Everywhere and Nowhere: Contemporary Feminism in the United States

By Jo Reger | Go to book overview

3
Dissension in the House of Feminism

Jessica Valenti, a 29-year-old blogger from Astoria (by way of Williamsburg), and Marcia
Pappas, a
57-year-old life coach who owned and ran a hair salon in Albany for most of
her career, might be surprised to find out how much they had in common if they ran into
each other at a party. (Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine what that party would look like.)

IN A 2008 New York Times column entitled “Feminists Find Unity Is Elusive,” Jessica Valenti and Marcia Pappas were situated as generational opposites because of their presidential endorsements. Valenti is the founder of the Feministing. com Web site and author of Full Frontal Feminism, and Pappas is the president of the New York State chapter of NOW. Pappas argued that the late Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama was because he “can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president.” Valenti, described as wearing three-inch heels and “fashionably bare legs” on the Stephen Colbert show, responded by saying NOW does not represent her. She added that the future of feminism does not lie in “old-school organizations” such as NOW. The columnist then (somewhat condescendingly) concludes, “The two women should probably talk. Surely, there’s a message board somewhere big enough for both of them. We already know they have a lot in common.”1

What this opinion piece makes evident is that age (i.e., 29 versus 57) is a dividing line between feminist generations, along with dress, appearance (i.e., “bare legs”) and the belief that organizations make change. Presented here in the national media is the idea that feminist generations are at odds, like mothers and their daughters, who have little or no contact with each other. This dissension in “the family house of feminism” feeds the perception of the movement’s “disunity,” a view so commonplace that feminist writer Katha Pollit took the media (and feminist pundits) to task for perpetuating it. She wrote:

-85-

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