Unity: Elusive If You Don’t Try

February 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.

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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.

Elizabeth Bolton By:   |   February 12, 2008


  1. Sandy Kirkpatrick says:

    “Older women are too busy still burning their bras…” ?!? Oh, you just gave me my good laugh for the day! (See… feminists CAN have a sense of humor!).

    Seriously, I believe that pundits who assume that all feminists (or all women, for that matter) would think alike and stand in lockstep on all issues pertaining to women are being condescending. Do all men think alike on all issues pertaining to men? Do all people of color think alike on issues of race? Do all immigrants think alike on issues of immigration?

    It’s so much easier to dismiss us as “conflicted” (and thereby diminish the importance of the issues at hand) than to admit that we are intelligent, analytic beings… and that, as such, we don’t always agree on every last detail. That shouldn’t be such a shocker!

    The strength of AAUW is in working through those differences as we stay focused on the main mission: equity for all women and girls. We all aren’t going to always agree on the paths to achieve that mission, but as long as we listen respectfully to each other and focus on the mission, we’ll continue to make progress.

  2. HarryPotter says:

    There are so many people here commenting stuff. I’m not trying to correct your mistakes, I’m just not agree with any single word

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