Can feminists of different generations avoid tension and conflict?

October 5, 2015

“There’s a generational tension trend in social movements,” writes Jessica Valenti in the Guardian. “First, an older generation complains that young people are apathetic—even when evidence proves otherwise. Then, when young people’s activism becomes too powerful to ignore, the previous generation charges them instead with wrongheadedness and—perhaps worst of all, in their minds—insufficient reverence to their predecessors.”

Valenti sees this pattern occurring within feminism, as well as in other movements.  She points out that today’s young feminists are carrying on the work of gender equality in their own ways and with their own vision for their own time. But that doesn’t make a previous generation’s work irrelevant. And it doesn’t mean there’s no longer a place for older feminists, especially if they’re willing to be open-minded and nonjudgmental. The generations can learn from each other.

The feminist movement of the 1970s laid the groundwork for basic objectives that today’s young feminists are carrying forward. These younger feminists are using social media and other technology to implement their own ideas, strategies, and solutions to problems as they work for equality for all people and deal with 21st century challenges. This new generation of feminists should be encouraged, not ignored or scolded. “When we dismiss younger people’s ideas instead of engaging with them seriously, that is the moment we make ourselves a cliché—and yes, irrelevant,” says Valenti.

Take some time to read and ponder Valenti’s article, “If feminist icons lose their way, the movement continues without them.”

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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