Can’t Feminism Just Be For All of Us?

I am tired. I’m twenty-five, and I am tired.

This article makes a number of reasonable points. When I rail, in just a moment, against the “feminism” of the established generation, I don’t mean to single this article out as an example of Problematic Feminism™.

I certainly don’t mean to diminish the point that—in some ways—sexism strikes later and more suddenly than it has in years past. We’ve all seen the statistics showing higher female achievement in school mysteriously fail to translate over to employment stats, especially at the tall end of the corporate ladder.

These things are real.

What is also real—as a female-presenting individual in the much discussed under-30 demographic—is the line of argument I see all too often from older feminists.

Because we have different priorities—in this case, disagreements over a presidential primary—the younger generation is Doing Feminism Wrong.

The article above tries to take a balanced view. It actually makes several points in defense of snake women. But even a sympathetic stance like this runs thick with the subtext that young women aren’t following in their mothers’ footsteps because “They just don’t really understand sexism yet.”

There are many less subtle examples of this.

I understand that there is a “special place in hell” for young women who don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

I’m sick of politics. I’m sick to fucking death of this election cycle, and you know what?

So is everyone else I know.

So, I have a question for the generation of feminists that came before me. This is a genuine question, not rhetorical, not sarcastic, because I do not know the answer—and, sadly, I’m not confident that the answer is “never.”

When, in the long history of political elections between two liberal male candidates, has it been acceptable for a self-avowed feminist to throw her sisters—her daughters—under the bus to line up behind either politician?

It should be “never.” So why the hell should their genders change that? They’re politicians.

And yet. Some—not all, but enough—seem awfully eager to push us into the way of traffic.

What kind of feminism spends more time attacking young women than working towards gender equality?

What kind of feminism spends more time pushing trans women out of female spaces than stopping the hate crimes that are killing them?

If your feminism doesn’t include all women—women of color, old women, young women, cis, trans, or otherwise—then I don’t want anything to do with your feminism.

If your feminism dismisses the experiences of real, living women just because they are voting differently from you—then I don’t want anything to do with your feminism.

Believe me.

We understand sexism.

When I can’t engage in my favorite hobby without some dude hitting on me—when I can’t even be seen by one man having a platonic conversation with another, while wearing a tag that says “GAYMER,” without that guy giving the other a fist bump and a “Hey dude, nice” right in front of me—when I can’t network professionally with a man without keeping a hyper-vigilant eye on every facet of his body language to make sure there is no possible way he could see a romantic opportunity in our conversation—

I understand sexism.

I see it in the classroom. I see it on the street. I see it in my job interviews. I feel it in my bones when I’m the only person in a workspace that’s not a man, and every one of us is thinking it. I feel it in the way I relax when a woman flirts with me, but tense up when a man does.

So don’t patronize us.

Isn’t all of that supposed to be what it’s about, anyway? How could we let that common experience fall by the wayside over generational politics—the same problem that every generation has always faced and will always face?

Sure, we can have disagreements about how to address gender inequality. And—look, I’ll admit I don’t know as much about feminist history as I “should,” whatever that means—but what little I know is enough to smell a trend. Why is inter-generational fighting such an overwhelming force in feminism?

The excellent Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast—a treasure trove spanning from modern-day issues to women’s history that your curriculum skipped over—recently tackled the tradition of  women’s strikes in Iceland. The women of Iceland’s inclusive attitudes and focus on solidarity have paid off with major advances towards gender equality. Cristen and Caroline, the podcast hosts, even remark on how much that contrasts with infighting in American feminism—particularly across generational and racial boundaries.

I started off angry there, for a minute, and I do think there’s a lot to be angry about. But if we let that anger take over us… and if we aim it towards each other… all of us will just wind up disappointed.

If our feminism can’t withstand a single presidential primary election, then we need to build a better feminism.

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