As you may already know, MORE magazine* is hosting a panel tomorrow at the 92Y Tribeca: Naomi Wolf Talks With Feminism’s New Young Leaders based on the magazine’s recent feature on young feminists. I was originally slated to be a part of this panel, but when I found out that Allison Kasic ““ who works for the virulently anti-feminist Independent Women’s Forum ““ was also a panelist, I decided to pull out.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about the faux feminism of the Right ““ how conservative women who have long fought against feminist ideals and goals are now identifying as feminists in an attempt to woo women’s votes for the GOP. I think it’s an incredibly dangerous trend facing the movement ““ if those who work actively against women’s interests can claim feminism as their own, the movement will become meaningless.
Given all that, it felt hypocritical for me to be a part of a panel that named Kasic a feminist leader. I didn’t want my presence to lend credibility to the false notion that people who work against women’s rights are feminists.
Yes, I could go on the panel to argue about the definition of feminism and the co-opting of the movement. But when I agree to be on a panel I’m accepting the terms of a debate ““ and it’s not a debatable point whether people whose policies actively harm women are feminists. I don’t want to validate that this is a question open for reasonable conversation. (Especially given that the success of anti-feminist women and orgs like IWF is largely based on their ability to get on panels and make this an open discussion – it’s part of their strategy.)
Now, I certainly don’t think less of the feminists who are participating on the panel ““ Lena Chen, Naomi Wolf, Courtney Martin and Shelby Knox. (In fact, there are few people I love and respect more than Courtney.) We all have to do our activism the best way we see fit, and negotiating something like this can be complicated. But I do think their participation is a strategic mistake. It’s like debating someone who insists that the sky is red ““ what does it accomplish besides lending credibility and valuable activist energy to a laughably false assertion?
I recognize that my position on this means that I won’t have a voice in this particular conversation and that sometimes refusing to engage can leave space for damaging messages like the ones of the IWF – so my solution is not without downsides. But the appropriation of feminism is only going to get worse, and we need to think carefully about strategy and how our activist choices influence the battle ahead.
What would you do?
*Just an FYI: I have a lot of respect for the folks at MORE – the writers and editors I’ve communicated with are extremely committed to women’s rights and put together this feature to shine a light on the often-ignored work of young feminists. And I believe they had the best intentions when they put together this panel ““ I’m sure they were interested in presenting what they felt was a balanced perspective.