There has been an unmistakable groundswell lately of young women reflecting on and reclaiming feminism, sometimes in the unlikeliest places. Lady Gaga has caused a sensation, not just with her bizarre outfits but her bold embrace of a feminist identity in interviews. Britney Spears may not be calling herself a feminist, but the fact that she insisted on showing an airbrushed photo of herself right beside the real unperfected deal in a new ad has everyone buzzing.
Dena Simmons, right, with her sister. Simmons is a graduate student in New York.
"Why aren't women happy?"
That question has become as ubiquitous and irritating as "What do women want?" Never mind that women are not one homogeneous focus group. Do you ever hear the mainstream media sounding the traffic-boosting sirens of alarm over men's level of unhappiness? No, they're too busy covering their infidelity, violence, and skyrocketing unemployment rates. And if this isn't unhappiness, what is?
This year -- the year I turned 30 -- the birth-control pill is turning 50. As Elaine Tyler May points out in her new book, America and the Pill, that little technology promised a whole lot of change -- feminist liberation, angst-free sex, world peace -- that it hasn't quite delivered. Another thing that the pill didn't do was eradicate the modern woman's wrestle with those tricky twins: time and fertility.
I've recently left my 20s behind and people have started asking me if I'm going to procreate. I don't blame them. I'm acutely aware of the fact that time is already not on my side. Most studies indicate that fertility takes a downturn for most women in their 30s; most studies also indicate that men's sperm become less hearty as well.
A decade ago, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards published their breakthrough work and became energetic leaders of feminism's third wave. Now, they're helping a younger generation of women make its way.
"Babies born on this day are automatically given their father's name. … The only prestigious physical activity for girls is cheerleading or being a drum majorette. … If a pregnancy happens, an enterprising gal can get a legal abortion only if she lives in New York or is rich enough to fly there, or Cuba, London, or Scandinavia. … Lesbians are rarely 'out,' except in certain bars owned by organized crime."
In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, Jessica Valenti writes about American women's tendency to look far across the oceans to get their pity fix while ignoring the sexism that still pervades our very own communities, classrooms, and workplaces. "We're suffering under the mass delusion that women in America have achieved equality," Valenti writes, arguing that we fall into this trap because it's a "feel-good illusion."