Who's a Feminist?

May 3rd, 2007
Is feminism an ideology only for the pro-choice, vegetarian Democrat who assails handguns, the military, and men? According to Naomi Wolf, a bestselling author and Al Gore campaign consultant, it shouldn't be. In fact, she said during a campus appearance in May, such a narrow interpretation of what women supposedly have in common is the underlying reason that only 33 percent of American women call themselves feminists.

"Dismissing women's discomfort with feminism is very close to saying, 'Poor dears, they don't know what's good for them,' " said Wolf, who wrote the controversial 1992 book The Beauty Myth.

Opting to leave the dais and pace the aisles of Salomon Hall during her talk, Wolf dodged questions about her role in the Gore campaign, keeping the focus instead on her argument for a new, more inclusive version of feminism, one that can win back women by respecting all women's political, moral, and religious choices. And that, Wolf added, includes choices that run contrary to what people normally associate with women's rights. After all, she argued, pro-life women can be feminists, too.

Wolf criticized "victim feminism," which, she said, casts all women as "innocent, helpful angels" and all men as brutal batterers. "If feminism means anything," she countered, "it is the right for a woman to be master of her own soul."

So what is Wolf's definition of a feminist? A woman who wants to walk home safely at night and who wants to get the same pay as men for doing the same job. This definition, she added, also includes any man who wants those things for a woman. Wolf went so far as to call a feminist any woman who reads, writes, works, and registers to vote. "Those rights were fought and won for us by women - by feminists," she explained. Practicing those rights means that "you are leading a feminist's life, and you are a feminist."

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Related Issue
July / August 2000