Can hookup culture on college campuses be reconciled with contemporary feminism?
How do these ideas fit into the broader political context of America under Donald Trump?
Kate Harding, the editor of the recently-released feminist anthology Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, sought to address the evolving nature of feminism at a discussion at Cornell on Wednesday evening.
Harding, fielded questions from panelists and the audience at the lecture, which was sponsored by Cornell’s Women Resource Center.
Several people brought up how young feminists — largely discontent with an administration some deem exceptionally hostile to women and minorities — can be more effective activists.
“It’s important to start with the small, local stuff,” Harding advised. “Every day, the president does something that, in any previous administration, would be unprecedented … so it’s essential not to be overwhelmed.”
Saying President Donald Trump poses an unprecedented threat to voting rights, the Constitution and journalism, Harding said would-be activists should “focus on one institution.”
“Authoritarian governments work by overwhelming you, so it’s critical to be focused,” she said.
Harding said feminist principles are irreconcilable with Republican politics and painted a strikingly critical picture of modern American politics. But she also heralded Tuesday night’s election results in New Jersey and Virginia, where Democratic candidates won both gubernatorial races, as reason for optimism.
“Those wins were something we were so hungry for, and it definitely provides a lot of hope going forward,” she said.
In particular, she singled out Danica Roem, the first openly-transgender woman to win elected office, who ousted the Virginia state legislator responsible for introducing a so-called “bathroom bill.”
“It reminds us about the importance of these smaller, local races that we have too often ignored,” Harding added.
Although the talk aimed, in part, to assess how women can unite, Harding struck a harsh tone regarding those who hold different political beliefs.
“I could never marry a Republican,” she said. “My values as a human being don’t exist outside of my politics, which are fundamentally geared towards equality and kindness.”
When it comes to possible Thanksgiving dinners with family Trump supporters, she argued, tuning out may be better than trying to persuade.
Hardin also said “hookup culture,” a fixture of many college campuses, can be reconciled with contemporary feminism.
“It’s important to draw a clear line between a ‘hookup culture’ and ‘rape culture,’” she said. “When it comes to the hookup culture, one of the big problems is when people are pressured into having sex for the sake of saying you had sex.”
Just because it isn’t illegal, she asserted, doesnot mean that such social pressures do not have a corrosive effect on one’s ability to “satisfy their desires.”
Harding also said she was concerned that young feminists are increasingly unwilling to publicly label themselves as such.
“Many women are afraid that ‘feminist’ will mark them as a certain kind of woman,” she said. “Still, I hope people can become able to proudly use it.”