She Persisted

The F Word: Feminism in Jeopardy


What: The F Word: Feminism in Jeopardy

When: 10 am Sat., Apr. 8

Where: Leopold Crystal Ballroom

Info: Whatcom County Democratic Women, http://www.facebook.com/WhatcomCountyDemocraticWomen

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Before the 2016 election, before a million women took to the streets three months later to express their outrage that a misogynist and admitted sexual predator proud of his assaults now occupies the highest office in the land, the term “feminism” had faded from view. After all, the final glass ceiling was all but shattered, and a new generation of young women found a lot of the rights and freedoms their grandmothers had groused about were now unquestionably theirs, enshrined in law and engrained habitually in a better society. “Feminism” was an old word, describing an old and confrontational way of thinking.

Two problems, though: First, the glass ceiling was not shattered. Second, only the hard, continuing work of those grandmothers, and their mothers and their mothers, keeps that dark history from seeping back. And if history has taught us anything, it is that rights not continually fought for and exercised are lost.

“Many young women today consider ‘feminism’ a dirty word, an antiquated term that hasn’t expanded to accommodate the diverse needs of a new generation,” writes Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, a political and environmental consultant and author of a book on the topic. “While they still bemoan the state of gender politics, gender equity, and the agendas of their local, state, and national politicians, nearly 19 million young women chose not to vote in the last presidential election.

“When young women don’t vote, their concerns are generally ignored in the public arena,” Rowe-Finkbeiner advises. “Important issues like education, domestic violence, health care funding, reproductive rights, college tuition increases, social security and equitable pay, to name a few, aren’t debated with the opinions of young women in mind.

“While young women are taking advantage of the gains from preceding generations, they also face unprecedented new pressures related to education, career, relationships, home, family and personal life in a culture that still isn’t supportive of combining these roles.

“Yes,” Rowe-Finkbeiner admits, “advances have been made. But in spite of these advances, many barriers to women’s equality still stand.”

The face of feminism is changing, but to what end? Is a new generation taking for granted the rights hard-won only a generation before? And by focusing on the cultural—not electoral politics—are young women giving their power away?

Of course, we know that women have given their power away and need to reclaim it—every time we see pictures of rooms full of Congressmen (and only men) signing legislation curtailing reproductive choice or debating whether men have any financial stake or obligation in pregnancy care. We see it every time mothers are shamed for balancing a career against the lives of their children; every time we question what an assaulted woman might’ve done to deserve it.

In her pivotal book, The F Word: Feminism in Jeopardy, Rowe-Finkbeiner explores these issues, tracing feminism’s distinguished past and asking what can be done to protect and further women’s rights and freedoms.

“Lacking a broad-based, cohesive women’s movement that engages in electoral politics—not only to maintain our freedoms, but also to recognize and respond to new cultural trends that threaten women—we are now seeing the effects that occur when our society doesn’t support the increasingly complex lives of modern American women.”

The past months have brought those effects into focus. The F word might be an old word, but its need and time and potency have come ’round again.

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