A Day Without Feminism
Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the
by Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards (2000)
We were both born in 1970, the baptismal moment of a decade that would change dramatically the
lives of American women.
The two of us grew up thousands of miles apart, in entirely different kinds
of families, yet we both came of age with the awareness that certain rights had been won by the
We’ve never doubted how important feminism is to people’s lives—men’s and
Both of our mothers went to consciousness-raising-type groups.
Amy’s mother raised Amy
on her own, and Jennifer’s mother, questioning the politics of housework, staged laundry strikes.
With the dawn of not just a new century but a new millennium, people are looking back and
taking stock of feminism.
Do we need new strategies?
Is feminism dead? Has society changed so
much that the idea of a feminist movement is obsolete?
For us, the only way to answer these questions
is to imagine what our lives would have been if the women’s movement had never happened and the
conditions for women had remained as they were in the year of our births.
Imagine that for a day it’s still 1970, and women have only the rights they had then.
Sly and Family
Stone and Dionne Warwick are on the radio, the kitchen appliances are Harvest Gold, and the name of
your Whirlpool gas stove is Mrs. America.
What is it like to be female?
Babies born on this day are automatically given their father’s name.
If no father is listed,
“illegitimate” is likely to be typed on the birth certificate.
There are virtually no child-care centers, so
all preschool children are in the hands of their mothers, a baby-sitter, or an expensive nursery school.
In elementary school, girls can’t play Little League and almost all of the teachers are female.
latter is still true.)
In a few states, it may be against the law for a male to teach grades lower than the
sixth, on the basis that it’s unnatural, or that men can’t be trusted with young children.
In junior high, girls probably take home ec; boys take shop or small-engine repair.
want to learn how to cook or sew on a button are out of luck, as are girls who want to learn how to fix
magazine doesn’t run feminist-influenced current columns like “Sex + Body” and
Instead the magazine encourages girls not to have sex; pleasure isn’t part of its
Judy Blume’s books are just beginning to be published, and
Free to Be…You and Me
No one reads much about masturbation as a natural activity; nor do they learn that sex is for
anything other than procreation.
Girls do read mystery stories about Nancy Drew, for whom there is
no sex, only her blue roadster and having “luncheon.”
(The real mystery is how Nancy gets along
without a purse and manages to meet only white people.)
Boys read about the Hardy Boys, for whom
there are no girls.
In high school, the principal is a man.