WOMEN'S RELATIONSHIP TO FEMINISM: EFFECTS OF GENERATION AND FEMINIST SELF-LABELING

Authors


  • Lauren E. Duncan, Department of Psychology, Smith College.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Lauren E. Duncan, Smith College, Department of Psychology, Northampton, MA 01063. E-mail: lduncan@smith.edu

Abstract

The relative importance to feminism of generation and feminist self-labeling was explored in a sample of 667 women riding buses to a 1992 March on Washington for Reproductive Rights. Specifically, generational (Generation X vs. Baby Boomers) and feminist self-labeling (strong feminists vs. weak feminists vs. nonfeminists) similarities and differences were examined in definitions of feminism, associations with the feminist label, feminist attitudes, gender consciousness, and activism. Generation Xers were more generally politically active than Baby Boomers when activism was corrected for age. There were many differences by feminist self-labeling. Weak feminists somewhat identified with the feminist label, endorsing some of the attitudes and outlooks of strong feminists but less of their commitment. Feminist self-labeling was more important in explaining women's relationship to feminism than was generation, implying that exposure to a shared ideology can unite members of a group across generations. Weak feminists may represent a promising group of potential recruits for women's right activist groups. They possess many of the same attitudes as strong feminists and have some sense of the critical analysis necessary to take on the feminist label; however, they may not be quite as far along in their feminist identity development as strong feminists. Education about feminism and provision of a feminist lens might strengthen the commitment of some of these weak feminists.

Ancillary