This blog begins where my current book, Women in the Line of Fire, concludes: “Civic Feminism and the Wars of the 21st Century.” I’m now beginning a book called All the Sisters and All the Brothers : Civic Feminism for the 21st Century, and I’ll be using this blog to explore some of the ideas in it, as well as plenty of ideas that won’t be any part of the book.
I write this as a feminist who is dismayed at what organized, mainstream feminism has been for thirty years before it self-destructed on 14 September 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. That feminism was a feminism of self-obsession, hissy-fitting, and a politics that, beyond securing equality for women, had little to do with reality. Now we’re pretty much equal and it’s time for a feminism for the hard years ahead.
Call it civic feminism, and there’s nothing new about it. In truth, it’s a return to feminism’s American roots and best heritage as the quest for equality of responsibility for, and equal participation in, civilization.
Women have a stake in the United States of America. But America is not immortal, and is currently walking open-eyed into disaster. This new civic feminism, while continuing the fight to remedy past injustice and remove the remaining barriers to equality, now concentrates on preserving this civilization.
What does the old feminism offer? In a word, burnout, most recently exemplified by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda’s GreenStoneMedia network, which offers us programming on such important topics as Paul McCartney’s divorce and internet dating. Women, Gloria Steinem tells us, because women want something “lighter and more entertaining” than political talk shows. We couldn’t possibly want political talk shows in which the participants speak to us, citizen to citizen, with respect for our dignity and theirs, our intelligence and theirs, about the important issues of our time.
What the new feminism offers is the belief that civilization is nothing less than that which men and women together add to, create, guard and defend, as public and private equals.
If you’re tired of saying and thinking, “I’m a feminist, but…” or, “I’m not a feminist, but…” Or if you’ve never been able to declare yourself a feminist, even when you would like to, perhaps the new civic feminism is for you.
If you’re a man, and would welcome such a feminism, then I hope civic feminism is for you, too. Because in the end, civic feminism, like civilization, is something we do together. Over the next few posts, I’ll be laying out the groundwork for what I hope will eventually revitalize feminism in this country, and with it the idea of citizenship.
I hope to hear from you.