Losing Feminist Leaders

By Jessica Valenti

In a time when the so-called "opt-out revolution" reigns supreme in the media and mainstream columnists unconvincingly tell women that the "power is in the kitchen," we need a continuation of Friedan's work more than ever. Thankfully there are women like Linda Hirshman out there who not only debunk the happy housewife myth, but completely obliterate it. Wasserstein fans can rest easy -- people like Sarah Jones and the Guerrilla Girls are making strides for women in the arts, whether on stage or in masks. And of course, the growing opposition to the current administration and invasion of Iraq is building amazing momentum for the movement for nonviolence and civil rights.

It's clear that women are doing the work -- but where are the new icons? Is it that a successful women's movement simply doesn't need icons anymore, or are they out there just waiting to be recognized by a mainstream that still doesn't take kindly to feminism?

The idea of a new crop of mainstream feminist leaders is met with some wariness when talking with younger women. For many young women, especially those who work in grassroots organizations or who have taken their activism online, the idea of a feminist icon or leader seems a bit passe.

Amanda Marcotte of the popular blog Pandagon notes, "There's a good reason to be optimistic that iconic feminist leaders are a thing of the past. Without having the same handful of feminist leaders to return to time and time again, maybe the media will be forced to acknowledge the geographic, racial and class diversity in modern feminism."