Unity: Elusive If You Don’t TryFebruary 12, 2008
The New York Times recently ran a story asserting that — surprise! — not all feminists are the same. The article, entitled “Feminists Find Unity Is Elusive,” plays up the differences in the approaches to activism of the 29-year-old editor of Feministing.com, Jessica Valenti, and the 57-year-old president of NOW-NY, Marcia Pappas. It catalogs several superficial differences between the women: Valenti flirted with Stephen Colbert to plug her book, while Pappas seriously and steadfastly supported her controversial press release slamming Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama on MSNBC; Pappas is a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, while Valenti refuses to publicly endorse a candidate.
Whether intentional or not, the Times seems to be suggesting that feminists are separated by a vast generational divide that has rendered the movement irrelevant and ineffective in the present day. Caring about the state of women in society is no longer enough to bring feminist activists together, the headline claims.
As the stereotype goes, older women are too busy still burning their bras to be bothered with these newfangled “weblogs,” while younger women reap the benefits of their foremothers’ labor, unwilling to contribute themselves or entertain ideas of sisterhood.
At AAUW, we’ve seen firsthand the effects — good and bad — of the feminist movement’s constant evolution. And as long as individuals with their unique life experiences continue to make up such a broad movement, there are going to be major differences in opinion among members. But surely unity isn’t elusive. There must be some common ground that we as individuals who care about others and the greater good can reach if we are willing to listen to and respect new and different opinions. Diversity should be what makes a movement vital, not what tears it apart.