MANIFESTA by Jennifer Baumgardner


Young Women, Feminism, and the Future
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By addressing itself specifically to young women, this imperfect but relatively thorough treatise helps fill a gap in the current debate between older feminist luminaries, some would say "dinosaurs", such as Gloria Steinem, and the crop of news making younger female writers who tend to embrace anti-feminism.

Both authors are former editors at Ms. who have since moved on to various leadership roles in the so-called "Third Wave" of feminist writers and activists now in their 20s and early 30s. They combine a brief historical assessment of the movement for women's equality (focusing particularly on the tumultuous developments of the 1970s) with a call to action—aimed largely at girls and young women who, the authors believe, have benefited from the previous generation's struggles but continue to experience forms of sexism and relative powerlessness. By linking contemporary pro-female culture (the Lilith Festival; magazines such as Bust, Sassy, and Jane; women's basketball and soccer) to its intellectual and political roots from the 1960s and ’70s, Baumgardner and Richards aim to provide counter-evidence to the perennial claim that feminism has died or outlived its usefulness. Many pages are spent on a useful analysis of the strengths and shortcomings of "girl power"—a healthy, positive, empowering attitude toward the traditional trappings of female youth culture, but not quite a political strategy, in the authors' estimation. Their study falters in a few ways: repetitiveness, an over-reliance on personal anecdotes in the opening pages, and a penchant for making controversial claims without providing sources (for example, the "fact" that some states won't allow a mother to make medical decisions on behalf of her children without the father's approval). Still, simpatico older women will be heartened by the authors' knowledgeable discussion of pro-woman attitudes and actions among the younger set, while girls and young women may find political or personal inspiration in their account.

An important contribution to the subject, despite its flaws.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-52622-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000


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