Barrow and Panovka, young women in their twenties wrote in their literary journal, The Drift, that “we’ve had the sense that feminism is in trouble.”
As a woman who came of age during second wave feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s this trend alarms me. Back then, those of us identifying as feminists had a sense of optimism that things could change for women, that we could enjoy the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as white men. We fought hard for control over our own bodies and our choice whether to bear a child and won it. The radical judges on the Supreme Court are about to take away this right, a decision that will disproportionally disadvantage black and brown women. Do young people of today care? To the same extent we did back then?
An article entitled, “The Future Isn’t Female Anymore” in the New York Times describes a recent poll inquiring about agreement with the statement: “Feminism has done more harm than good.” not surprisingly found that most young Republicans agreed with the statement. Shockingly however, 46% of Democratic men under 50 agreed with it as did almost 25% of Democratic women under 50. The proportion of Democrats over 50 that agreed with the statement was much smaller, 4% for men and 10% for women.
Of course, we have had years of the far right pushing their misogynist agenda to the point that it is no longer considered radical or confined to the far right. Media outlets like Fox News have mainstreamed it front and center. Even the “Me Too” movement that gained momentum a few years ago, seems to have fizzled as exemplified Amber Heart being virtually burned at the stake in a public excoriation in which many young people of both sexes participated. Republicans regularly put forth candidates with a history of domestic abuse or sexual harassment without any adverse impact on their campaigns.
Groups of angry, heavily armed, young men whipped into a murderous rage by right wing groups and their media that portray LGBTQ+ people as predators and pedophiles have disrupted recent Pride gatherings. The hard-won rights of LGBTQ+ people are in danger as well in the current Supreme Court that has lost its credibility.
The problems facing us: climate change, the pandemic, declining economic opportunity, Russian aggression, and gun violence threatening us in our schools, homes, churches, shopping malls, and concerts as we go about our daily lives are overwhelming, and perhaps numbing. But it disturbs me to think that feminism is becoming passe, unhip, or useless in the face of mounting hopelessness for the future of humanity.
There is hope for our planet and our future if women have a strong voice in our democracies, power, and influence in our daily lives. If the future is female. Those of us who came of age in during the rise of second wave feminism have fought the good fight. Now it is time for the younger generation to step up and carry the torch.