Naomi Wolf argues that feminism in North America is associated with the left, but is not necessarily left-wing. I can agree with that, especially when I think of Women’s Christian Temperance Union activists of the 19th century (some of whom were lefty, but some of whom would fit well into the Southern Baptist Convention today).
It’s possible to buy Wolf’s argument, though, without necessarily agreeing with her definition of feminism:
The core of feminism is individual choice and freedom, and it’s these strains that are being sounded now more by the Tea Party movement than by the left.
Is this the core? And even if it’s necessary, is it sufficient? I know I’m going to sound like a child of the seventies, but I always took seriously the importance of consciousness-raising, and authentically identifying with women, with feminists, and with certain principles as a feminist. Hence my deep ambivalence about one of Wolf’s last sentences:
But these women are real feminists – even if they don’t share policy preferences with the “sisterhood,” and even if they themselves would reject the feminist label. [my emphasis]
I agree with much of what Wolf says, but here, she loses me. Can we insist others are feminist who reject “the feminist label”? What kind of ‘real’ feminist rejects it? I do not mean to agree with the main thrust of the article, an interesting one that I hope others read. Palin and Bachmann do have wide appeal in part because of their capacities to speak as women and to women in voter-motivating ways. I nod my head at Wolf’s last sentence, if only because feminists are wise to attend to the uses of feminism by others, whether or not they really are feminists:
In the case of Ms. Palin – and especially that of Ms. Bachmann – we ignore the wide appeal of right-wing feminism at our peril.