Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future

Article excerpt

FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, 2000

I've always thought that looking to youth for answers to social and political conundrums was a cop-out. It's with this in mind that you should read Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards's Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. These two young women (well, 30-year-olds) set out to "show the vibrance with which the [women's] movement [in America] has evolved, detail important political goals that still need to be achieved, and spell out what a world with true equality would look like."

What can I say? I'm glad they tried. But a "revamped feminist manifesto for a new era" it is not.

Did that sound, ahem, bitchy? It shouldn't have. This book does several things well -- including an important corrective of that brand of young feminism that has reclaimed `bitch' (and `cunt' and `slut') and emboldened users to take back everything `feminine' that has been used against us, from sex to, um, sex. This so-called `girlie' feminism has been the most visible of third wave feminist inventions both because it's fun and because, in its watered-down form, most easily co-opted. Think Spice Girls.

While Bust magazine and other cultural productions of this school have done wonders for popularizing feminism among young women and creating forums where at least some groups of women can speak on (and in) their own terms about their lives, it has not yet translated into (much) political change.

Baumgardner and Richards want to see the corresponding action. "Without a body of politics, the nail polish is really going to waste," they write. …