The following is the second installment of “The Next Generation” column, featuring young feminists under the age of 30 who are not yet established in an academic career. If you fit this description and are interested in writing your own take for us on bridging feminist research with popular reality, please submit your idea and a little about yourself via our contact form.
[Note: a version of this piece was originally posted at NCRW’s The Real Deal blog]
This summer I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar narrated by Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW, entitled “The Budget Deal is a Feminist Issue.” The webinar discussed how Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget deal would cut several social services on which women depend disproportionately. Programs on the chopping block included Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics, Pell grants, job training, Head Start, childcare programs, and WIC nutrition programs. Women depend predominantly on most, if not all, of these programs.
After O’Neill gave her presentation, she opened the floor to questions. I asked if any of the Ryan cuts would impact girls and teens, and she explained that it would cut family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, which also offer services like mammograms, STD and HIV screenings, Pap smears, and other tests that can help save women’s lives. “That’s appalling,” she said.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed the webinar. (I told my friend about it and she told me, “You’re probably the only teenager on the planet who enjoyed hearing a presentation about the budget.” She’s probably got a point there.) In a personal correspondence, Anita Lederer, the NOW field organizer, asked if everyone could speak to their representatives, host a letter-writing campaign, or demonstrate in a rally against cuts. As the “super committee” makes its decisions on deficit reduction, and as we go into the next budget cycle, it is critical that young feminists continue these actions and oppose cuts that will disproportionately harm girls and teenagers.
While I absolutely loved the webinar, it bothered me a little bit that O’Neill felt the only way the Ryan budget would impact young women was by cutting family planning. Girls do have interests other than sex, after all. I know that I care about getting a college education, which could have been impossible if the Ryan cut on Pell grants had gone through. I also care about Medicaid cuts, since they could financially affect the family of a friend whose sibling has special needs. These are just a couple of my concerns – every young woman would have different worries.
It also bothers me that O’Neill didn’t even address the impact of the Ryan budget cuts on younger women in her original presentation, which is why I made sure to ask about it. I know O’Neill is of the baby boomer generation, and I would venture a guess that the vast majority of NOW members are as well, but isn’t it important to include people of all ages? Feminists go to extreme efforts to include gays and lesbians, people of color, the disabled, etc. Shouldn’t they consider it a primary goal to include younger feminists? We are the next generation, and if they don’t encourage us to join the movement, it will wither away and die.
I’ve noticed similar attitudes with other feminists—this is far from limited to NOW. I have been excluded because of my age in many different feminist forums, and that really bothers me. Why are younger women ignored? Aren’t we just as important as older feminists, if not even more so? We’ll be continuing the legacy of this generation’s feminists, keeping the movement alive. It is absolutely imperative that we are encouraged to attend, included in, and feel welcome at feminist events. If older feminists don’t include our concerns without being asked to do so, no one will want to accept the feminist torch when we’re adults, and all the work they accomplished will go to waste.
Feminists, please: think about about the budget, and make sure the people around you are aware of how detrimental cuts in social services, education, and entitlement programs can be to women and to the country at large. While you’re at it, make sure to inform the young people around you. They have brains and will understand the importance of the budget, once someone takes the time to explain it to them. Don’t discount the next generation of feminists. I happen to think that we’re pretty cool.
Talia bat Pessi is a teenage Femidox (feminist Orthodox) Jew who writes the blog Star of Davida. She also writes for various other feminist and women’s news resources. After high school and college, she hopes to get a JD/PhD in women’s studies and go into labor law, specializing in workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.