Some Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are tough on millennials. We’re not feminist enough. We’re armchair activists. We’ve been brainwashed by post-racial and post-feminist and post-activism ideologies and it’s impacted our understanding of how social institutions are constructed to marginalize us. There is truth in those monolithic assumptions for some millennials, but Ms. discovered young women aren’t afraid to embrace the feminism label, even if we don’t espouse traditional feminist principles.
The feminist magazine partnered with the Communications Consortium Media Center and the Feminist Majority Foundation to commission a poll of male and female voters. It found 55 percent of women respondents identify as feminist while 30 percent of men consider themselves feminist as well.
Ms. writer Eleanor Smeal chronicles the results and their implications in “The Feminist Factor.” She credits the uptick in self-identified feminism to an increase of millennial women and women of color embracing feminism.
“These results are generally 9 points higher than they were in 2008, when the same question was posed to voters, and this upward trend is likely to continue given the strong identification with feminism by younger women and women of color,” Smeal writes.
More than 50 percent of millennial women identified as feminists in the poll. The percentage increase is especially poignant for women of color, who have traditionally shunned first and second-wave feminism for not addressing the needs of our community. Smeal notes “the feminist factor cuts across race and ethnic lines, with a majority of Latina, African American and white women voters considering themselves feminists.” Feministing writer Maya sees this statistic as a vast improvement. “White women as a whole are considerably less likely than black and Latina women to claim the label, which is in line with the voting differences I’ve noted before. And which perhaps helps to explain why much of the media continues to act as if feminists are unicorns these days.”
The poll found 72 percent of feminist-identified voters are Democrats, and they were most concerned with women’s issues in the 2012 election. More than 60 percent of feminist women voted for President Obama, leading to a significant gender-gap in the presidential election.
Feminism has a definitive impact on political attitudes, but Smeal warns against feminists being complacent.
“Although feminists feel that the election was a victory for us in the War on Women—the term now commonly used by feminists and the media to describe initiatives in state legislatures and Congress that severely restrict women’s rights in such areas as reproduction, violence and pay equity—we can’t savor it for long. The 2012 election wins have prevented some of the worst attacks on women’s rights from succeeding, but we won just a battle: The opposition to women’s rights, especially at the state level, is certainly not going away. We have much to do if we are to realize the pro-choice, pro-women’s rights agenda upon which President Obama and other candidates ran—an agenda that will move women and the nation forward,” she writes.
Smeal offers six ways to mobilize feminism to promote a pro-woman agenda.
- Work together to avert an economic crisis, without penalizing the poor, disabled and elderly.
- Pressure Congress to pass laws beneficial to women, immigrants, students, minorities and the LGBT community.
- Stop attacks on women’s rights in state legislatures.
- Help the LGBT community in the equal-marriage movement.
- Push for more-rigorous gun control.
- Remember the global fight against violence and women’s equality.
Below are the full findings from the “Feminist Factor” poll.