A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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Leora Tanenbaum is writing a book about girls labeled “sluts” by their peers. Her work has appeared in the Nation, Seventeen, Ms., and the Women’s Review of Books. She lives in New York City.
The definition is much broader now that feminist ideas have spread throughout the culture. I would say that anybody who wants to call herself a feminist is a feminist. In addition, there are “applied feminists” — to borrow the writer Carolyn Heilbrun’s wonderful term — meaning someone who may not call herself a feminist but who lives like one. In the early days, there was a lot of debate about who was a real feminist. At the beginning of any movement, definitions seem to matter more. In the late sixties, there was a sense that we were just a handful of people. As the movement spread, we were very worried about being co-opted. So whether or not a newcomer was a “true” feminist seemed to matter, especially if that person was representing feminism in the media; there was a lot of mistrust of the media. We didn’t want to give up on our larger ideals and settle for something less.