I recently found myself discussing whether young women define themselves as feminists or not with a fellow blogger. It was not long after the RU486 vote came down and the country was reminded of the power of four women.
My theory is that feminism is a historical term that defines a time when women’s rights had to be fought for inch by inch. That said, not all our rights have been won, or will be won. However, instead of gen X and Y seeing issues as being structural, related to gender, young women see them as individual issues. They respond with individual rights and micro-collectivism.
Girls from a Melbourne school recently did just that when one of their friends was asked to remove a t-shirt that said:
“Nobody knows I’m a lesbian”
Not only did this young woman not comply, but her friends wore t-shirts that read:
“Nobody knows I am bulimic”
“Nobody knows I’m pregnant”
“Nobody knows I’m on steroids”.
As I observe the girlchild, her girlfriends and her peers (be they straight, lesbian or bisexual), I believe they don’t need the term to differentiate from non-assertive women as they take their rights as given. These include sexual and reproductive rights. They don’t need the term to differentiate themselves as assertive women as young men have also been exposed to feminism and equality and behave accordingly. The girlchild’s boytoy is typical of his peers. He is is non-predatory and shares (as a given) the power dynamic within the relationship. They earn similar incomes and both have cars.
Perhaps it is only as our girls age and enter the workforce with a view to a career, attempt to balance work and family and sense that the barriers are broader than the individual, will they need to gather as a greater collective and change the status quo. Or, perhaps me and my generation sit in the last remnants of patriarchy, with our bitterness and our cynicism.
Our girls will command the earning power and just buy what they need.
I’m choosing to believe that four women in government can continue to make a difference. Those of us who are just so 70’s worry too much and the girls who are not noting this as an historic event are busy asserting their individual entitlements.
“Oh Mama, all that feminist shit is just so 70’s”- so sayeth the girlchild.
I take comfort in the knowledge that she can be dismissive because she does feel equal.
Image from here