A few days ago, the New York Times published an article that essentially asked, “Where in The World is The Next Gloria Steinem?” Cue Rockapella because we got another hit theme song on our hands. But seriously, at this point, the threat against women’s rights is certainly a Snooki aka a Code Orange, so where is, as Rush Limbaugh not-so-eloquently put it, the Feminazi, or Femipanther, or FeminLin (someone who’s a really big fan of feminism and of Jeremy Lin) to carry on the torch that’s been held by Steinem?
This is not to say that NO ONE is voicing an opinion. Quite the opposite. Outrage over threats to women’s reproductive rights could be heard throughout the country in the form of tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, and television appearances, yet no woman has declared, “There can only be one Highlander!” and taken charge of the feminist movement. With so many voices and niche markets, it appears difficult to unify the troops. I mean, you ever try to get eight people to agree on a restaurant for brunch? Exactly. “Oh, this place has unlimited mimosas.” “But this restaurant has the best Hollandaise sauce.” People are sending emails about trivial matters like Hollandaise sauce, y’all. So obvi, something as important as determining the new face of feminism will require much more than an email chain.
However, I think it’s too simple to blame the absence of a new leader on there being too many options and outlets. Let’s not forget that critics accused Steinem of representing feminism for the privileged. So it now seems that women are reluctant to assign any face as THE face of feminism for fear of not representing everyone. Maybe we can, through the power of photoshop, merge faces of every race into one face until the complexion is of oatmeal and the face has dead stripper eyes. If that doesn’t work, we can choose American Idol style and dial 1-866-IDOLS-07 and vote for our favorite feminist. Or maybe all notable feminists could fight to the death a la The Hunger Games until one remains. I give a slight edge to Ariana Huffington. If Ivan Drago from Rocky IV has taught me anything, it’s that people with accents mean business and break bones.
Yet the most interesting piece of evidence of all is that the feminist movement doesn’t have a clear enemy, at least not like the enemies during the ‘60s &‘70s. Yes, there are misogynists, but many have hipped to the ways of subtle discrimination for the most part, thus making it harder for feminists to combat them without appearing defensive. Furthermore, without clear and concrete opponents, any feminists jockeying for the spotlight can potentially look like they’re merely “getting ready for their close up, Mr. DeMille.”
But maybe what we’re forgetting is that the feminist movement has evolved from having a singular voice. A singular vision. Maybe the new feminism is a collective. Maybe the feminist movement is like a co-op grocery store. We all gotta sweep up the floor, we all have to ring up customers, and we all get to share what our hard work gives us: fresh produce and fresh ideas about what it is to be a woman.