We're in a post-feminist world. At least, that's what I've been told.
I think this means that people no longer regard themselves as feminists unless they are over 60, get their hair trimmed by a barber, and refuse to wear nail polish. In a day of geek glasses and hipster chicks, feminism is grandma's political movement; an agenda of bra-burning and chaining oneself to a radiator in protest. It no longer resonates with anyone born after 1980 who doesn't have some majorly angry anti-man sentiments, from what the papers say.
Reports a few years ago showed that college students wouldn't raise a hand when asked who in the room considered themselves a feminist, in contrast with the co-eds of the 90s, who would have mostly raised a hand, including many of the men in the room.
I get it. We have the vote. We can be doctors and lawyers, and no one blinks. At least here in the West. We can file a sexual harrassment suit before you can say John Wayne Bobbit. We are free, Right?
I think that now, more than ever, we need men and women who are boldly feminist. And by that I do not mean the aggressive, political cacophany of angry women who (thankfully!) broke down many walls in the 60s but yet (sadly!) devalued the feminine person in the long run. I mean we need people who recognize the value and dignity of every human person, but are especially alert to the needs of women. People who will uphold a woman's dignity, who will fight the dragons in the culture, and resist the urge to use and narrowly define her abilities. Women and men who believe that women deserve better than to be pitied for their fertility as though it is a disease, better than to be paid less for the same work, better than to be kept at arms length because their intuition is not as valued as their intellect.
To be sure, there are people who are courageously stepping forward to insist on the valuable gifts of womanhood, and who are listening to the feminine voice. This is clearest in grassroots movements like 1flesh.org, a movement to educate people about the harmful nature of artificial birth control, a jagged little pill women have been swallowing at the risk of their health and perception for dozens of years. These hipsters may not define themselves as "new feminists", to be sure, I wouldn't want to put the word in their mouths... but they are distinctively pro-woman, and to me we are in the same camp.
And along the lines of sexual freedom and equality are many other young bloggers, such as Bright Maidens and NFP and Me. Do thee have a uniquely feminine perspective? Yes. And you may see some traditional values in the mix. But these voices are in fact, new and current. While these sites aren't the sounding board for what you might consider to be feminism, I assure you that they are speaking from that very feminine genius that Pope John Paul II encouraged us to find and proclaim. That genius is the engine block of the new feminism - and runs on a fuel of the giftedness of womanhood. Among the more experienced generation, including many millennials, gen exers, and even boomers is the radically well-spoken Women Speak for Themselves, begin by a woman often associated with the "new feminism," Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason. What does she have in common with these others, when she has so much more experience in life? Her courage. The shared vocation to defend the dignity of women, to embrace woman's giftedness, to consider her intellect and her intuition... these are all components of feminism in the right order.
How can I say this? Because in our own country as well as others, women are still underpaid, encouraged (or forced) into abortion and sterilization, sold in the sex industry on every level, paraded in the media from two years old on Toddlers in Tiaras to the Miss America pageant, abused raped and violated every day in every place in the world. Women continue to be sold a bill of goods about their bodies: pregnancy is a disease to be cured, pregnancy will ruin your body, fat will ruin your body, your hair isn't shiny enough, your teeth aren't white enough, your skin isn't tan or pale enough, you aren't soft or hard enough, if you don't eat you'll be more attractive, if you make yourself sick after you eat you'll be more attractive, be sexually aggressive, be sexually submissive...
At some level our second wave feminist sisters did us more disservice than good. In an effort to escape pregnancy being forced upon them, they took comfort in the pill. In an effort to heal from the abuses against their femininity, they turned to preferential masculinity and at its logical end lesbianism. They tried to beat men at their own game by adopting the habits which had been so oppressive. We gained some ground, but maybe lost the battle.
So call ourselves feminist - as John Paul II suggested "new feminists"? Maybe it's time to reclaim the word, and unite in a movement that honors woman as he told us in Mulieris Dignitatem, we can respond to our call as Mary did with “the discovery of all the richness and personal resources of femininity, all the eternal originality of the ‘woman’, just as God wanted her to be, a person for her own sake, who discovers herself ‘by means of a sincere gift of self’”.
If we women give ourselves sincerely to the rich gift of our womanhood, if we men can uphold that dignity and help our voices rise, then we can take back not only the word "feminist" but also the concept of our shared humanity. Let's make this new world happen together. Join me, won't you? Because humanity deserves better.