Thursday, February 28, 2008

Notes from a Generational Fence-Sitter

As folks who know me know, I'm endlessly fascinated with the intergenerational divide among women going on around this election. And I've come to feel like those my age occupy an odd place here on the cusp of 40. Many of the polls show the cut-off for Hillary vs. Obama support among women voters as being age 40. We all know that cut-off numbers are often random but convenient divisors, false but convenient truths. Still, I can't help but wonder, does my earlier waffling reflect some kind of generational fence-sitting?

It comes as no surprise that women born at different times in history are going to differ in their attitudes across the board--though the realization does seem to be news for some. In the history of feminism, generational differences has been a central theme for decades. Think back to the 1970s: Betty Friedan (who was by then middle-aged) vs. the radical feminists (who came out of the New Left and antiwar movements and were generally in their 20s). They wanted different things. Some wanted change at City Hall, others rooted their politics in the bedroom. They fought for equality, and fought each other along the way, often destructively. So my question, always, is how do we fight and debate without tearing ourselves apart? How to adamantly disagree and still find the common ground? The questions were relevant in the 1970s, and they're relevant today.

And speaking of, I'm currently gathering data and ammo for the talks I'm giving around the country for Women's History Month and would love to be pointed to any articles you've seen that focus on this latest generational division among women. The way it's all being framed has tremendous consequences, I believe, for the future of women's organizing, for the health of intergenerational relations, and for national politics overall. Thanks in advance for any links. Please feel free to post em here in comments--along with any thoughts of course!--or email me.

P.S. The intergenerational panel I'm traveling with through 2008 may be coming soon to a campus near you! Our March is pretty filled up, but we're booking into the fall, so for more info, please click here.

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1 comment:

ashton said...

Did you see Gloria Steinem's excellent op-ed in the NY Times in January? (

Why, Steinem asks, is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? She’s concerned that unlike their male counterparts, female voters in the Iowa primary “were seen as biased if they supported their own and disloyal if they didn’t,” and that “some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.” Do you think that's the takeaway?