What is this newsletter?
Other Feminisms is a newsletter for women who are an uncomfortable fit within present-day feminism. It’s a space to ask questions, find new allies, and strengthen projects.
Who is it for and how did it begin?
In the wake of the Amy Coney Barrett nomination, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat published a column wondering if it was a rallying moment for “conservative feminism” which he outlined as follows:
A conservative feminism today, on the other hand—again, if we can say that it exists—is adaptive rather than oppositional. It takes for granted that much of what Ginsburg fought for was necessary and just; that the old order suppressed female talent and ambition; that sexism and misogyny are more potent forces than many anti-feminists allowed. It agrees that the accomplishments of Barrett’s career—in academia and now on the federal bench—could have been denied to her in 1950, and it hails that change as good.
But then it also argues that feminism’s victories were somewhat unbalanced, that they were kinder to professional ambition than to other human aspirations, and that the society they forged has lost its equilibrium not just in work-life balance but also in other areas—sex and romance and marriage and child rearing, with the sexes increasingly alienated from one another and too many children desired but never born.
When I put out a recruitment call on twitter, asking if there were women who identified with this description and wanted to work together, more than 100 women responded. Not all identified as conservative and not all identified as feminists. (And no one came up with a great alternative name).
But, for most people, what drew them to this group was wanting to advocate for women as women. Often, our equality is premised on remaking ourselves to be more like the median man, whether that means changing our style of speaking to exclude apologies, changing our breastfeeding plans to keep up with work’s minimal accommodations, or changing our bodies to suppress fertility and destroy our children.
We say no, and that, instead, the world must remake itself to be hospitable to women, not the other way around. That means valuing interdependence and vulnerability, rather than idealizing autonomy.
We’re not a uniform group, and there are topics on which folks signing up are deeply divided. There’s not a specific set of policy positions you need to sign on to in order to be part of this community. You just need to want to work with the kinds of women who identify with Ross’s description or with mine above.
Why a substack?
I asked the initial group of women what forum made the most sense, and many of you were interested in either a substack or a slack forum. I’d like to start with the more limited forum (with comments open to subscribers), so that we can get to know each other before turning on a firehose of updates.
I plan to send out a few kinds of email each month to start with:
Recommendation threads—a chance for us to offer recommendations on a specified topic, whether that’s child care policy papers, profiles of women we admire, or ways to ask for a raise or a flexible schedule at work.
Introductions—a capsule introduction of 2–3 of you at a time, so people get to know each other (and know whom they want to reach out to for offline discussion).
Interviews—a Q&A with a woman that you nominate as someone you admire. I’ll ask a few initial questions, and then you follow up in the comments.
Classifieds—an open comments section to post job openings, activist calls to action, anything that you want other women here to know about and possibly support.
The scope of the newsletter will grow and change over time, based on how this community grows and what needs and talents people bring to the table.
In the meantime, take this as the first Recommendation thread, and here’s the prompt:
Where have you seen this model of feminism praised or lived out?
You can offer an article, a novel, a political philosopher, a profile of a specific woman, or anything else you feel fits the bill.
I like the dynamic around Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Anthony, who was the better speaker and the one without kids who could attend the events, would come over and watch Stanton's brood so Stanton could write the speeches for Anthony to deliver. I liked the teamwork.
I think of Julian of Norwich (I'm always thinking about her, though). She never had biological children but wrote with such deep understanding of Our Lord as maternal. Both sides of our society dismiss the idea of being an anchorite, but I think we could gain a lot from listening to her.