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Women’s Relationship to Feminism: Generations, Activism, and Commitment Lauren E. Duncan Smith College September 13, 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Women’s Relationship to Feminism: Generations, Activism, and Commitment Lauren E. Duncan Smith College September 13, 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women’s Relationship to Feminism: Generations, Activism, and Commitment Lauren E. Duncan Smith College September 13, 2008

2 Please answer  How do you define feminism?  What comes to mind when you think of feminists?

3 Popular Myths about Feminism  Feminism is dead  Young women do not identify as feminists  Young feminists are not as committed to feminism as older feminists

4 Feminism is dead

5 Research shows  Young women are just as committed to feminism as their elders  Concerns of feminists may differ by generation

6 Today  Two aspects of identity important to women’s relationship to feminism and activism  Generation  Feminist identification

7 Generations and Development From Stewart & Healy (1989)

8 Radcliffe College Class of 1947 (Duncan & Agronick, 1995) Life StageFrequency Childhood13% Early adulthood 61% Early middle adulthood 12% Midlife13%

9 Radcliffe College Class of 1964 (Duncan & Agronick, 1995) Life StageFrequency Childhood22% Early adulthood 70% Early middle adulthood 4% MidlifeNA

10 Baby Boomers vs. Generation X

11 Zucker (2004)  Feminists  Endorse cardinal beliefs of feminism and high feminist identification  Non-feminists  Do not endorse cardinal beliefs of feminism and low feminist identification  Non-labelers  Endorse cardinal beliefs of feminism and low feminist identification

12 The Current Study  Activist women, by generation and self- identified feminist status  “How do you define feminism?”  “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”  Components of feminist identity  Activist commitment

13 Age Baby Boomers (N = 294) Generation X (N = 413) Age4123 Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Age293031

14 Education Baby Boomers (N = 294) Generation X (N = 413) Education4-year college degree 2-year college degree Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Education2-year college degree 4-year college degree

15 Women of Color Baby Boomers (N = 294) Generation X (N = 413) Women of color5%9% Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Women of color6%7%8%

16 Liberal Ideology Baby Boomers (N = 294) Generation X (N = 413) Liberal ideology (1-7) 66 Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Liberal ideology (1-7) 55.56

17 Fighting Gender Socialization “How do you define feminism?” ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 227) Generation X (N = 314) Fighting gender socialization 4%9% Theme Non-feminist (N = 50) Not so strong feminist (N = 170) Feminist (N = 400) Fighting gender socialization 0%6%

18 Fighting Gender Socialization  “Fighting gender constraints”  “Feminism is the belief that all humans are created as equals and that if they are not treated as such, society, not nature, is at fault and must be changed. We have a much better chance at changing society than we do nature.”

19 Equal Rights ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 227) Generation X (N = 314) Equal rights65%70% Theme Non-feminist (N = 50) Not so strong feminist (N = 170) Feminist (N = 400) Equal rights44%70%69% “How do you define feminism?”

20 Equal Rights  “The struggle for women to be treated as equals.”  “Individuals who favor the equal treatment and opportunity of women and men and working towards equality in work, government, etc. and favoring any steps to create this.”

21 Improving Women’s Position ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 227) Generation X (N = 314) Improving women’s position 5%7% Theme Non-feminist (N = 50) Not so strong feminist (N = 170) Feminist (N = 400) Improving women’s position 20%7%6% “How do you define feminism?”

22 Improving Women’s Position  “A political movement to better women’s position in society in all realms.”  “A movement to improve a woman’s economic and political status.”

23 Negative Associations ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 227) Generation X (N = 314) Negative associations 3%5% Theme Non-feminist (N = 50) Not so strong feminist (N = 170) Feminist (N = 400) Negative associations 26%4%1% “How do you define feminism?”

24 Negative Associations  “Getting equal rights at any cost. Changing women to womin.”  “In general, overrun by women with big egos- -movement pushing for equal rights in every facet of society.”  “I say womanist not feminist- as an objection to a large amount of the politicking associated with the feminist movement. It has essentially given the movement a white, middle class, heterosexual value structure and does not meet the needs of the poor, minorities, and the women it claims to represent.”

25 Outspoken, Independent ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 143) Generation X (N = 201) Outspoken, independent 30% Theme Non-feminist (N = 33) Not so strong feminist (N = 104) Feminist (N = 246) Outspoken, independent 15%21%35% “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”

26 Outspoken, Independent  “Head-strong determined women”  “Outspoken and strong women”  “Assertive”  “They are strong and proud of being women. They make no apologies and take no crap from men.”

27 Intelligent ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 143) Generation X (N = 201) Intelligent12%11% Theme Non-feminist (N = 33) Not so strong feminist (N = 104) Feminist (N = 246) Intelligent6% 15% “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”

28 Intelligent  “Women who think”  “Resourceful”  “Smart, politically insightful”  “Competent”

29 Specific Women Role Models ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 143) Generation X (N = 201) Specific women role models 17%8% Theme Non-feminist (N = 33) Not so strong feminist (N = 104) Feminist (N = 246) Specific women role models 3%11%13% “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”

30 Specific Women Role Models  “Gloria Steinem”  “Helen Reddy’s I am Woman.”  “My mother-- Women who have accepted responsibility for their own lives and make choices for the betterment of all people.”  “Pro-choice, creative, grassroots, lesbians, liberal women, handicapped women, Germaine Greer, Marlo Thomas, women’s colleges.”

31 General Positive Characteristics ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 143) Generation X (N = 201) General positive characteristics 15% Theme Non-feminist (N = 33) Not so strong feminist (N = 104) Feminist (N = 246) General positive characteristics 0%13%20% “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”

32 General Positive Characteristics  “Interesting women”  “Truth, light, beauty”  “YAY!”  “Cool women”

33 General Negative Characteristics ThemeBaby Boomers (N = 143) Generation X (N = 201) General negative characteristics 7%14% Theme Non-feminist (N = 33) Not so strong feminist (N = 104) Feminist (N = 246) General negative characteristics 39%11%5% “What comes to mind when you think of feminists?”

34 General Negative Characteristics  “Radical lesbians-women who dress trashy- women who hate men-we were told having a career is “fulfilling” and “exciting” but no one told us how to prepare for careers or that a job in and of itself will not totally satisfy one’s needs.”  “Angry, scape-goated, misunderstood, poorly directed, separatist.”  “A nation of women who believe in equality, or at least state this belief, but who are so distracted by power and its perks that they forget why they are feminists.”

35 Summary  Very few generational differences  Boomers: Older, more educated, associated feminists with specific women role models  Gen X: defined feminism as fighting gender socialization, had more general negative associations with feminists

36 Summary  Many differences by feminist status  Feminists: more educated, more liberal, said feminists are outspoken, intelligent, possess other positive characteristics  Non-feminists: less liberal, less likely to say that feminism is about equal rights and more about improving women’s position, had negative associations with feminism, listed fewer positive and more negative characteristics of feminists  Not so strong feminists: in middle on liberal ideology  Similar to feminists: mentioning equal rights, less likely to have negative associations with feminism  Similar to non-feminists: less likely to say feminists were outspoken, independent,intelligent

37 Components of Feminist Identity  Common fate  Power discontent  System blame  Collective orientation  Cognitive centrality (Gurin & Markus, 1989; Gurin,Miller, & Gurin, 1985)

38 Common Fate “ Do you think what happens generally to women in this country will have something to do with what happens in your life? ” Feminism Component Baby Boomers (N = 300) Generation X (N = 417) Common fate (1-4) Feminism component Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Common fate

39 Power Discontent “ Women have (too much, about the right amount, not enough) power and influence in society ” Feminism Component Baby Boomers (N = 300) Generation X (N = 417) Power discontent (1-3) Feminism component Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Power discontent

40 System Blame “ Men have more of the top jobs because our society discriminates against women ” Feminism Component Baby Boomers (N = 300) Generation X (N = 417) System blame (1-5) Feminism component Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) System blame

41 Collective Orientation “ It is not enough for a woman to be successful herself. Women must all work together to change laws and customs which are unfair to all women. ” Feminism Component Baby Boomers (N = 300) Generation X (N = 417) Collective orientation (1-3) Feminism component Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Collective orientation

42 Cognitive Centrality “How often in your everyday life do you think about being a woman and what you have in common with women and men?” Feminism Component Baby Boomers (N = 300) Generation X (N = 417) Cognitive centrality (1-4) Feminism component Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) Cognitive centrality

43 Summary  No generational differences  Boomers and Gen Xers both high in common fate, power discontent, system blame, cognitive centrality of gender  Differences by feminist status  Feminists highest, not so strong feminists in the middle, non-feminists lowest in common fate, system blame, cognitive centrality of gender  Non-feminists lower than other two groups in power discontent  No differences in collective orientation

44 Personal Political Salience Please rate each of the following events for how personally meaningful it is (or was) to you (i.e., how much it affected your life or reflects your values and concerns): 1 = not at all important or personally meaningful 2 = somewhat important or personally meaningful 3 = very important or personally meaningful Cold War1 2 3 Persian Gulf War1 2 3 Great Depression World War II Women's Movement Hiroshima Vietnam War 1 2 3McCarthyism1 2 3 Civil Rights Movement 1 2 3Sexual revolution1 2 3 Kennedy assassination 1 2 3Black Power1 2 3 Freeing Nelson Mandela1 2 3 Reagan presidency1 2 3

45 Collective Action From the following list please indicate any causes you may have been involved in during the past and the type of activity which best describes your involvement. Circle as many numbers as applicable Signed a petition Contributed money Wrote a letter, called, or called on a public official Attended a meeting Was an active member of an organization Attended a rally or demonstration Abortion rights Anti-war/peace Business/professional Child care……………………… Civil rights Crime/neighborhood watch… Education Employment Environment Health care… Political candidate “Support our troops” Taxes…… Welfare rights…………………… Other (specify) _______________123456

46 Activist Commitment, by Generation Baby Boomers (N = 298) Generation X (N = 404) PPS Abortion rights Civil rights Anti-war Childcare Healthcare Political party

47 Activist Commitment, by Status Non-feminist (N = 60) Not so strong feminist (N = 184) Feminist (N = 418) PPS Abortion rights Civil rights Anti-war Childcare Healthcare Political party

48 Summary  Generation  Boomers more politically engaged and active than Gen Xers  Feminist status  Feminists more politically engaged and active than other two groups  Not so strong feminists resemble non-feminists in lack of feminist commitment

49 Conclusions  Generation  Very few differences in definitions of feminism, associations with feminist, and feminist identity  Boomers more politically engaged and active than Gen Xers  Feminist status  Not so strong feminists resemble feminists in some ways and non-feminists in others  Like feminists in holding some positive and few negative associations with feminism  Like non-feminists in lack of activist commitment

50 Election 2008


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