Reluctant Feminists?Why don't young women today call themselves feminists or see that they can be apart of something bigger than them to help change things and the world around them?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to offer you quite a different take, from author Susan J. Douglass, a passage from her text, Where the Girls Are:  Growing Up Female in the Mass Media:

It’s no wonder that “I’m not a feminist, but…” has become and infamous and numbingly overused cliché.  It is a statement attributed less to the baby boom women than to the “baby bust” generation born between 1965 and 1975, to the much stereotyped and condemned “twentysomething” crowd.  As I understand this conversational gambit, it means that the speaker probably supports some combination of equal pay for equal work; reproductive freedom for women; equal access to the same educational, professional, and financial opportunities as men; expanded child-care facilities for working parents’ more humane maternity and paternity leave policies; marriages in which husbands cook dinner and empty the diaper pail; and an end to –or even a slowing of – our national epidemic of violence against women of all ages.  It also means that the speaker shaves her legs, bathes regularly, does not want to be thought of as a man-hater, a ball-buster, a witch, or a shrew, and maybe even wears mascara, blush, and a bra.  Most of all, it means that the possibility of having, inside you, a unified, coherent self that always believes the same things at the same time is virtually zero. 

            This is what it has come to.  On the one hand, few women want to take on the baggage of the feminist stereotype.  On the other hand, they embrace much of what feminism has made possible for them – which they also learned about, initially, from the media – are uninterested in returning to the days of woman as doormat.  Since the 1960s, legitimation of feminism in the mass media an backlash against it have smacked against each other with the force and chaos of billiard balls colliding.  Individual women, too often isolated by the pressures of juggling work, relationships, kids, and trying to see a movie once a year, are left on their own to arrange the balls neatly in some psychic rack that makes sense for them, if only momentarily (272-73).


ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being one of those females the gentleman in the 2nd post was referring to, "considered to be bra-burning radicals who would rather scream than negotiate. Furthermore, feminists during that era were commonly associated with drug use, lewd acts, and other unbecoming behaviors."  I would strongly disagree. 

There was a certain percentage of the population, mostly insecure males that tagged feminist with those characteristics, but even with all the negotiating that was accomplished by so many strong women, we still don't get equal pay for equal work.  We still have people trying to tell us what we should or should not do with our bodies, and we still have a percent of the population which feels we should not try to do a "man's job."

I try to motivate my students to become actively involved with issues by using current event's from the newspaper for writing assignments and research.  I actually have about 20 students that are voting for the first time this year.  Many females, and males in today's high schools have simply had too much handed to them without the struggle.  Parents haven't shared their struggles to let their children know what it took for them to get
"that dream job" or keep it. If we aren't very careful in the next 4-8 years we will have a Supreme Court stacked with elderly white men who want to put women back in the kitchen, and back in the position of having men choose what we can and can't do with our bodies.  We have to wake up these teens and get them involved in their futures.


linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the 2nd post, and I think that girls' mindsets have changed so that they don't really consider themselves to need special representation. My students look at me like I'm from another planet when I tell them what it was like for women when I was a child. Remember when women teachers had to go on maternity leave as soon as they started showing? Back then, the word "doctor" brought to mind a grandfatherly figure. Nowadays, more often than not the doctor is a woman.

My honors English 2 class is reading "A Doll's House" right now. Everyone, boys and girls, picked up on Torvald's condescending language to Nora, and they have trouble relating to women who are so powerless. When I asked the girls whether they, like Mrs. Linde, would marry just to have someone to take care of her mother and brothers, no one raised a hand. They all said they'd get a job.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Take a look back to the 1960s and 70s for your answer: Feminists at that time were considered to be bra-burning radicals who would rather scream than negotiate. Furthermore, feminists during that era were commonly associated with drug use, lewd acts, and other unbecoming behaviors.

It isn't that students today have such a great sense of history that they don't want to be associated with feminism, but rather, the problem lies in a lack of motivation toward ANY political or civic cause. Girls in particular do not wish to be labeled as misfits because they care about an issue, whatever it may be.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with other editors in highlighting how we are in a very different context nowadays from when "feminism" as a concept first started. The violent in-your-face methods employed as part of this movement are hardly necessary today when the lot of women in general has improved so much. I do feel that the cause of feminism still needs to be upheld and should not be forgotten and many commentators argue that women are still disadvantaged, but I feel that this battle needs to be waged in a different way and perhaps under a different label to make it successful.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
As a teacher, I have seen this. Often in literature classes we analyze works from different critical perspectives. Sometimes, we just analyze the background of the author or historical context of the work. Many young women today scoff at feminism as a concept. They do not feel that it is relevant to their lives. It usually seems to be because they do not want to associate themselves with an ism just yet, or feminism in general. They want to feel like they make their own way in the world, and are not influenced by an outdated or stifling dogma.
ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Something to consider, is that the “feminist movement” was a movement promoting change and deeper empathy, understanding, and respect for women and their personal rights and choices. Perhaps the need for change today is not deemed as important or necessary by the young women of today. Maybe for now, they are happy with their rights and choices.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with #3's post.  I also find that many (not all, but many, yes) young women are simply apathetic about any social and/or political issues, which saddens me greatly!

krishna-agrawala | Student

There was a time when women were discriminated against, and they had to put up a strong fight to prove that they are no less then men. At that time, organized efforts in form of movements such as feminist movements were very much essential and helpful.

Today things are much better. Today the equality of men and women is accepted and practiced widely. Also there are legal protection for women when they are discriminated against. I believe in this changed scenario, too much talk about women claiming they are equal to men is a sign of weakness rather than strength.

I believe women should now take their equality for granted, rather than try to prove it. In rare cases when they are discriminated against, they should fight for their rights using all legal means available to them. I am sure most men will be happy to support this kind of just fight by women. I am happy to note that most of the women today are adopting this approach.

kschlossmacher | Student

Feminism has a bad name in this day and age. Myths surrounding the first and second wave of feminism as self starving, bra burning, angry lesbians who hated men have given the noition of feminism a rough edge that scare away young women from the title. Furthermore, during the second wave of the 1970's there existed a real sense of competetion as to who was right, the working women or the women who stayed home in more traditional roles. This has left a sour taste in many a female's mouth because it seems to de-value the role of full time motherhood as being a waste of women's time.

 Unfortunately, these controversies served to divide women over the years. There was not a sense of live and let live about how a women leads her life at the onset of feminism. This has lead to an attitutude that prevents women from embracing feminism for fear of appearing to put down other women.

Finally, many women today feel that feminism as an active movement is no longer necessary. Women sometimes believe that we have already achieved full equality or atleast enough equality which has led to some complacency about the particpation of women in the current feminist movement.