Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future


Young women today live by feminism's goals, yet feminism itself is undeniably at a crossroads; "girl power" feminists appear to be obsessed with personal empowerment at the expense of politics, while political institutions such as Ms. and NOW are so battle weary they've lost their ability to speak to a new generation. In Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards examine the snags in the movement -- from the dissolution of Riot Grrrls into the likes of the Spice Girls, to older women's hawking of young ...

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Manifesta [10th Anniversary Edition]: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

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Young women today live by feminism's goals, yet feminism itself is undeniably at a crossroads; "girl power" feminists appear to be obsessed with personal empowerment at the expense of politics, while political institutions such as Ms. and NOW are so battle weary they've lost their ability to speak to a new generation. In Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards examine the snags in the movement -- from the dissolution of Riot Grrrls into the likes of the Spice Girls, to older women's hawking of young girls' imperiled self-esteem, to the hyped hatred of feminist thorns like Katie Roiphe -- and prove that these snags have not, in fact, torn feminism asunder. In contrast, they show the vibrance with which the movement has evolved, detail important political goals that still need to be achieved, and spell out what a world with true equality would look like.

With its spirited and assured mix of history, politics, and popular culture, as well as extensive activist resources, Manifesta is a book every young woman should own.

Jennifer Baumgardner is a former editor at Ms. and writes for The Nation, Jane, Nerve, and Out. Amy Richards is a contributing editor at Ms. and co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, an activist group for young feminists.

"At last, Gen X takes on feminism and revamps a feminist manifesto for a new era ... is readable, well informed..." (Naomi Wolf)

"Manifesta is another step toward the empowerment of women. If caring about women matters, this book matters. " (Andrea Dworkin)

"...Bless the young feminists, we need them to keep peeling back the layers of our denial and our liberation. " (Eve Ensler)

"...With wit and honesty, Manifesta shows us the building blocks of the future of this longest evolution." (Gloria Steinem)

"...leaves no doubt that for a new generation of women the F-word is not only speakable but shoutable and singable." (Alix Kates Shulman)

"Manifesta is an exciting and important contribution to the growing body of Third Wave literature. Richards and Baumgardner speak the language of a new generation of feminists, proving once again that young women are committed to continuing to work passionately for social justice." (Rebecca Walker, editor of To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism)

"Richards and Baumgardner have spent years as participants in and observers of the feminist movement, and now they have their say, asking new questions and coming up with provocative answers. They do it with wit, confidence, and superior insight. Manifesta will reinvigorate armchair feminists and recharge activists of all ages." (Barbara Findlen, editor of Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation)

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Editorial Reviews

Bust Magazine
[I]f you're looking for a thoroughly researched and well-written overview of the state of feminism, especially that of the past ten years, no one can break it down better than these two.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two youthful alumnae of Ms. magazine present not a manifesto, but a talky defense of contemporary feminism, directed in part at disappointed Second Wave foremothers. Arguing that feminism is already all around us, the heart of the book is a long, unbridled paean to tough and sexy "girlie culture," as represented by Xena, Ally McBeal, the Spice Girls and little girls wearing Mia Hamm jerseys. Sporting green nail polish and Hello Kitty lunchboxes isn't infantile, the authors declare, but a "nod to our joyous youth." At the same time, they caution young women not to stop and rest on the success of cultural feminism, but to develop political lives and awareness. The book suffers mightily from its determined evenhandedness; Baumgardner and Richards typically temper any negative comments with an immediate positive note, and vice versa. Whether this feminist duo's ambivalence reflects schisms in the movement, their own fear of offending other feminists or simply the awkwardness of joint authorship, the result is shallow, both as a critique and a call to arms. Analysis of the few Third Wavers who are already visible in the media ought to have been surefire; instead, the chapter "Who's Afraid of Katie Roiphe?" comes too late (after 200-odd pages) and is too tame and indecisive--the authors pointedly clamp down on their own irritation with Roiphe, referring to her simply as a "controversial" figure among left-wing feminists. Fewer history lessons and more pique might have given this book more force. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Baumgardner and Richards, two writers with Ms. affiliations, start their analysis of U.S. feminism with a wonderful assumption: that "girl culture," from women rock stars and athletes to female entrepreneurs and inventors, have become an integral part of the national psyche. Thanks to Second Wave feminist agitators, today's young women--those who grew up believing that they could be anything they wanted to be--have unprecedented opportunities. Now, as responsibility for women's liberation falls to them, decisions about goals, strategies, and direction have to be made. Manifesta, which is far less shrill than the name suggests, urges young women to pick up where their mothers, aunts, and adult mentors left off. Their challenge? To fulfill feminism's promise of justice, equality, and sexual freedom for all. Complete with appendixes to teach novices the nuts-and-bolts of community organizing, this book is a reasoned and passionate call to action and an exciting how-to guide for both burgeoning and seasoned Third Wave feminists. Recommended for all high school, college, and public libraries.--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Moira Brennan
For the last three years, Baumgardner and Richards have engaged in an intellectual love affair...For the young or unitiated, a look back at the reality of women's lives in the seventies is a moving reminder of the miraculous success of second wavers. And for older feminists who decry the loss of hard political acrivism, the book argues persuasively that today's entitlement-wielding, increadingly influential, and devoutly feminist media-makers are making changes every bit as important as legislation would...The great lesson of Manifesta is that generational differnces do not a movement make or break.
Ms. Magazine
Christine Stansell
Manifesta represents an imaginative achievement within feminist writing, a charming and useful book...
New Republic
Kirkus Reviews
By addressing itself specifically to young women, this imperfect but relatively thorough treatise helps fill a gap in the current debate between older feminist luminaries, some would say "dinosaurs", such as Gloria Steinem, and the crop of news making younger female writers who tend to embrace anti-feminism.
From the Publisher
"Manifesta is a breath of fresh air. At last, Gen X takes on feminism and revamps a feminist manifesto for a new era. A jolt, a resource, a timeline, and a challenge, Manifesta is a readable, well-informed, and necessary to any young woman—or man—who craves gender equality."—Naomi Wolf

"[The authors] have sorted out the fruits of this wave of feminism—intended and unintended, media mess and truth—for a new generation. With wit and honesty, Manifesta shows us the building blocks of the future of this longest revolution."—Gloria Steinem

"Great news from the front—feminism lives! Bold, independent, generous, and cautionary, Manifesta leaves no doubt that for a new generation of women the F-word is not only speakable but shoutable and singable. To learn the tune and catch the beat, read this book."—Alix Kates Shulman

"Manifesta is another step toward the empowerment of women. If caring about women matters, this book matters."—Andrea Dworkin

"A reasoned and passionate call to action and an exciting how-to guide for both burgeoning and seasoned Third Wave feminists."—Eleanor J. Bader, Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374532307
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/2/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 377,322
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Baumgardner is a former editor at Ms. and writes regularly for The Nation, Jane, Glamour, and Out. Amy Richards is a contributing editor at Ms. and heads the Third Wave, an activist group for young women.

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Read an Excerpt

MANIFESTA [10th Anniversary Edition]


A Day Without Feminism

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 women's movement. We've never doubted how important feminism is to people's lives—men's and women's. 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.

In this 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? Is calling oneself a feminist redundant? 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 the 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 in Little League and almost all of the teachers are female. (The 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. Boys who 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 a car. Seventeen magazine doesn't run feminist-influenced columns like "Sex + Body" and "Trauma-rama." Instead the magazine encourages girls not to have sex; pleasure isn't part of its vocabulary. Judy Blume's books are just beginning to be published, and Free to Be ... You and Me does not exist. 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. Girls have physical-education class and play half-court basketball, but not soccer, track, or volleyball; nor do they have any varsity sports teams. The only prestigious physical activity for girls is cheerleading, or being a drum majorette. Most girls don't take calculus or physics; they plan the dances and decorate the gym. Even whengirls get better grades than their male counterparts, they are half as likely to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship because many of the test questions favor boys. Standardized tests refer to males and male experiences much more than to females and their experiences.1 If a girl "gets herself pregnant," she loses her membership in the National Honor Society (which is still true today) and is expelled.2

Girls and young women might have sex while they're unmarried, but they may be ruining their chances of landing a guy full-time, and they're probably getting a bad reputation. If a pregnancy happens, an enterprising gal can get a legal abortion only if she lives in New York or is rich enough to fly there, or to Cuba, London, or Scandinavia. There's also the Chicago-based Jane Collective, an underground abortion-referral service, which can hook you up with an illegal or legal termination. (Any of these options are going to cost you. Illegal abortions average $300 to $500, sometimes as much as $2,000.) To prevent pregnancy, a sexually active woman might go to a doctor to be fitted for a diaphragm, or take the high-dose birth-control pill, but her doctor isn't likely to inform her of the possibility of deadly blood clots. Those who do take the Pill also may have to endure this contraceptive's crappy side effects: migraine headaches, severe weight gain, irregular bleeding, and hair loss (or gain), plus the possibility of an increased risk of breast cancer in the long run. It is unlikely that women or their male partners know much about the clitoris and its role in orgasm unless someone happens to fumble upon it. Instead, the myth that vaginal orgasms from penile penetration are the only "mature" (according to Freud) climaxes prevails.

Lesbians are rarely "out," except in certain bars owned by organized crime (the only businessmen who recognize this untapped market), and if lesbians don't know about the bars, they're less likely to know whether there are any other women like them. Radclyffe Hall's depressing early-twentieth-century novel The Well of Loneliness pretty much indicates their fate.

The Miss America Pageant is the biggest source of scholarshipmoney for women.3 Women can't be students at Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard, West Point, Boston College, or the Citadel, among other all-male institutions. Women's colleges are referred to as "girls' schools." There are no Take Back the Night marches to protest women's lack of safety after dark, but that's okay because college girls aren't allowed out much after dark anyway. Curfew is likely to be midnight on Saturday and 9 or 10 p.m. the rest of the week. Guys get to stay out as late as they want. Women tend to major in teaching, home economics, English, or maybe a language—a good skill for translating someone else's words.4 The women's studies major does not exist, although you can take a women's studies course at six universities, including Cornell and San Diego State College.5 The absence of women's history, black history, Chicano studies, Asian-American history, queer studies, and Native American history from college curricula implies that they are not worth studying. A student is lucky if he or she learns that women were "given" the vote in 1920, just as Columbus "discovered" America in 1492. They might also learn that Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, and Fannie Lou Hamer were black abolitionists or civil-rights leaders, but not that they were feminists. There are practically no tenured female professors at any school, and campuses are not racially diverse. Women of color are either not there or they're lonely as hell. There is no nationally recognized Women's History Month or Black History Month. Only 14 percent of doctorates are awarded to women. Only 3.5 percent of MBAs are female.

Only 2 percent of everybody in the military is female, and these women are mostly nurses. There are no female generals in the U.S. Air Force, no female naval pilots, and no Marine brigadier generals. On the religious front, there are no female cantors or rabbis, Episcopal canons, or Catholic priests. (This is still true of Catholic priests.)

Only 44 percent of women are employed outside the home. And those women make, on average, fifty-two cents to the dollar earned by males. Want ads are segregated into "HelpWanted Male" and "Help Wanted Female." The female side is preponderantly for secretaries, domestic workers, and other low-wage service jobs, so if you're a female lawyer you must look under "Help Wanted Male." There are female doctors, but twenty states have only five female gynecologists or fewer. Women workers can be fired or demoted for being pregnant, especially if they are teachers, since the kids they teach aren't supposed to think that women have sex. If a boss demands sex, refers to his female employee exclusively as "Baby," or says he won't pay her unless she gives him a blow job, she either has to quit or succumb—no pun intended. Women can't be airline pilots. Flight attendants are "stewardesses"—waitresses in the sky—and necessarily female. Sex appeal is a job requirement, wearing makeup is a rule, and women are fired if they exceed the age or weight deemed sexy. Stewardesses can get married without getting canned, but this is a new development. (In 1968 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—EEOC—made it illegal to forcibly retire stewardesses for getting hitched.) Less than 2 percent of dentists are women; 100 percent of dental assistants are women. The "glass ceiling" that keeps women from moving naturally up the ranks, as well as the sticky floor that keeps them unnaturally down in low-wage work, has not been named, much less challenged.

When a woman gets married, she vows to love, honor, and obey her husband, though he gets off doing just the first two to uphold his end of the bargain. A married woman can't obtain credit without her husband's signature. She doesn't have her own credit rating, legal domicile, or even her own name unless she goes to court to get it back. If she gets a loan with her husband—and she has a job—she may have to sign a "baby letter" swearing that she won't have one and have to leave her job.

Women have been voting for up to fifty years, but their turnout rate is lower than that for men, and they tend to vote right along with their husbands, not with their own interests in mind.6 The divorce rate is about the same, contrary to popular fiction's blaming the women's movement for divorce. However,divorce requires that one person be at fault, therefore if you just want out of your marriage, you have to lie or blame your spouse. Property division and settlements, too, are based on fault. (And at a time when domestic violence isn't a term, much less a crime, women are legally encouraged to remain in abusive marriages.) If fathers ask for custody of the children, they get it in 60 to 80 percent of the cases. (This is still true.) If a husband or a lover hits his partner, she has no shelter to go to unless she happens to live near the one in northern California or the other in upper Michigan. If a woman is downsized from her role as a housewife (a.k.a. left by her husband), there is no word for being a displaced homemaker. As a divorcée, she may be regarded as a family disgrace or as easy sexual prey. After all, she had sex with one guy, so why not all guys?

If a woman is not a Mrs., she's a Miss. A woman without makeup and a hairdo is as suspect as a man with them. Without a male escort she may be refused service in a restaurant or a bar, and a woman alone is hard-pressed to find a landlord who will rent her an apartment. After all, she'll probably be leaving to get married soon, and, if she isn't, the landlord doesn't want to deal with a potential brothel.

Except among the very poor or in very rural areas, babies are born in hospitals. There are no certified midwives, and women are knocked out during birth. Most likely, they are also strapped down and lying down, made to have the baby against gravity for the doctor's convenience. If he has a schedule to keep, the likelihood of a cesarean is also very high. Our Bodies, Ourselves doesn't exist, nor does the women's health movement. Women aren't taught how to look at their cervixes, and their bodies are nothing to worry their pretty little heads about; however, they are supposed to worry about keeping their little heads pretty. If a woman goes under the knife to see if she has breast cancer, the surgeon won't wake her up to consult about her options before performing a Halsted mastectomy (a disfiguring radical procedure, in which the breast, the muscle wall, and the nodes under the arm, right down to the bone, are removed).She'll just wake up and find that the choice has been made for her.

Husbands are likely to die eight years earlier than their same-age wives due to the stress of having to support a family and repress an emotional life, and a lot earlier than that if women have followed the custom of marrying older, authoritative, paternal men. The stress of raising kids, managing a household, and being undervalued by society doesn't seem to kill off women at the same rate. Upon a man's death, his beloved gets a portion of his Social Security. Even if she has worked outside the home for her entire adult life, she is probably better off with that portion than with hers in its entirety, because she has earned less and is likely to have taken time out for such unproductive acts as having kids.7


Has feminism changed our lives? Was it necessary? After forty years of feminism, the world we inhabit barely resembles the world we were born into. And there's still a lot left to do.

Copyright © 2000, 2010 by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards Preface: "Still Manifesting Feminism" copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards All rights reserved First edition published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux First revised edition, 2010

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Table of Contents

Manifesta is another step toward the empowerment of women. If caring about women matters, this book matters.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and Future is empowering. Not only does it give today's generation of women the confidence to be who they are a female, but also gives detailing descriptions of how to deal with the challenges woman of today and past generations must cope with. While reading this book I was able to feel more secure about my femininity. From subjects such as the first super, adam and eve, abortion, politics, work force, divorce, sexual relationships, etc. it gives great advice and comfort to all. No matter what woman reads this, it can give insight and inspiration that can touch one part of a woman or another.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2006


    I felt Manifesta was full of empowerment for today's young Feminists. It's bold and straight to the point and leaves you wanting for more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2001

    missing the point

    This book had the potential to be a real-attention-grabber and an inspiration to all women, esp. those of us just coming into adulthood. unfortunately, it spent a lot of time rehashing the remarks of a lot of other people and defending a movement that has evolved into more of a lifestyle. I think it would have been a lot better if they had tried to include everyday women instead of celebrities or people that have been vocal feminists for years. I was disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2000


    In short, 'Manifesta' could have been a better book. Upon reading the jacket cover and the description of the book, I was excited to hear from new young feminist voices. I was disappointed. The authors don't write about the issues concerning most Third-wave feminists. They talk about abortion and STDs because this is what they've experienced, but in doing this they leave out so many women and the issues they deal with daily from a feminist perspective. If it was to be a rallying cry to this generation of women, I think most women will miss the point.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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