of guy this seems like something an average person can get behind.