The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as the political, economic, and social equality of sexes. This definition seems relatively agreeable; however, to many it seems that the women’s movement has always been partisan and controversial. As of 2017, 32% of Democrats identified as feminists, while only 5% of Republicans did. This has become a major impediment to the women’s movement, as it is difficult to achieve a goal when we can not even agree that the goal exists.
Although, before 1980, most feminists were Republicans, and many others rejected partisan ties entirely. They viewed partisanship as a part of a flawed status quo that could not stand in the way of their vital movement. They supported the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as a united base from the early to the mid-20th century. But when the solidarity of feminism was extinguished, so was this progressive Amendment. The Republican party abandoned support for the ERA in favor of a Constitutional amendment against abortion, the party’s feminist leaders were forced to take sides, and the women’s movement fell into a downward spiral of party loyalty.
In our society, many assume a stance on feminism based on their party beliefs, and women and men are often condemned for breaking the expectation to follow their party. The form of feminism that is considered politically “acceptable” is not sufficient to unite our nation because it needs to be approved of. Partisan feminism not only attempts to guide women’s actions, but also makes much of the movement void of meaning. Michael Tessler, a political scientist at UCLA, has demonstrated that the partisan nature of feminism has had a similar effect on the women’s movement as Obama’s election has had on identity politics: as one party supports women, the other develops resentment for the mere thought of doing so. The result is that people do not become feminists because they believe in respecting women, or even because they have been discriminated against in the past–they call themselves feminists because it’s what people in their party, town, socio-economic class, and school urge them to do. As a result, it has become routine for women to be inches away from a landmark, but be abandoned when the goal is no longer beneficial for their party.
Although partisan tension seems to have stolen this movement from women, party leaders on both sides are beginning to unite in mutual support of the women’s movement. Ivanka Trump and Sarah Huckabee have expressed support for the women’s movement on social media. Hillary Clinton has even suggested that one can “absolutely” be a pro-life feminist. As more people come on board, we may be on our way back to the original conception of feminism promoted by Alice Paul and Ava Belmont. These women saw both parties as “admitted evils,” and sought to unite all women through nonpartisan organizations.
At The Bipartisan Feminist Project, we believe our country is beginning to pursue a new path, and that this generation can be a vital part of it. We look to foster dialogue about feminism among young people to establish a more united feminist movement.
The Bipartisan Feminist Project aims to take the politics out of feminism. To achieve this, we bring together people from all walks of life to discuss the reality of women’s issues. Understanding societal issues and their causes can help us engage in meaningful discussions in which all can escape group-think and share their beliefs freely.
We believe feminism is epitomized by respecting and listening to the opinions of others. By the means of informative workshops and patient advocacy, we encourage listening to the perspectives of people of all identities and using our new-founded understandings to resolve the tension surrounding the women’s movement. As we all learn to listen, we can dissolve the boundaries of feminism in favor of an open forum–what feminism initially intended to do.