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Monday, February 6,2012

Why the Komen/Planned Parenthood Breakup—While It Lasted—Was Good for Feminism

My delight at the Susan G. Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood breakup lasted a glorious forty-eight hours—which is the time it took for the nation’s most prominent breast cancer charity to reverse the decision that it would no longer fund the nation’s most prominent women’s healthcare provider. It might not look like it at first, but Komen’s actions and the ensuing backlash are a huge boon for the feminist movement. The fact that Planned Parenthood will again be eligible for funding in future grant cycles, on top of the $3 million it has raised in the past week, just makes the incident a win-win. But the Komen controversy still has ramifications beyond the budgets of the two organizations: it provided a long-overdue spotlight on the difference between feminism as a brand and feminism as a political movement.

The past decades have seen the rise of a nominally apolitical marketing campaign masquerading as feminism, with Komen merely the most visible symbol. Komen aligns perfectly with what Linda Hirshman labeled “choice feminism”—a moral-relativist approach to feminism that tries to scrub the movement of politics and value judgments in favor of uncritical affirmation of all women’s choices.


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