Surprising Support for the Term ‘Feminist’ on the Campaign Trail

Amanda Arjona, 39, a human resources specialist in McHenry, Ill., says she’s “a pro-life feminist” and moderate, but is voting for the Democratic House candidate in her district, Lauren Underwood. “I’m a Christian, but I still think having rights for all people is important,” she said.

Politically, MeToo has helped make feminism about the right of women to participate in the economy, said Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who was an economic adviser to Hillary Clinton.

“It’s about the ability to just get a job and to be free of harassment,” Ms. Boushey said, adding, “Both men and women have a deep, vested interest in women’s economic success.”

But MeToo has turned some voters against feminism, who say it casts women as victims and entitled to special treatment.

In a previous interview about Ms. McGrath’s feminism, Mr. Barr said he believed in equal opportunity. “What people around here understand, though,” he said, “is that feminism used the way my opponent uses it is the politics of entitlement based on an immutable characteristic.”

Danny Stidham, a 63-year-old computer technologist in Lawrenceburg, Ky., said his support for feminist candidates depends on what they think the word means. “If by feminist they mean a firm believer in the MeToo movement, I have a problem with that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe women should be mistreated, but from what I’ve seen, the MeToo movement appears to be: Believe women no matter what.” He is voting for Mr. Barr.

The word feminist was not always affiliated with political liberals. Shortly after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920, a split emerged among suffragists. On one side, women who called themselves feminists backed the Equal Rights Amendment, which would erase legal distinctions between the sexes. They tended to be elite, educated and professional. On the other side, a much bigger group, which included working-class women and labor unions, supported laws that limited women’s work hours. This group rejected the “feminist” label.

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