Sisterhood Blog

Towards a More Democratic Feminism

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

In a just-posted Newsweek article, Jessica Bennett discusses her discovery of feminism at age 28. She writes that it wasn’t until she entered the workforce that she realized that things weren’t nearly as equal as she thought they would be:

So for all the talk about feminism as passé, mine wasn’t a generation that rejected it for its militant, man-hating connotation—but because of its success. Women were equal—duh—so why did we need feminism? It’s only recently that I, and women my age, have come to eat those words.

She goes on to explain that while feminism hasn’t gone away, there is no longer a centralized movement. For Bennett, this is a bad thing; for me, it’s a good thing.

Feminism may no longer be the cultural phenomenon it was during the 1970s. But during this time, when the movement was seen as centralized, its leaders, including Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, were to a great extent white and upper-middle class; often, they were Jewish. These days, feminism has become more fragmented. But at the same time feminist principles have become more widespread, more culturally sensitive and, ultimately, more democratic. There are organizations like Women for Afghan Women, focusing on Afghan women’s rights and there are organizations like Domestic Workers United, fighting for working-class women.

In the Jewish world, there are feminists across the denominational spectrum, all trying to fight for equality in their own terms. And while we try to respect one another, no one centralized movement could represent all of our needs. For example, I am sensitive to how Orthodox women understand the issue of the agunot, or women legally chained to their estranged husbands, and how they view the issue of female rabbis. I try to listen to their voices instead of processing everything through my more secular worldview; in turn, I hope that women affiliated with more observant feminist groups are sensitive to my more flexible readings of Jewish texts.There is also a range of publications and blogs for Jewish feminists: The Lilith blog, Jewess, Jewesses With Attitude and The Sisterhood can all co-exist, and even find ways to work together.

In recent years, as a Third Wave feminism has revved up, thanks largely to Web sites such as Feministing, Jezebel, and Feministe, many have bemoaned the absence of a unified movement. Yes, cohesiveness might allow feminists to achieve more in terms of political action. But a fragmented feminist movement, as we see in the Jewish world, allows ideas of equality to percolate in a variety of ways, in a variety of places; ultimately, it allows feminism to cover more ground.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Third Wave, Lilith, Jezebel, Jewesses With Attitude, Jewess, Jessica Bennett, Feministing, Feministe, Feminism

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.