Although feminism, of course, emerged out of the actual personal experiences of discrimination and other forms of subordination, ameliorating such obstacles required and requires a collective politics, most identifiable in liberal feminism’s focus on equality of opportunity in the public domain, such as Title IX or the push for the ERA I described. Whatever Debra Barnes’s individual achievements, those obviously neither did have nor could have had bearing on the eventual opportunity of young women to participate in intercollegiate athletics, as I did, or to make the legal reproductive decisions occasioned by Roe v.Wade. As Dow argues, the mobility or “the exercise of agency by individual women does not substitute for nor even necessarily contribute to the subversion of patriarchy or the expansion of choices for women as a group.” Moving beyond liberal feminism, socialist and radical feminism, as examples, also critique persistent economic gender disparities or expose the myriad ways in which female subordination is deeply woven into the fabric of social life, whether it be in instances of domestic violence I mentioned previously or in a beauty-obsessed culture exemplified by the Miss America pageant. Like a number of others during the early years of the second wave, I somewhat naïvely assumed as an undergraduate that strides occasioned by liberal feminism would automatically quickly translate into more far-reaching social alterations, such as the elimination of the Miss America pageant.

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Copyright © 2003 Michigan State University Press. This article first appeared in Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6:1 (2003), 150-160.

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