Feminist Identity, Feminist Politics: A Sociological Exploration of Contemporary U.S. Feminism

Date of Completion

January 2010


Women's Studies|Sociology, General|Gender Studies




In this project, I investigate feminist identity and feminist politics in the contemporary U.S. context, focusing on men and women who came of age after the height of second wave feminism. I address the questions: "What does it mean to identify as a feminist?" and "What politics are associated with feminist identity?" In examining feminist identity, I am interested in predictors of feminist identity, differences in definitions of feminism, and variation in attitudes towards feminism. In discussing feminist politics, I refer to a range of attitudes and behaviors including attitudes towards public policy, engagement with electoral politics, participation in grassroots activism and other forms of collective action, as well as feminist politics in everyday life. In examining these issues, I pose a challenge to the critique of feminism as a form of "identity politics," that is, the assumption that feminists are concerned solely with issues related to gender rather than a larger social justice agenda. Further, I question assumptions about the divisions and conflicts between generations of feminists, suggesting there are more similarities than differences across feminist generations. In order to investigate these questions, I employ a mixed methods approach, using quantitative analysis of survey data from public opinion polls from 2006 to 2009 obtained from the iPOLL Databank at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research as well as the 1996 General Social Survey (GSS). I also employ ethnographic and interview data from a case study of men and women in local and online knitting communities. Contemporary knitting is uniquely positioned as an activity that is associated with contemporary feminist culture but not uniformly viewed as feminist by participants. ^