No, New York Post, Feminism Is Not Imploding

What Women Really Think
Aug. 6 2014 9:25 AM

No, New York Post, Feminism Is Not Imploding

Scene from the feminist implosion.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Naomi Schaefer Riley of the New York Post is excited, because she believes that feminism is finally, finally on its last legs. Her piece arguing this, titled “Scenes From the Feminist Implosion,” starts from a strange premise. Riley references a recent New Yorker article by Michelle Goldberg, in which Goldberg chronicles an academic debate between transgender people and a small cadre of self-described “radical feminists” who oppose transgenderism. Riley uses this academic debate to argue that “modern feminism is in crisis” and about to collapse. But there's no real reason to think that Goldberg's story, which chronicles a fight that is basically unknown to the larger public, has any impact at all on what most people think about when they think “feminism.”

Riley writes that you need “look no further” than Goldberg’s piece to see that this obscure battle between two academic feminist factions suggests an impending feminist implosion. Readers who actually bothered to read Goldberg’s piece, however, would get a very different impression. “The dispute began more than forty years ago, at the height of the second-wave feminist movement,” Goldberg writes. If the fight between transgender activists and radical feminists was going to destroy feminism, surely it would have done so long ago. If anything, this debate has only become more marginalized and academic since the '70s. Even Riley admits “the RadFem women are apparently in the minority” and that the transgender activists are winning.


Riley uses the existence of an ugly intra-leftist battle in academic circles to draw conclusions about what women, as a group, think about feminism. She argues that “more and more women seem to be jumping the feminist ship” and “know that this ideology has nothing to do with their lives.” She further cites a Tumblr called Women Against Feminism as evidence of the implosion, even though there's nothing new about women being marshaled to attack feminism, usually by making a bunch of accusations that have nothing to do with how feminism looks in the real world. Phyllis Schlafly, anyone? 

Intra-feminist battles, particularly in academia, have been a part of the movement from the beginning, but the public face of feminism usually has arguments that are more straightforward and less based in theory: that rape is wrong, birth control is good, equal pay is necessary. Riley may not grasp that feminism is bigger than what women's studies majors are up to, but the truth is that mainstream, nonacademic feminism is not losing women at all. On the contrary, feminist arguments are winning people over. For instance, this research by the Council on Contemporary Families shows a gradual but generally steady climb in the general public's approval of feminist ideas. For instance, in 1977, 66 percent of Americans felt it was better if husbands worked while women stayed home with the kids. Now that number is reversed, with 63 percent of Americans believing it’s just as good if both parents work. Riley argues that “women have suffered as a result of a culture that sees casual sex as empowering,” a purposefully vague phrasing that allows you to define “casual” however you wish. Nonetheless, we can safely say that Americans have generally chilled out significantly about the idea that women pursue sexual pleasure for its own sake. Gallup polling shows that 66 percent of Americans think premarital sex is fine, up from even 53 percent in 2001. (Of course, 95 percent of us actually have done it.)

But hey, you can probably figure this out without even looking at statistics, despite the tendency of right-wing publications to periodically declare the impending death of feminism. After all, Beyoncé has a hit song that samples Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie extolling the virtues of feminism, suggesting there is a popular conception of feminist ideals that is in no danger of imploding.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.