I like to imagine a conversation between radical feminist Gloria Steinem and suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Steinem relays tales of “oppression” to her feminist compatriot. Stanton says, “You wouldn’t know oppression if it smacked you in the face.” At least, that’s what she would be thinking; I imagine that statement may be a touch uncouth for a lady of the nineteenth century.
Radical feminists have forgotten the roots of feminism. They have distorted the term so much that many young women shy away from it, refusing to label themselves as feminists. They have reduced “women’s issues” to an incessant debate over reproductive rights, complaining about fictional forms of oppression ad nauseam in the process.
Worst of all, throughout all their complaining, the feminist movement ignores the plight of women around the world. Feminists from Hillary Clinton to Code Pink have even gone so far as to say that Iraqi women were better off under Saddam Hussein. Better off under an oppressive dictator? That hardly sounds like a voice of justice and equality for women.
From the liberated women in Afghanistan who for years lived in fear under the oppressive regime of the Taliban to the women of Kuwait who were, like the American women a century ago, recently enfranchised, it is clear that the real battle for women’s equality is abroad. And I think the suffragists would be up for that fight, congratulating the Kuwaiti women for their victory and moving on to enfranchise women in another country.
This weekend, pay tribute to the original feminists. And hope that the next generation of feminists (a budding third wave) will take a lesson out of their playbook and fight for women’s suffrage around the world, rather than harp on trivial matters at home.
Allison Kasic is director of campus programs at the Independent Women's Forum.