Rebecca Walker coined the term “third wave,” but has been at times a thorn in the feminist movement’s side, questioning other women’s choices to remain childless and controversially writing that she loved her second son more than her first, who was not biologically her own. Now, in Huffington Post, Walker argues that Barack Obama’s successful appeal to young progressive women across lines of race and class has potentially killed institutional “Feminism” — not to be confused with “feminisms.”
The death metaphor seems like hyperbole, but it’s true that with Hillary Clinton’s probable exit from the race, organizations such as NOW and EMILY’s List, as well as the many second-wave leaders who’ve publicly questioned young women’s feminist credentials if they don’t support Clinton, will have to work to convince younger generations that they remain committed to their core missions more than they are committed to a specific candidate. The EMILY in EMILY’s List, for example, is actually an acronym meaning “Early Money is Like Yeast.” Supporting early and mid-career politicians has always been a better way to ensure we’ll someday have a female president than focusing solely on Hillary Clinton, who is in many ways an outlier as a female candidate. Ann Friedman will have much more on all this in TAP’s July print issue, so I’ll stop here. But I do think Walker is right to say that Obama’s candidacy has profoundly challenged the sensibilities of some of the major feminist organizations.