the movement thriving into
the 21st century
By Susan Graham
The Second-Wave Damage and repairs
in the next decade
• Third-wave feminism refers to several diverse strains of feminist activity and study, whose exact boundaries in the history of feminism are a subject of debate, but are generally marked as beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to the present. The movement arose partially as a response to the perceived failures of and backlash against initiatives and movements created by second-wave feminism during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, and the perception that women are of "many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds". Rebecca Walker coined the term "third-wave feminism" in a 1992 essay. It has been proposed that Walker has become somewhat of a symbol of the third wave's focus on queer and non-white women. Third Wave feminists have broadened their goals, focusing on ideas like queer theory, and abolishing gender role expectations and stereotypes. Unlike the determined position of second wave feminists about women in pornography, sex work, and prostitution, third-wave feminists were rather ambiguous and divided about these themes (feminist sex wars).
The Third-Wave Begins it’s
• The shift from second wave feminism came about with many of the legal and institutional rights that were extended to women. In addition to these institutional gains, third-wave feminists believed there needed to be further changes in stereotypes, media portrayals, and language to define women. Third-wave ideology focuses on a more post-structuralism interpretation of gender and sexuality. In "Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference: Or, the Uses of
Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism," Joan W. Scott describes how language has been used as a way to understand the world, however, "post-structuralisms insist that words and texts have no fixed or intrinsic meanings, that there is no transparent or self-evident relationship between them and either ideas or things, no basic or ultimate correspondence between language and the world" Thus, while language has been used to create binaries (such as
male/female), post-structuralisms see these binaries as artificial constructs created to maintain the power of dominant groups.
The Challenges of the Third
• Third-wave feminism deals with issues which appear to
limit or oppress women, as well as other marginalized
identities. Consciousness-raising activism, which has
been referred to as "the collective critical reconstitution
of the meaning of women’s social experience, as women
live through it“
• Consciousness among women is what caused this
[change], and consciousness, one's ability to open their
mind to the fact that male domination does affect the
women of our generation, is what we need... The
presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted.
For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely
notice we have it – it's simply in the water.
Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s, arising as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and to address the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second wave. However, the fundamental rights and programs gained by feminist activists of the second wave – including the creation of domestic-abuse shelters for women and children and the acknowledgment of abuse and rape of women on a public level, access to contraception and other reproductive services (including the legalization of abortion), the creation and enforcement of sexual-harassment policies for women in the workplace, child-care services, equal or greater educational and extracurricular funding for young women, women's studies programs, and much more – have also served as a foundation and a tool for third-wave feminists. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldúa, Bell Hooks, Kerry Ann Kane, Cherríe Moraga, Audre...
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