A Feminism Litmus Test?

March 24, 2009

Sandra Day O’Connor recently said that she does not call herself a feminist.  A statement which has, of course, led to a good deal of discussion about what constitutes a feminist and whether such a statement on O’Connor’s part could be more a reflection of her generation than of her beliefs. 

The debate over who is and isn’t a feminist has always really bugged me because the truth is that just as there are a wide variety of beliefs in any political or social identity (democrat, republican, liberal, conservative), there are a wide variety of beliefs in feminism.  There has never been one definition of what a feminist is and there have always been tensions within the movement about both how you define feminism and how you live it.  

And this is where I think we feminists fail both to support each other and to make the movement more appealing those who might otherwise identify as feminist.  We are so caught up in these disagreements and in pushing our own agendas that we forget the larger picture- equality for women.  We can have different viewpoints and different approaches, but we still need to work together and be welcoming to those who share some of our beliefs.  

It is kind of like Blue Dog Democrats- I may not agree with them on a lot of issues (gun control, abortion rights, certain budget priorities), but, in the end, I realize the Dems wouldn’t have the majority in Congress without them so I am more than happy to have them on our side of the aisle.

So when it comes to feminist issues like work/life balance, I think we need to cut each other some serious slack.  Another feminist mom may make different decisions than I have but that doesn’t make one of us more or less of a feminist than the other.


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