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Politics & Current Affairs

Breaking the waves of feminism

Ideological differences between second and third-wave feminists.

There is a lot of ideological dissent between second- and third-wave feminists. This is played out between women who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s and women like me who came of age in the 80’s and 90’s.

They fought for the right to wear pants to work.We wear miniskirts.They worked to break the glass ceiling in traditionally male professions like medicine and law. We want to be burlesque dancers, make Indie films, and write books like “Sex and the City”.

They worked hard to be seen as more than just sexual beings.We want to explore our sexuality, while writing a thesis on Post- Structuralism.

Sometimes I get irritated hearing second-wavers criticize the sex-positive, self-empowered choices made by my generation of feminists. – “We did all this work and they take it all for granted!”

Well, isn’t that what you wanted? To create a world where young women believe that they could be anything?  Yes, your daughter could be a doctor, lawyer, or professional athlete. Instead she wants to be a belly dancer. The point is, she has a wide scope of possibilities to choose from or reject now, thanks to the hard-fought battles of our foremothers. To me there’s something inherently American, and down right satisfying in knowing that future generations will be secure enough to take their rights for granted.

However, I do think that maintaining an understanding of history, especially when it comes to civil rights, and  social movements is crucial; as lessons forgotten must be repeated.

Part of the project of patriarchy is to control women by separating them from one another.One way that individual women can resist this is to join forces across the generation gap as well as bridge the divide between their 2nd or 3rd wave compatriots.

Institutionalized sexism, like racism is simultaneously a huge and subtle enemy to be fighting.We need to be working on breaking it down from all angles!We need feminist political organizers working to create a more just society. We need feminist doctors to help balance the focus of medicine and prioritize women’s bodies. We need feminist writer’s (like me), filmmakers, lawyers, and academics of BOTH!!!!! genders changing the lives, and minds of individuals and shaping the structures of the world we live in. So that everyone’s body, mind and spirit can be equally valued and respected. It’s going to take new Ideas about the world, a lot of compassion for the palliate of other people. But most importantly, it’s going to take strength…strength of mind, heart, and a great deal of  will power, to withstand the visceral opposition to what we are fighting for; and change this stumbling elephant of a paradigm… you grab the trunk, I’ll work on the ears!


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So, here’s a quick rundown of the waves of feminism as generally accepted. As with any history of an Idea, this is just one version of the story, but I think it is a useful structure through which to think about where we are and, from whence we’ve come.