The Latest Study by University of Chicago political science professor Cathy Cohen on Millennial Views on Feminism
There is some good news, some hard news, and some bad news for feminism this week. The latest study by University of Chicago political science professor Cathy Cohen’s Millennial Views on Feminism finds that a majority of women 18-34 do not identify themselves as feminist. The data group for the study included 525 African American, 256 Asian American, 502 Latinx, 553 white Millennial respondents.
Professor Cohen’s June 2018 GenForward survey studies how women — self-identified African-American, Latinx, White and Asian-American — in that age category view feminist ideas and feminism in general. “Whether individuals identify as a feminist does not vary dramatically across race or ethnicity,” the study notes. “Fewer than 20% of respondents belonging to any racial/ethnic group self-identify as a feminist, with the lowest percentage being 13% among Latinx Millennials. Most respondents say they ‘don’t identify as a traditional feminist, but support women’s rights and equality.” Further, 36% of African-American, 47% of Asian-American, and 38% of Latinx Millennials report that the feminist movement has not done much to improve the lives of poor women. That’s the bad news.
Now, the good news. In the same study, majorities of men (65%) and women (65%) believe that the feminist movement has improved the lives of white women. The core data group was asked “it is easy to understand why women’s groups are still concerned about societal limitations of women’s opportunities.” 80% of African American, 88% of Asian American, 81% of Latinx, and 67% of white Millennials responded to that question either “somewhat” or “strongly” agree, which is good news for feminists.
The study also showed that African-American millennials (46%) were least likely among all millennial groups to believe that the feminist movement has helped women of color “a lot.” 58% of Asian-American millennials believed that feminism helped women of color "a lot," 56% of Latinx millennials believe the same and, finally, 60% of White millennials were of that opinion. The main takeaway from the study: millennials of color believe — whether it is true or not — that feminism by large was a movement that was focused on white women almost exclusively and succeeded in making their lives better and not much else. That having been said, there is a measure good news in that in the study a majority of men and women combined believe that feminism has done “some” to improve the lives of women of color. This conclusion does quite a bit to explain the rise of intersectional feminism this year on college campuses.
It has now been a century since the beginnings of first wave feminism, and there are noticeable cracks in the feminist brand — or at least the very meaning of feminism – in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Last month, in London, an international rally for men’s rights — clearly anti-feminist — drew historic crowds. Also, there is in our immediate media environment a fractioning of feminisms. There is a rise in Socialist Feminism, Corporatist Feminism, and of course hypocritical celebrity feminism (see: Minaj, Nikki; see: the Kardashians) on full display on social media. Narcissistic supermodel Emily Ratajkowsky, who regularly posts navel-gazing hymns to her own beauty on Instagram, believes her social media handle to be a “sexy, feminist magazine,” according to Paper. She has – and how could she not? — 19 million followers. Are the Kardashians, Minajs, and Supermodels-who-do-selfies a part of the trajectory of the fourth wave of feminism? Quo vadis?
Why I Reject Feminism is a hard read, but an essential one. I don’t agree with the author, but I empathize with her anger at the contemporary feminist movement. Although Gloria Steinem has always noted that women of color have been more feminist than white women — see Tarana Burke — the movement has not always been good to and for women of color. In it, the author, sick and tired of waiting for feminism to bring about true equality for women of color, takes up the term “womanism,” rejecting the other brand. Oseye Boyd, the Editor-in-Chief of the Indianapolis Recorder writes poignantly, "Black men had property and voting rights before women — white or Black.” She continues: “women suffragists fought for (white) women to be seen as equal, and they were right to do so. Sojourner Truth famously asked, ‘Ain’t I a Woman,’ to white women fighting for their rights. Black women were told to wait our turn, once white women secured their rights, they’ll come back for us.” She concludes: “black men told us to wait our turn. Once they secured their rights, they’ll come back for us. Both groups excluded Black women.”
Finally, Emma Gray wrote a noteworthy piece for HuffPost about the lengths that women runners go to in avoiding danger while alone in public spaces. She writes about Mollie Tibbets, the 20-year old college student who was killed running, alone, practicing self-care. “Much has been made by conservatives of the alleged killer’s immigration status, but this is a story about a woman who went out into the world, did not return a man’s advances, and paid for that choice with her life.”