Katha Pollitt has a new piece up at The Nation taking the left, and in specific “today’s young left feminists” to task for, as she sees it, not considering seriously enough the questions of equality and male dominance when advocating for the rights of sex workers.
I’m sick of this.
Let me introduce myself. I have, throughout my career, been cast in the role of ‘token young feminist’ so many times you would have thought it was the job they really hired me for. It’s hilarious, really, that a certain stripe of feminist will consistently ask where are the young women? while at the same time appearing to blame young feminists for inequality left standing by veteran feminists.*
*See what I just did? That was unfair. I didn’t mean it. I wrote that to prove a point. Veteran feminists are not to blame for ongoing inequality.
A diversity of demographics, experiences, and viewpoints among feminists is not to blame for ongoing inequality. In fact these things are assets to the movement.
Even more, blaming women for oppression we experience is pointless.
There are a number of provocative points for discussion and consideration in Pollitt’s piece. But the inclusion of those four nasty words operate as a practical ‘stay away’ command to anyone who might be identified anywhere near the ballpark of “today’s young left feminists” (tellingly, a category that I’ve heard many feminists in their 40s and beyond identify with if only because they don’t feel in whole or part accepted as members of the overwhelmingly white group holding the paychecks and/or publishing power within the movement). We are, in this case, described as ones who “don’t want to think about” these things. Instead of joining the discussion, we are, with limited time and energy, left to defend ourselves and maybe our right to be a part of it.
Sadly, “don’t want to think about” is pretty nice compared to what usually happens when charges like this are leveled. Usually we’re just “wrong” or “naive.” As many of you know I used to serve in a leadership position in an old guard feminist organization. Things would happen, like the time someone spoke audibly after my turn to speak, asking if I was an intern. Mind you I was 30 at the time and had spoken confidently. Another time I read a recommendation letter for an intern applicant from a women’s studies professor who blamed younger feminists leading slut walks for cementing inequality for women and girls.
Wrong targets, not cool, cut it out.