Over the last year I have been in various rooms, meetings, conferences, conference phone calls where the term, Young Feminist was used. Every time I hear it or even read it, I wince. Originally, and with true reason, I thought it was my own push back from fear of being excluded or trivialized.
Then I went through a period when I considered that it was a terrible elitism on the part of older, senior feminists who worked during the Second Feminist Wave implying that:
- the senior ones know more
- the young ones know nothing about the work that won their current rights
- young feminists are not going to step up to stop the erosion of rights and
- the limited number of "young feminists" is such a rarity that they must be separated, elevated, singled out and applauded.
On so many occasions I have defended each group to the other and find that each group offers a canned version of their generalizations. At the root of it, each group has a whole lot to say about how the other is wrong. Whoa. I expect more from both.
Here is my current idea on the subject. Lets be a lot more specific about the term, Young Feminist. Lets relegate this term to NOT ADULT ~ as in under 18. Not able to vote, not able to serve in the military, still a minor. And letter of the law is that males can be feminists. Feminists who are 18 or over are simply feminists. They are responsible for their lives, their morals, their vote. They have issues and freedoms and politics and language and their own agenda.
Obviously the agenda at the highest level for all feminists is the advancement of women but different ages, different regions, different races, different professions, different forms of families, different orientations will organize their secondary agendas differently. The world of Second Wave feminism, pre-internet, pre-IM, pre-digital was radicalized and invigorated by feminists who deeply understood their political landscape, their streets, and themselves. The Third Wave of feminism is electronic and green and global; savvy, sexy, smart. I worked in the Second and now work in the Third.
What I want is to stop using words that segregate, elevate or diminish. If you are working in the women's movement and you are 18 or older, you are an adult and a feminist. No one is sitting at another's feet. No one is pouring information into an empty head. No one is taking their autonomy for granted. No one is less or more or foolish or wise or old or young. We are all simply feminists who turn to one another and simply ask, "How can I help? What can I do to advance your life? What can we do together to advance women?" Regardless of age, cultural acumen, political arena, one group does not know more than the other, in fact, all of us knows more than one of us.