‘Hell, yeah’

Researchers taken aback by how many politicians now embrace the term ‘feminist’

(Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

An unprecedented number of politicians this year have publicly identified as feminists — even in key battleground races — a trend that researchers say would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, The New York Times reports. While in past years U.S. politicians have been quick to eschew the label ‘feminist’ out of fear that the term would lose them votes, more than half of voters in at least 11 battleground districts nationwide now support electing feminists, according to Upshot/Siena House polls this fall. A third of voters who took part in the poll still said they would oppose the election of feminists — a fifth were undecided — but according to researchers such as Stanford professor Estelle Freedman, this degree of support was unprecedented until after the #MeToo movement.

“An embrace of the term in political candidates? That’s news,” Freeman explained. “We know that women have been really politicized by the perceived assault on women’s rights writ large. The kindling was there, and it got ignited by the misogyny.”

Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky, didn’t hesitate when asked whether she was a feminist this year. “Hell, yeah,” was McGrath’s response. Her Republican opponent, Representative Andy Barr, swiftly tried to profit off of the moment by featuring it an attack ad. The term feminist is still seen as toxic for many voters — only a fifth or fewer said they would identify as feminists themselves according to a variety of polls — but young women in particular have increasingly embraced the term. Among 75 percent of women aged 18 to 34 said they wanted more feminists in office — by comparison, only 43 percent of women 65 and older felt the same way. Even conservatives appear increasingly comfortable with the term “feminist” — especially when it pertains to achieving greater women’s equality in the workplace.

“It’s about the ability to just get a job and to be free of harassment,” said Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “Both men and women have a deep, vested interest in women’s economic success.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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