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How We Can Fight the Right-Wing's Absurd Hijacking of Feminism

When a female candidate with antiwoman policies pops up, let's use it as an opportunity to re-establish what feminism is and to support the up-and-comers in our midst.

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Women vote for their interests -- not their gender or age -- but they still want to see themselves represented. If the only young women Americans see identified as "feminists" are those on the right, we run the risk of losing the larger cultural battle and the many younger women who are seeking an answer to the mixed messages about what feminism really is. And frankly, if we position vibrant young activists front and center, there will be no question as to who is creating the best change for women.

So instead of wringing our hands every time a new female candidate with distinctly antiwoman policies pops up, let's use it as an opportunity to re-establish what feminism is about and to support the up-and-comers in our midst. Let's focus on building power for the new wave of feminists by giving money to the organizations that best represent the future of the movement (like SAFER, NY Abortion Access Fund and Girls for Gender Equity); by providing media training and placing young activists on television and in the op-ed pages (as the great Women's Media Center does); and by pushing young feminists -- not just women -- to run for office.

Feminism isn't simply about being a woman in a position of power. It's battling systemic inequities; it's a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged. What's most important to remember as we fight back against conservative appropriation is that the battle over who "owns" the movement is not just about feminists; feminism's future affects all American women. And if we let the lie of conservative feminism stand -- if real feminists don't lay claim to the movement and outline their vision for the future -- all of us will suffer.

Jessica Valenti is the executive editor of Feministing.

 
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