Rethinking Feminist Identification: The Case for De Facto Feminism

Rethinking Feminist Identification: The Case for De Facto Feminism

Rethinking Feminist Identification: The Case for De Facto Feminism

Rethinking Feminist Identification: The Case for De Facto Feminism

Synopsis

Is it possible to be a "de facto" feminist? This question is explored and debated in this book about the phenomenon of people who support feminist positions but do not call themselves feminists. The author examines the implications of de facto feminism on both the level of feminist theory as well as that of practical politics in the U.S. In a theoretical manner, the author considers how the problem of "abstraction" in many of the behavioral approaches to feminist identity have the unintended consequence of reinforcing elite depictions of social change. At the level of practical politics in the U.S., this has left feminism open to the many polemical attacks that have risen in recent years. The author asks whether the attempt to bring about beneficial policy can be rendered ineffective if women do not identify with the "feminist" organizations working on their behalf.

Excerpt

What it means to be a feminist has become the source of much confusion within the ranks of self-identified feminists as well as those who do not identify with this term. In almost every conversation I have about feminism with either students or others outside the academy, this confusion is apparent. Whenever the question of feminism arises, the usual response is something to the effect: "I don't consider myself a feminist, but..." and what follows is a series of descriptions of goals, policies, and proposals that sound like feminism to me.

Despite disavowal by many of the term "feminist," the movement has had and continues to have tremendous consequences for American politics and culture. This disparity between the powerful effects of the movement and the unwillingness of so many women to identify with the term feminist alerted me to the existence of what I have termed de facto feminism. I have continued to witness widespread support for the goals of feminism among women, despite their rejection of the term feminist. This book is an attempt to shed some light on this paradox and to make a contribution to resolving it.

I come to this project after some sixteen years of research on women and feminist issues, a journey that led me through political, anthropological, economic, and social investigation to some of the conclusions reached in this book. Along the way I have gained insight, but I have also reached some deadends. These explorations have allowed me to develop perspectives as both an insider and an outsider on the debates that have . . .

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