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I'm interested in learning about what's currently going on in the feminist movement. I was wondering if you could give me the names of today's leading feminists - i.e., the most famous ones, the most controversial ones, the most influential ones, etc. I'm looking for maybe 2-5 names, something like that, so I'll know where to start looking. Also, could you tell me what reactions to Naomi Wolf have been? I was looking through her book The Beauty Myth and I just wondered how other people reacted to her. Is she one of the leading contemporary feminist thinkers?

Thanks a lot.



Dear Sarah,

There are so many women who are active in the women's movement today. In fact, this is one of the unique things about this phase of the women's rights movement--there are fewer nationally famous names, but more women who are famous in their own communities or around a given issue.

The nationally famous women include Gloria Steinem, a founder of Ms. Magazine and Marcia Gillespie, the magazine's current editor-in-chief. Ellie Smeal, who is the founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation and bell hooks, who has written dozens of feminist books and influences thousands through those books. Eve Ensler and all of the women involved in V-Day are recognized for their work to end violence against women.

Ani Difranco has mobilized many young women through her lyrics. Rebecca Walker, whose memoir Black, White & Jewish has just been published, is especially famous among younger feminists, as is Barbara Findlen for her ground-breaking anthology Listen Up!

Yes, Naomi Wolf is one of those women and the responses to her work have varied. Most people are respectful of Naomi's work and have responded favorably to her messages and opinions. Some people find her too focussed on privileged women and others find her too controversial. Many of these women--and many of the women who are well-respected in their given fields (like Melissa Bradley around micro-enterprise and Rinku Sen around labor organizing) are mentioned in my recently published book, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism & the Future. Selfishly, I think that Manifesta does a good job of highlighting the work of feminists today and giving a broad definition of what it means to be feminist today. Perhaps checking it out will further answer your question.


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