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Feminisms contested

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In a searching piece in the left-of-centre weekly The Nation, Betsy Reed parses through the debate amongst feminists prompted by the ongoing contest between Clinton and Obama. Many "progressive feminists" reject out of hand the assumption - as posited by a number of their older brethren - that women should vote in terms of gender interests before racial ones. Clear fault-lines in American feminism are emerging as a result of the campaign.

In some sense, this is a clarifying moment as well as a wrenching one. For so many years, feminists have been engaged in a pushback against the right that has obscured some of the real and important differences among them. "Today you see things you might not have seen. It's clearer now about where the lines are between corporate feminism and more grassroots, global feminism," says [law professor Kimberlé] Crenshaw. Women who identify with the latter movement are saying, as she puts it, "'Wait a minute, that's not the banner we are marching under!'"

Feminist Obama supporters of all ages and hues, meanwhile, are hoping that he comes out of this bruising primary with his style of politics intact. While he calls it "a new kind of politics," Clinton and Obama are actually very similar in their records and agendas (which is perhaps why this contest has fixated so obsessively on their gender and race). But in his rhetoric and his stance toward the world outside our borders, Obama does appear to offer a way out of the testosterone-addled GOP framework. As he said after losing Pennsylvania, "We can be a party that thinks the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, and act, and vote like George Bush and John McCain. We can use fear as a tactic and the threat of terrorism to scare up votes. Or we can decide that real strength is asking the tough questions before we send our troops to fight."



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