Denise Cummins Ph.D.

Good Thinking

Why Millennials Don't Call Themselves Feminists

Female millennials avoid the term. And perhaps for good reason.

Posted Feb 12, 2016

ID 7368616 © Imagery Majestic | Royalty Free
Source: ID 7368616 © Imagery Majestic | Royalty Free

In my recent PBS Newshour article, I talk about how, much to everyone’s surprise, recent polls show that a significant majority of millennial women plan to vote for Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton.

While many reasons have been offered for this (along with some scolding of millennials by feminist heavy hitters like Gloria Steinem), I think there is a deeper reason why we are seeing this disconnect:

I think their distrust actually represents an indictment of modern day feminism.

Millennials take for granted many of the opportunities that were denied to women a generation or two ago, opportunities for which early feminists fought hard. But modern feminism seems to have little to do with improving the lives of women or expanding their opportunities. Instead, it seems to have more to do with pursuing  agendas that the majority of people find dubious or outright offensive.

The term “feminism” has been hijacked by a minority of vocal extremists who have redefined it as “gender feminism,” claiming that gender is a patriarchal social construct created in order to oppress women. Another branch sees feminism simply as a means for women to compete with men in the workplace on men's terms. The problem is that the workplace was designed on the assumption of a division of labor--the wife tending to children and home, the husband working long hours to pay for it all. 

That no longer defines modern families nor the way men and women think of themselves today. 

The new challenge for third- and fourth-wave feminism is to take back the term from radical gender feminists, and to take back our personal lives from an unyielding workplace. 

Read my PBS Newshour article for more on this important issue.

Copyright Dr. Denise Cummins February 12, 2016

Dr. Cummins is a research psychologist, a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and the author of Good Thinking: Seven Powerful Ideas That Influence the Way We Think.

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