What’s With the (Feminist) Kids These Days?

by Phoebe Magee

     As the New York Times continues to worry about me even more than my mother does, concerns over a generation, drifting are also being voiced by feminists–with baby-boomers who defined themselves in active protest often left perplexed by twenty-somethings who define themselves in semi-anonymous blog posts.  The generation gap is widening when it comes to reproductive rights in particular, and it’s true that today both abortion clinics and the political groups that work to ensure their existence are mostly run by people of my parents’ age, or older.  In an interview with Newsweek last April, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the nation’s oldest abortion-rights group, voiced her fears about the future of feminist activism.  As a member of what she calls a “postmenopausal militia,” she worries about finding passionate young successors to take up its fight.  An op-ed published by Mother Jones last year took it a lot further:  “The Future of Abortion Providers” starts as Debra J. Dickerson’s call for younger women to protect their right to choice, but quickly devolves into a shot at young feminism as defined by the author (“Pole dancing…posting drunk photos on Facebook, and blogging about your sex lives ain’t exactly what we previous generations thought feminism was.”)  Women who remember a time when abortion was illegal see a lack of urgency in young feminists–and may not see young feminists at all.  Young feminists, on the other hand, see a lack of understanding in their predecessors.  In a piece she called “Young Feminists to Older Feminists:  If You Can’t See Us, It’s Because We’re Online,”  Stephanie Herald writes about the Internet as a powerful “organizing tool,” bringing together feminists from all backgrounds, across physical and social boundaries, often from places of geographical or cultural isolation, and almost without limitation.  Are those who defended choice becoming close-minded?  Is Internet activism taking away from actual activity?  Maybe both?

If this debate interests you, as it interests me–sitting, in my Keytar Hero (I’ll Synthesize Your Face Off) t-shirt, on my computer, in my apartment, on a Wednesday afternoon– you should a) take part in it.  But b), if you’re in New York, consider dropping by the 92 Street Y, the one rather confusingly located in Tribeca, at 7pm tonight for a panel discussion called Where Are All The Young Feminists?  Author Naomi Wolf and More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour will moderate a discussion with Lena Chen, who got her start in “reluctant” sexpert-ise and queer advocacy writing the blog Sex and the Ivy, about her sex life as an undergrad at Harvard, Allison Kasic, a libertarian activist and “equity feminist”, and Shelby Knox, the former-fifteen-year-old who was the subject of the 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox.  Tickets are 12 bucks.  And if some young feminists show up for an old-fashioned argument, maybe our mothers will stop worrying.

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