Are Contemporary Feminists too Agreeable?


“The feminists of the Second Wave were a small group of committed activists who were also very unusual people. Given the hostile reception they were often met with, they were by necessity women who could tolerate being unpopular. My educated guess would be that, in terms of the Big Five profile, the typical Second Wave feminist was likely to be both substantially higher in the openness trait and substantially less agreeable than the typical non-feminist woman. She would need to be, in order to be attracted to the radicalism of the movement in the first place, and in order to weather the storm of social disapproval. Many of the women who formed the core of the Second Wave made dramatic changes to their lives as part of their activism: leaving their male partners, living with other feminists, and rejecting their old social networks. Although the Second Wave feminist movement emerged from the wider Left, it was frequently in conflict with it. For instance in 1969, at the New Left’s Counter-Inaugural to the Nixon inauguration in Washington, feminists who rose to speak were heckled by male comrades shouting “Take her off stage and fuck her!” and “Fuck her down a dark alley!” This was not a movement that was generally welcomed by the men who dominated progressive politics: you didn’t become a Second Wave feminist because you wanted to be liked.

But, as a result of the success of the movement over the last half century, the social costs of identifying as a feminist have decreased. A large proportion of young Western women now describe themselves as feminists, with some surveys suggesting the figure may be as high as two thirds. Nowadays practically every politically engaged Left-leaning woman, along with a significant number of men, describes themselves as feminists, to the point that the feminist community and the progressive community have become essentially the same group.”


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