In Slate, the indispensable Linda Hirshman tackles feminism’s latest head scratcher: Young women rejecting ’embarrassing, old school feminism’ just to annoy their moms. I oversimplify, but so do young women who inherited what we mothers fought for and now want us to disappear so our girls can go wild and pole dance without feeling all guilty. Caricatures work both ways, missy.
This schism has become glaringly apparent as Clinton and Obama vie for the nomination while young women say sexism’s not much of an issue anymore. The trouble started when us OG feminists surprised young chicks by pointing out that, oh, they’re insane to believe that. And that their skirts are too short. It went downhill from there. Young women, like several other groups of humans, don’t react well to being told they have a false consciousness. Or that their skirts are too short. In the end, the moms drove the daughters ever farther from Hillary Clinton. Hirshman offers this example:
Here’s how young feminist writer Courtney Martin is selecting her candidate: “I have a dirty little political secret. I hate to admit it, because it makes me feel unfeminist and silly and a little bit irrational. But it’s true and I have to get it off my chest. I’m not backing Hillary Clinton—and that’s at least in part because she reminds me of being scolded by my mother.”
Of course, there’s going to be generational friction along every activist fault line—gays, immigrants, evangelicals—as each cohort demands their elders fade away so they can finish inheriting stuff and put right everything their goofy elders screwed up. Sorry, it’s just impossible to ignore the “all for me, none for you” childish greediness of sentiments like this one:
Amy Tiemanns, a blogger who calls herself Mojo Mom, recently told readers of Women’s e-news that she and the women of the second wave are indeed engaged in “an overdue ‘Mother-Daughter’ power struggle that we need to examine. [T]he Mothers have the upper hand. They control the largest established organizations, the purse strings of foundation grants.”
Against the odds, “The Mothers” built those organizations. But rather than receiving grateful acknowledgment, these elders have been reconstructed as merely Rovian operators, controlling the smoke-filled ladies’ rooms where women’s issues are bankrolled.
Unlike me, the brainy Hirshman stays calm in her assessment of this conflict, so don’t miss the piece. If we’re going to close down this latest circular firing squad, both generations are going to have to learn to treat each other with respect. We old school feminists aren’t going to get anywhere saying what we think, which is: Honey, you haven’t seen sexism yet. Diplomacy is for your allies as well as your enemies.
But facts are facts: However free women are today is due to the unbelievable sacrifices of the suffragettes and the against-the-odds success of the ‘libbers’. We’ll stop saying aloud that you don’t know what you’re talking about if you’ll stop believing that you know everything already. Deal?