Has Feminism Lost Its Focus?

What qualifies as authentically "feminist?"

That’s what Linda Hirshman argues in the Washington Post. And, not surprisingly, I think she’s wrong.

FYI: There will be a live discussion about the article here at 1pm today. Join in.

Full disclosure: Linda interviewed me for this article. I’m quoted in the second-to-last paragraph. I really enjoyed speaking with her — it was clear during the interview that we have very different visions of what feminism should be, and we pushed back against each other quite a bit, but it was an engaging conversation. I didn’t expect to convince her or anything, nor her I — and from the article, I feel like we’re speaking different feminist languages.

Linda seems to be arguing that feminism has lost focus by way of intersectionality — because we’re so busy looking at things like race and class, we’ve forgotten about women. Race and class are “divides” that fragment the movement, making us less able to, say, get a woman elected president:

So what keeps the movement from realizing its demographic potential? First, it’s divided along lines so old that they feel like geological faults. Long before this campaign highlighted the divides of race, class and age, feminism was divided by race, class and age. As early as 1973, some black feminists formed a National Black Feminist Organization; in 1984, the writer Alice Walker coined the term “womanism” to distinguish black women’s liberation from feminism, the white version. In the early 1970s, writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich argued on behalf of “socialist feminism,” saying that the women’s movement couldn’t succeed unless it attacked capitalism. The movement was barely out of its teens when Walker’s daughter, Rebecca, announced a new wave to distinguish her generation’s feminism from the already divided feminisms of the people who had spawned it.

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