Evaluating feminism is absurd because feminism is an evaluation tool. In feminism, things are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ on the basis of whether they increase the liberty and equality of women in society.
Debates within ‘feminism’ take for granted the values of equality and freedom and essentially are on how best those things are achieved.
As such, it doesn’t make sense to talk about feminism as a failure (or a success) on the basis of whether feminists make your life better. It would be like blaming the thermometer if the weather is colder than you’d like.
This statement has been prompted by the Atlantic's recent posts on women, whether they can have it all, etc. People talk about how 'feminism has failed to….' or that because a self-identified feminist said something offensive, feminism is somehow 'mean' or 'restrictive' or whatever.
It’s absurd. How is it that the comments of a single person can suddenly start an appraisal of an idea separate to them; how can an idea (as in, something that isn’t even tangibly real) fail. It would be like saying that Luddism has failed to stop the proliferation of technology. Well no, Luddism has done nothing, it can’t do anything, it’s a concept. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to blame Luddites for the proliferation of technology either.
People fail. Things fail. Debates can be bad. The ways we use to evaluate those things might not be the best way, that’s up for debate. Those tools can’t fail though, even if we use them very badly.