In a piece I wrote for The Nation this September, I argued that mainstream feminists’ continued erasure of young activists was paving the way for conservative appropriation of the movement:
Part of the reason Palin and her cohort are so successful at positioning themselves as the “new” women’s movement is because we fail to push forward and support new feminists of our own. This is not to say that younger women aren’t at the forefront of the movement””they certainly are. But their work is often made invisible by an older generation of feminists who prefer to believe young women are apathetic rather than admitting their movement is shifting into something they don’t recognize and can’t control.
One example I mentioned was NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan’s assertion in Newsweek that it is only older women who are fighting for reproductive justice.
Now, lo and behold, leaked excerpts of Sarah Palin’s new book reveal that Palin is making the exact argument (down to same Keenan quote) I feared in my Nation article:
Recently, Newsweek published an article in which NARAL president Nancy Keenan described her fellow abortion-rights crusaders as members of the “postmenopausal militia.” She noted with concern that the youthful enthusiasm in the abortion debate seems to be on the pro-life side. Upon seeing the swarms of hundreds of thousands of participants at this year’s March for Life in Washington, DC, many of them motivated equally by religious faith and concern for human rights, Keenan said: “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young. There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
Indeed, they are. They are young and their ranks are growing, and the girls and women among them are not buying yesterday’s orthodoxy about the inextricable link between abortion and women’s liberation. No matter how many times the feminist establishment tells them to sit down and shut up, they show no signs of doing so. Let the debate over the true meaning of feminism begin.
Awesome. Never mind that the majority of employees at NARAL are under 35, or that the pro-choice movement and the fight for reproductive justice is without a doubt one built on the work of young people – the reality of feminism today will continue to be misunderstood, misused and co-opted if powerful feminists insist on repeating the played out line about apathetic young women. For years, I’ve read it in the press, I’ve heard it at conferences, in organizations and even in casual banter – young women take their rights for granted and aren’t taking up the cause. Enough. This is pure laziness. Young feminists of all genders are fighting everyday and working their asses off for the movement – if you don’t see them it’s because you’re not looking. And now – because of this untrue but oft-repeated sentiment – it’s not just young feminists who are being hurt, it’s the whole movement.