Earlier tonight, Jessica made a really good point about feminism and abortion: NOW’s insistence on making abortion not only its immediate concern but also its grand selling point is hurting the feminist movement, in particular making it less appealing to young women.
In the US, abortion has been legal for 33 years. Do you know a movement that succeeded by reminding people of its past successes? Me neither. The constant threat to Roe vs. Wade helps keep committed members inside, but it doesn’t convince anyone who isn’t already part of the movement.
Fear-based appeals don’t work. They’re a staple of boundedness-oriented egalitarians, but most people aren’t egalitarians. Telling young women that if they don’t support NOW their right to abort will be revoked won’t make them support NOW; it’ll make them shrug feminism off as a relic of the past. If you don’t believe me, ask Kilgore how successful he was at running for Virginia Governor by telling everyone his anti-death penalty opponent wouldn’t have executed Hitler.
To succeed, movements have to constantly reinvent themselves. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan didn’t talk about women’s right to vote, but demonstrated that women’s rights had been slipping over the ten previous years, and raised the issues of education and work. 1960s American liberalism moved on from public works and social security to Medicare and civil rights.
I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to say it for a while, but the Democratic Party should under no circumstances bring up judicial nominations as a campaign issue in this election. Telling people “Vote Democratic so that Bush won’t overturn Roe vs. Wade” won’t get a single pro-choice voter to the polls or convince a single undecided; it’ll energize the activist base, but the activist base already supports the party.
It’s the same with the feminist movement: American women make 62 cents on the male dollar, are subjected to serious job discrimination, and are told to do nothing but raise kids while the government refuses to support them financially. If NOW really can’t rile people up with employment discrimination and sexual harassment, it should get the hell out of the way of a more serious feminist organization that can.