Jessica Valenti, executive editor of Feministing, recently wrote a very concerned piece for the Nation about the “right-wing’s absurd hijacking of feminism.” IWF even got a shout-out (but not in a good way, Valenti called us “antiwoman”).
But besides this bad tag for IWF, and her stance in general that feminism requires being pro-abortion and pro-big-government… I actually agree with her on one of her main points. She writes:
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.
Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in power. I hope it’s not about that at all! I hope it’s about freedom for women – the freedom to choose what kind of lifestyle we want. It’s about equality, having the same opportunities as men, but not asking for special treatment. I believe that sexism, racism, and classism exist, too! And that they should be consistently challenged. So we agree, Valenti.
But here’s where we differ: I believe the strongest challenge to the “isms” you mention above comes not from the government, but from individuals. Compassion cannot be regulated, but it can be taught, from person to person. I hope I live my life in such a way that challenges the bad attitudes of sexism, racism, and classism, and I believe I’ve learned the most about how to do this from other people in my life. Good personal examples go a lot further in teaching Americans how to treat each other than government policies that ultimately pit groups against each other.
If being a feminist means seeking social justice by consistently challenging hateful attitudes, then sign me up. The reason you find me “absurd,” or “right-wing,” Valenti, is because I believe we should all strive to do this in our personal lives, instead of stretching the role of government to legislate a so-called “level playing field.” The best changes come from communities, families, and individuals, who work together to change first hearts and then outcomes.