Where is feminism today?

24 03 2009

I just read Courtney’s post on feministing, Unfinished Business of Feminism, which has got me thinking about where the feminist movement is today. Courtney writes (Bold emphasis mine):

Today’s feminism, in my experience, is fragmented and specialized–so many women all over the country, all over the world, doing all sorts of amazing work. There is no capital M, Movement anymore. At least not one that I feel a part of. I’m connected to this loose and wonderful network of awake, active women of so many ages and cultures who are doing what they know how to do in order to create change and make the world better.

Would we all be more effective if we had a unified mission? Perhaps. But is that even possible? Sometimes while listening to the women speak out at Unfinished Business I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s really worth our while to spend so much time and energy trying to zero in on a collective definition of what feminism is or a shared point of view on what work must be done and in what way. It sounds comforting and far more simple. But it just doesn’t strike me as realistic. Call me fatally pragmatic, but I’m always asking myself, “Is this really possible? If so, how? If not, what else can we focus our precious energy on?”

I definitely agree that there is no capital M, there is no core and unified feminist movement right now. Instead, feminism, like other social movements, has become a decentralized movement consisting of an informal network of passionate and devoted activists. Instead of having one central movement, feminism is now driven by pockets of activism from diverse activists of varying backgrounds and locations. Feminists of all backgrounds are advancing various feminist causes, be it rape/rape culture, sexual health, reproductive justice, etc.

The feminist movement is more fragmented now, but thanks to technology (email, blogging, text messages, facebook, twitter, etc.) it has also been easier to educate and mobilize people all over more quickly. Technology has enabled the sharing of ideas and insights with other feminists in different parts of the world to occur more readily and rapidly. However, it has also brought up issues around class privilege and access, and how technology can increase or bar access to current feminist discourses that occur or circulate online.

The question of whether it’d be possible or more effective to have a unified movement is something I’ve often thought of myself. Part of the beauty of feminism is that it can speak to such a diverse and broad range of people, that it resonates with different people in different ways. However, does lacking one formal definition of feminism pose as barriers in organizing feminists? Does lacking one formal definition of feminism splinter the movement?


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