Feminism is dead! Long live feminism!

The Double X vs. Jezebel hubbub proves there's life in the f-word yet.

By Rebecca Traister
Published May 13, 2009 8:58PM (EDT)

For what it's worth, I think the whole Double X-Jezebel battle is pretty great. I could not be more pleased that there is an argument between multiple female writers of multiple ages and experiences and multiple platforms all arguing about what feminism means. This is what it means. It's a backlash-y myth that second-wave feminism was ever some monolith, hairy-armpitted women marching in lockstep with like-thinking hairy-armpitted women.

What feminism was (at its best) was a brash and often sharply worded conversation between strong-minded, powerful, ambitious and engaged women, all of whom were interested in setting their teeth in a subject and not letting go. Second-wave feminists were vociferously divided when it came to issues like sexuality, pornography and radicalism. Those differences were really useful, even when outliers were at their most radical and uncooperative, because hot-headed arguments about hot subjects broke down doors and guided conversation and politics in new directions.

Second-wave feminism was, at its worst, an exclusive club that failed to take into account the differing perspectives, priorities and experiences of women of different classes, colors  and sexual orientations.

So as everyone out there is bitching and moaning about the fact that Linda Hirshman at Double X went after Jezebel and then Anna Holmes and Megan Carpentier at Jezebel went after Linda Hirshman and then Susannah Breslin at Double X went after Anna Holmes at Jezebel and Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet and Latoya Peterson at Double X and Tracie Egan at One D at a Time went after Linda Hirshman again (and so on, and so on and so on) I'm just thinking that this is a prime example of how surprisingly alive the conversation about feminism is -- even if part of the conversation continues to be about not calling it feminism anymore.

All these women! All these blogs and publications! All these ideas being slung freely and with gusto! There never was a "correct" answer to feminism, or a single definition, and there never will be. What there has been, and what it seems there is again, is a multifaceted, energetic and smart conversation in which women and men who have a couple of essential things in common -- a desire to move closer, rather than farther away, to gender equity, a desire to make the world a safer and more just place and opportunities more accessible for all people -- wrestle, sometimes mightily, with what it will take to achieve that vital but loosely shared goal.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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