What the New Feminists Look Like

They’re blogging, texting and tweeting for women’s rights.
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We know. We know. We’ve seen the divide. And we’ve heard it at events we’ve thrown-some of you, standing in the back with your arms crossed, saying, "You call yourselves feminists?! when I was your age, I was marching on D.C. . . ." Well, yeah. But in 2010, the stakes have changed. The standard bearers for a new generation are out there. They just approach activism in a different way. Here are the names you need to know now. Interviews by Kate Ashford, Katherine Lanpher, Amanda Robb, Teresa Wiltz. Originally published in the November 2010 MORE.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Shelby Knox

_Age 24. Documentary film star, activist, blogger, campus speaker: shelbyknox.com twitter.com/shelbyknox The name rings a bell because Her fight for comprehensive sex education in her largely Southern Baptist community in Lubbock, Texas, captivated filmmakers Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt. They turned the then-15-year-old firebrand’s mission into an award-winning documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox. Biggest myth about her generation "That we blog instead of doing activism. Blogs are our consciousness-raising groups." Do abortion rights matter? "I was just on the front lines with Clinic Defense, defending a clinic from anti-abortion protesters. [My peers and I] care very much about [the issue]-but that’s not our entry point into feminism. Our entry point is things like universal access to health care." Are young women "grateful" enough? "Very, very, very few second-wave feminists got the credit they deserved for giving their life, blood, sweat and tears for this movement. But they didn’t walk around being grateful for the vote. They walked around being pissed off by things that were affecting their lives right then." Bonus points Lived with Gloria Steinem in New York City while launching her career.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Julie Zeilinger

_Age 17. Founder, the FBomb: thefbomb.org Why we love her After completing an eighth-grade project on female infanticide in China and India (she chose the topic), the Pepper Pike, Ohio, native had a realization: "I was like, Why isn’t everyone talking about this-and what else is happening that we should be talking about?" She kicked off her site in 2009, and now she has a book deal to write about teen feminism. In case you missed her age above, she’s 17. The flak she catches Older feminists sometimes say, "Why aren’t you focusing on real issues?" when she blogs about something like prom dresses. "We do care about our rights, but at the same time, things like equal pay are not what we’re focusing on as teenagers. They see us being less serious when really it’s just that we can’t speak to certain issues yet." Feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jessica Valenti, Courtney Martin, Shelby Knox, Lady Gaga
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Latoya Peterson

_Age 27. Editor, Racialicious: racialicious.com latoyapeterson.com twitter.com/racialicious Why we love her As a self-described "hip-hop feminist," Peterson blogs about the ways in which race, film, television and feminism mash together. She also throws in her expertise on things like video games and Japanese comics (aka manga). "If I didn’t want to raise awareness, I’d be a tech writer," she says. "I’d get a lot more pay and a lot less stress." A typical headline FRENEMIES, MAGICAL NEGROES, & BISCUITS (from one of her True Blood episode recaps). What she’d change "It’s ridiculous that in all the movies I watch, the damsel in distress is the norm. I’d like to see more discussion about parity in front of and behind the camera and in terms of who’s running studios and television networks. I’d like to see more women putting creative work into the world."
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Jen McCreight

_Age 23. Grad student; liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist (all her words): blaghag.com twitter.com/jennifurret Why she cracks us up She’s the brains behind Boobquake, a day of female skin baring in response to an Iranian cleric who blamed immodest women for earthquakes. "On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own . . . I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts," the Indiana native blogged earlier this year, in a post she says she wrote "in about five minutes," before watching an episode of House. The throwdown generated 200,000-plus Facebook fans, CNN coverage and Boobquake gatherings in major cities. This was a feminist act because As a scientist, she was empirically testing a sexist theory. "I think it’s a lot harder to make a stereotypical claim about a woman if you know it’s factually incorrect." The aftershock Taiwan was hit with a 6.5-magnitude earthquake on the day of McCreight’s bold experiment, which might be interpreted as bolstering the cleric’s point of view. But McCreight, who’s pursuing a PhD in genome science, tweeted an explanation: An average of 134 quakes of that magnitude occur annually, so Boobquake couldn’t be blamed. As she later blogged, she wasn’t "just trying to see if any earthquakes occurred, since dozens happen every day." She was determining whether all the cleavage had "increased earthquakes in either number or severity"-and it hadn’t. "Sorry to be a buzzkill," she wrote. "I’d like magical control over plate tectonics too."
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Karin Agness

_Age 26. Founder, Network of Enlightened Women: enlightenedwomen.org townhall.com/columnists/KarinAgness twitter.com/newnetwork Her (re)defining moment Junior year at the University of Virginia, when Agness asked aprofessor about forming a conservative women’s group on campus and "she chuckled and said, ‘Not here.’" A search of other universities revealed no organization aimed at right-leaning women students. So in 2004 Agness started the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW). "Some feminists came to our meeting, and that was fine. Then they caricatured us in their magazine as baby-making machines in perfectly ironed dresses, one hand stirring the batter. That strengthened my resolve that feminism isn’t for me." Why we included her OK, so Agness doesn’t technically call herself a feminist. But we love her fresh take: "Equal rights for women is a fair point. But I’m an equity person who does see sex differences. And it seems to me that feminism has been polluted by this victim mentality-a worldview that there’s sexism everywhere, there are glass ceilings everywhere, and you need the government to intervene and fix things. As a young, ambitious woman, I don’t relate to that. I want to feel like we have an empowered movement." Agness is a lawyer. NeW now has 25 chapters nationwide.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Allison Kasic

_Age 26. Libertarian blogger: allisonkasic.blogspot.com twitter.com/allisonkasic Why we love her Because she boils things down to their essence: feminism = equality. No more. No less. . . . Even though she speaks out against Title IX "People say I’m anti-Title IX; it drives me crazy. I’m very much for the spirit of Title IX. When you go back and read it, it’s a very simple statement about banning sex discrimination. But it’s really taken on a life of its own. Schools shouldn’t have to feel like they have to cut the men’s baseball team to prevent being sued." . . . and thinks some of us are a wee bit too one-note "Ever since the ’60s and ’70s, abortion has been used as a litmus test by Establishment feminists. I don’t see that as the galvanizing issue for feminists of my generation, whether liberal or conservative. If you look worldwide, a lot of women still lack very fundamental rights. That’s where I think the focus of feminism should be." _Kasic, a graduate student in economics at George Mason University, is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Lena Chen

_Age 23. Blogger, web video host: thechicktionary.com sexreally.com lenachen.com twitter.com/lenachen Most noisemaking moment Wrote about her love life, in excruciatingly explicit detail, in her notorious Sex and the Ivy blog at Harvard. Has been called A "poster girl for [a] group of brainy girls gone wild" (Newsweek). Has called herself A "reluctant sexpert," a feminist, a queer advocate and a "walking case study on bad publicity." The backlash Online commentators were vicious about her column, and an ex-boyfriend leaked photos of them having sex (which of course went viral). How all this made her a feminist The daughter of a Chinese-immigrant hotel maid, Chen once dismissed the movement as the province of upper-middle-class white women-"They didn’t represent my mother as much as her labor union did." What radicalized her: the shock of being blasted simply for being, as she puts it, "a woman who dared to write about sex." Why we love her Because she’s a woman who dared to write about sex. Bonus points She still writes about it, albeit in a more grown-up fashion, using her new blog, The Ch!cktionary, to promote her views on feminism (pro-sex, pro-LGBT rights, pro-inclusion across race andclass lines) and hosting a Web video series called "Sex.Really" for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Why she thinks bloggers matter Because, like it or not, the political is now personal.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Morgane Richardson

Age 24. Founder, Refuse the Silence: Women of Color Students Speak Out: refusethesilence.com twitter.com/Morgane_ R twitter.com/refusesilence Why we love her Because she is giving a voice to young women of color-specifically, those attending elite universities. "When I started at Middlebury College in 2004, I was happy for about the first week," she says. Then Richardson found a swastika on her door. A black male student found an ugly racial epithet on his. "The dean was very progressive, sweet, but had no way to deal with it. It was a good school; I did find mentors. But although there’s an increase in students of color going to elite colleges, once they get there, they feel like they’re just dropped. Issues of class privilege and race were not discussed outside the classroom." Over and over she heard the same lament: "They know how to recruit us, but they have no idea what to do with us once we get here." After graduation, she began Refuse the Silence, a multimedia project inviting current and former women students of color to submit their thoughts about their college experiences. She plans to present the stories, in book form, to college administrators, along with a suggested action plan. Equality in black and white "There can be no feminist revolution without an end to racism. While I believe in advocating for reproductive rights and equal pay, these are not the overreaching concerns of women in the U.S. Yet they overshadow the social and historical problems for women of color: poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care." Richardson is a social media consultant and activist.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Megan Evans

_Age 28. President, Medical Students for Choice: ms4c.org twitter.com/ProChoicePres Why we love her Because she’s countering the increasing restrictions on reproductive rights by training to be an "all-encompassing" ob/gyn: "You want to talk about birth control, I can talk about birth control. If you’re going through menopause, I can help you with that. If you are pregnant, we’ll go through that. If you want to terminate your pregnancy, I can help you there, too. I completely object to ob/gyns who say, ‘I can do these things for you, but if you want an abortion, you have to go somewhere else.’ I think that is poor patient care." Evans is a fourth-year medical student at George Washington University Medical School. Medical Students for Choice works to destigmatize abortion and persuade schools and residency programs to include abortion training.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Tracy Clark-Flory

_Age 26. Staff writer, Salon.com: salon.com/life/broadsheet tracyclark-flory.tumblr.com/ twitter.com/tracyclarkflory What you need to know She made a name for herself at Salon in 2008 with her essay "In Defense of Casual Sex," in which she argued that her generation’s hook-up culture wasn’t the destructive force that abstinence-only advocates were making it out to be. "Now I would probably write something that was more measured," she says. "Casual sex isn’t either empowering or disempowering. There’s tremendous variation, and what works for one person doesn’t for another." We love her because Her goal is "to resist the easy narrative and think critically. I took a ton ofwomen’s studies classes in college, and I found myself being an outsider. I wasn’t comfortable toeing the feminist line, and at times I felt like there was a resistance to rigorous intellectual thought; people were valuing politics over debate." Her latest controversy "I’ve defended the kids who have been charged with child pornography for taking naked photos of themselves and sending them to each other. Maybe that isn’t the safest or smartest thing for them to do-but teen sexuality isn’t inherently bad or dangerous. That kind of experimentation is perfectly normal." Correction: In the November issue, we listed tracyclark-flory.com as one of Clark-Flory’s Web sites, but she no longer uses that domain name.
Photo by Dean Kaufman.

Miriam Pérez

_Age 25. Founder, Radical Doula: radicaldoula.com twitter.com/radicaldoula twitter.com/miriamzperez How she’s radical Pérez is on a mission to diversify the delivery room. "A lot of the folks in the birthing community are actively antichoice. For me, being a doula is about supporting people during any phase of their reproductive life, [including] when you’re having a miscarriage or giving up your child for adoption or terminating a pregnancy. The birthing community can also be pretty alienating for people who aren’t straight. I want to talk about being a doula and about being pro-choice, queer and Latina. My access to abortion as a Latina isn’t just influenced by my legal right to one‚ it may also be influenced by my immigration status. Or if no one at the clinic speaks my language."
Photo by Emily Pearl Goodstein.

Courtney E. Martin

Age 30. Journalist and blogger: courtneyemartin.com twitter.com/martincourtneye We love her because There’s not an intergenerational debate she hasn’t weighed in on. Zingy comeback When Debra Dickerson characterized young women as pole-dancing nitwits in an essay on the Mother Jones website, Martin responded, "It’s clear you haven’t had the benefit of knowing a real, live, breathing, thinking young woman and you’re really missing out." Why she’s glad her mom’s a feminist And a "super out-and-proud" one, at that: "Because it’s something I grew up with and understood from an early age." Why she’s not glad "Because I had to, like every daughter, rebel. So I would give her the eye roll when she used the word patriarchy." Her feminist epiphany At Barnard College, where she found herself among the most "well-educated, lucky, empowered women ever. And they were also the most self-hating, anxiety prone and eating disordered. I needed to untangle that. I slowly started slipping books off my mom’s shelves." The hosiery connection "What’s embarrassing but true is that although I was doing all these feminist things, I didn’t really embrace the label until I encountered the work of Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards-two hot, fun young feminists in fishnets. To me it signaled that there is a new age of feminism. I can be a feminist, but I don’t have to be a feminist like my mom is. It may be a pretty aesthetic and shallow reason. But sometimes we get so damn serious about this stuff, and if we want girls to be feminists, we have to give them an aesthetic they can relate to." Where feminism’s failed "It’s always failed to be truly inclusive in terms of class, economics, race, sexual identity. I’d also love to see feminism rebranded for guys; it has the potential to really liberate men. We continue to fail at being truly inclusive. But we’re trying pretty damn hard, and I’m damn proud of that." Martin’s latest book is Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.
Photo courtesy of Courtney E. Martin.

Jessica Valenti

_Age 32. Founder, Feministing: feministing.com jessicavalenti.com twitter.com/jessicavalenti Her beef with the old school When Valenti worked for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, she says, there was a lot of lip service about how important young women were to the movement. "Whenever there was a photo opportunity, all the young women and women of color would be ushered to the front. But when it came to inviting us to important meetings, that just wasn’t happening. When push came to shove, no one really cared what our opinions were." Why you should listen to her Feministing, founded in 2004, now attracts more readers than Ms. Magazine had subscribers in its heyday. "There are still a lot of people who think that unless you’re out in the street with a picket sign, you’re not a real activist," she says. "They’re not taking into account the fact that online campaigns have changed legislation, culture. The last big pro-choice march in Washington, in 2004, was very much organized by text message, e-mail and the Internet, and a third of the people who showed up were under 25. Valenti is the author of four books, including The Purity Myth.
Photo by Adam Joseph.

Sarah Haskins

_Age 31. Comedian: current.com/groups/sarah-haskins twitter.com/sarah_haskins She cracks us up because She’s waging "a lifelong war against pantyhose and injustice." Also wedding shows, shoes, cleaning products, Twilight and orange juice, all of which were in Haskins’s comedy crosshairs during the two years she wrote and starred in the series Target Women for Al Gore’s Current TV network. "My method has been to poke fun at some really dumb commercials. I also enjoy taking on the whole world of fiber and fiber-related products." Why the "lady blogosphere" likes her "Before I’m a feminist, I’m also a comedian. I’m not going to make a political point over a funny point. There are a lot of very cool young women who are not afraid to say they are feminists and to weigh in on the lighter side of feminism. I like Jezebel. I like the DoubleX ladies at Slate. I like that it can be your choice-you don’t have to be strident, not-leg-shaving and living in a VW bus. You can be those things, and that’s awesome. But you might be a person who is interested in fashion. It’s less political and more about yourself." In January 2010, Haskins left Current TV to write screenplays in her pajamas. Are your women today grateful enough to the feminists who came before them? Click here for our poll results. Click here for an interview with two leaders of feminism’s sandwich generation, Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner. Click here to see what the young feminists think about Sarah Palin. Click here to see what the young feminists think about the feminist label.
Photo by Geoff Edwards.

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