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The Evolution of Feminism

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Posted on Dec 9, 2011

By Christen Clifford

(Page 2)

I loved the interview with Loretta Ross and her insight into the Sister Song collective that asked, “What does looking at abortion rights through a social justice lens look like?” Ross even changed the name of the biggest protest march in American history, from the March for Freedom of Choice to the March for Women’s Lives. Ross’ story is an amazing piece of feminist history that I fear would be lost without activist/historians like Baumgardner to record it. Ross coined the term “reproductive justice” as an alternative to “reproductive rights”—the difference being that reproductive justice demands health insurance that is full and pays for prenatal care and abortions, whereas reproductive rights still has a “keep your government’s hands off of my body” stigma, which has proven to be not so helpful for a generation of women. Ross speaks movingly about becoming a feminist. “That involvement in feminism explained to me all the things that had happened to me in my life. My story was at the intersection of reproductive violence and sexual violence.”

Some of the interviews I could have done without: Debbie Stoller (Bust magazine), who describes herself as a cultural feminist, doesn’t make any friends with statements like, “I’ve seen the best minds of my generation ruined by being stay at home moms.” Substantial mention of the “Mommy Wars” is conspicuously absent here, likely because Baumgardner co-parented her first child with a man with whom she wasn’t “romantically coupled,” thereby allowing her “time to take a walk, meet a friend or go to a dinner party.”

The 1996 Bjork interview reads as very out of date. It was one of a few pieces that seemed like padding, or included merely to add celebrity glimmer. “How to Do Everything Wrong” is a fluff piece of journalism from Babble (2006) that was completely unnecessary in a book of serious feminism.


book cover


F ’em! Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls


By Jennifer Baumgardner


Seal Press, 256 pages


Buy the book

Baumgardner also interviews Shelby Knox (best known for the documentary “The Education of Shelby Knox”), a feminist in her 20s who says that the Fourth Wave’s “activism is inseparable from technology.” In a recent New York Magazine article, Knox says that the blogosphere is like “our conciousness raising groups.”

I love Baumgardner’s lists of required reading: “SCUM Manifesto” by Valerie Solanas; “Memoirs of an Ex Prom Queen” by Alix Kates Schulman; “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Mary Wollstonecraft; “The Mermaid and the Minotaur” by Dorothy Dinnerstein; “The Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone; and “Ain’t I a Woman” by bell hooks. In our minute-to-minute lifestyles it’s difficult to see what came before, to see beyond the fact that NOW (and I don’t mean the National Organization for Women) is vital and that our own struggles and cultural politics get in the way, so I appreciated Baumgardner’s efforts to connect generations of women thinking about women. It’s good to be reminded that Feministing and the Lady Bloggers have a long history behind them.

I was very taken by Baumgardner’s personal stories and her youthful connection of The Patriarchy to her father. She describes how, years later, after the birth of her second son, her father “carried my days-old son around the apartment for hours, patting his back, rocking him, changing his diaper and putting him down for naps. The word ‘patriarch’ didn’t come to mind—but ‘father’ did.”

Abortion is one of Baumgardner’s specialties. Some of her strongest work is on this topic. In “Why We Speak Out When We Speak Out,” “When Mom and Dad Don’t Know What’s Best” and “Trouble in Numbers,” she writes clearly and concisely about the ambivalence and complexity surrounding “the procedure” today.

One of my friends had an abortion a few months ago. She’s the working mother of a happy 3-year-old. She didn’t want another child, was careless about birth control on a vacation and wound up at the doctor. Afterward, she said she felt good about her decision—she had suffered terrible postpartum depression with her baby—and knew it was best for her whole family. But beforehand she was searching for information or stories about women like her—women who were already mothers but couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t do it again. I wish I had had this book to give her then.

Baumgardner writes honestly about her own phobias—about transwomen in particular—and writes with humor and relief about her changing views on gender and identifying as a bisexual. Again, I understand. I’m married to a man—but neither of us are straight—and we are in a committed relationship with two kids. I can claim my rights as a bisexual, pansexual gender-queer motherfucker too—but most days I’d rather have free child care, a valued job and a support system. 

There is an almost palpable sense of Baumgardner “taking up space” in the book. She has to document her own history as well as make it. No one else is going to do it for her. “Most social justice campaigns are long,” Baumgardner writes in an essay about sustainable feminism. Later in the same piece she admits, “I’m not sure we knew how to inhabit the political theories we believed.” Feminism has come through the suffragettes to women’s libbers, from riot grrrls to Lady Bloggers, and Baumgardner’s “F ’em!” is an intelligent guide through our recent history. It’s a feminist book that should be on everyone’s shelf.


Christen Clifford is a writer, performer and curator in New York.


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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment

My question looks pretty straightforward to me, and not particularly colored by my sex (which you are unaware of anyway).  Why don’t you just answer it, or, if you don’t like it, say why—based on the text of the question, not what the questioner ‘sounds like’?

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By Frances FrainAguirre, December 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is a saying that you can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.  I hear too much vinegar in your writings. You sound to me, like the female oppressor that will replace the male oppressors in our society. How sad and disconcerting this will be! We, as women, need to act, not react. When we react, the male of the species is still pulling our strings!Good luck to you in living with your vinegar!

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm Link to this comment

If children are not patriarchally owned, who cares who their biological fathers are?

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By Frances FrainAguirre, December 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just for the record. I was commenting on the cuckoldry that was described against 1% of the women who lie about fathers of their children. I am not defining feminism by patricarchal standards. I’m saying that as women we need to also be honest and forthright! if feminism is to continue to improve the lot of women, we need, as women, to stand up for our rights and be responsible for our actions.I would like to learn how we as women, can improve this macho world in which we live. One thing I know is that power is never given freely by those in piower. It must be wrested from them!  Then we as women need to not repeat the same as has bedone to us! So how do we, as women, plan to share power and be open to those who disagree with us?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 12, 2011 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

So feminism is about patriarchal ownership of children?

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By Frances FrainAguirre, December 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If a man wants to know if a child is really his, he may need to get a DNA match.
It is serious abuse to claim that a man is the father when the mother may not know who the father really is. Honesty is the best policy.
In this world of ours, none of us is perfect.
We all need to be held accountable for our actions.
It seems to me that our courts have confused accountability with blame it on someone -anyone and for God’s sake don’t use your own moral convictions when you are a juror—just listen to what is said in court even if the judges suppresses some of the most important evidence! Again, even judges are human!

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By Pouteria, December 9, 2011 at 11:56 pm Link to this comment

Jeez looks likke I’ll
have to wait for the
fifth wave when women put
the social spotlight on
THEIR behaviour that is
now aberrant and abusive
e.g. cuckoldry.

Cuckoldry is when a woman
tells a man she is
pregnant with his child
when, in fact, the
genetic dad is a
different fellow.

A single act of cuckoldry
is far worse abuse than
1,000 men groping some
tit without permission in
the office work space.

Yet boob grasping is
illegal sexual abuse but
cuckoldry is not. Why?

An absolute minimum of
one percent of all births
involve cuckoldry, the
second most heinous fraud
a person can commit.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, December 9, 2011 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

@ Anarcissie

Whatever you say my friend.

(Is this some kind of southern ritual you are referring to??? if not, you know, and I know that YOU ARE A SATANIC LIAR!!!).

Just kidding, however, if I may ask… What the fuck???

You know me.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 9, 2011 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

Goodness, EmileZ, we haven’t even been properly introduced.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, December 9, 2011 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

Fuck you anarcissie

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, December 9, 2011 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

With ‘Goo goo ga ga’ in the title, shouldn’t somebody be giving URLs to Queen videos?

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, December 9, 2011 at 2:45 am Link to this comment

Oops I seem to have neglected to post the link to the first youtube video I was referring to.

The Shirelles - I met Him On A Sunday

This is the updated (released some years after the original and semi-successfully imitating Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”) version of the original 1958 version which as far as I know was the first release by the first black OR female owned record label “Scepter Records”.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, December 9, 2011 at 2:18 am Link to this comment

The Shirelles - I met Him On A Sunday

This is the updated (released some years after the original and semi-successfully imitating Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”) version of the original 1958 version which as far as I know was the first release by the first black OR female owned record label “Scepter Records”.

Max Roach with Abbey Lincoln - Tryptich: Prayer/Protest/Peace

Mary Lou Williams - Overhand

“Inside every woman there is a whore waiting to come out”. - from “The Legend Of Lylah Clare” which I just watched the other day and is pretty damn funny.

Don’t mind me, I am just a blabbermouth with nothing to say whiling away my evening.

One for the road…

The Shirelles - Dooms Day

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