Have you ever had that moment in a conversation about feminism where someone casually drops something like "that is classical for second-wave feminist" or read something along the lines of "third-wave feminism focusses on a whole new set of issues" and not really understood what it was all about? Well I have, and it has bugged me tremendously the past few weeks. How can I claim to be a feminist if I don't even know anything about the waves at all?
So, I did what I always do when I am bugged. I Googled. I Googled and researched and I found that the basic idea is not all that hard to grasp. Basically in feminist history three (by now maybe four) major rises of the feminist are recognized. These rises are called waves and so we have four waves. Each wave has it's own characteristics, and their own celebrities, but like anything related to history much MUCH more can be said about each period and all the intermittent time.
However, I wanted to learn more about the waves to start with and take you with me on a little tour. Last post I wrote about the first two waves and today I dive a little deeper in the most recent waves.
Before I get into the third and forth wave, I would like to address another issue. Ever since the second wave of feminism, people have been asking if feminism is still necessary. Haven't women achieved equal rights? Aren't they allowed to vote, and work and decide about their own bodies?
These same questions are still being asked today. If women do not yet hold about half of all positions of power, is that not their own fault? Aren't women just complaining because they are incapable? Isn't feminism something that only needs to happen in third-world-countries?
To me, this always seemed like a weird question. How on earth could anyone believe that over 2000 years of patriarchy would just be overcome in a few short decades? We still have obstacles, both external but definitely also internal ones, to overcome. And for anyone who still believes women are viewed equally, just look at what Google suggested when I did my research. Apparently "3rd wave feminism is cancer" is sought THAT often, that even with a drive full of cookies from pro-feminism sites, the Google-algorithm sees this option as one I would be looking for. We clearly still have a very long way to go!
Where the first and second wave of feminism mainly focussed on legal rights - though, admittedly, not only - the third wave of feminism focusses more on social constructs that potentially keep individual women back - even if a lot a legal battles are still going on. A myriad of issues came up and were taken on that focus on society: women and sexuality, LGBT-rights, intersectionality, objectification, the way women are portrayed in media, how to raise boys vs. girls etc.
The great thing is, that this is the period where women really started to own individuality and the view was taken on that - like men - women have different interests; we may not all want to be CEO's, but we still all want the option should we so choose. The hard part is, that this makes the feminist agenda harder to define. Do we want to battle rape culture, genderstereotyping, objectification; are we for or against porn and prostitution; what about women in lesser economically developed countries?
Even more difficult in my opinion, is the issue of intersectionality - about which I will write a blog post later - which (in a very teeny-tiny nutshell) is the idea hat queer women and women of colour face discrimination based on them being women, coloured and/or queer. These issues are interconnected and might need a cohesive approach, but may also need different tactics to combat.
As such, some critics even say that the third wave really isn't a wave. It's more like lose sand and therefore unable to reach the goals. It may also be one of the reasons why - in the Western world at least - the very word feminism went out of fashion, with many women stating they are pro-equality, but not feminists (now that is definitely a topic for another blog!).
If the third wave was vague and criticised, the fourth is downright contentious. The definition is not yet determined, the issues are still expanding (intersex, male feminism, plus-size support etc.) and really, the question could be posed if we can speak of a new wave or if it's still the third wave, that has simply been updated to match the digital age.
Because if anything is clear, it is that social media plays a huge role in getting people organized and activated - as it does with other issues. Memes are spreading like wildfire, marches are organized on Facebook, Twitter is used to fight sexism whenever it rears it's ugly head and Etsy is selling "pussy-heads by the dozen".
One thing that is clear for this wave, is that people are engaging in large numbers again. It is no longer bad to call yourself a feminist. We can take on issues with a smile - the pussyhats, the awesomely funny signs and even the way "free the nipple" was popularized - and at the same time tackle serious issues with the seriousness they deserve - slutshaming or victimblaming, domestic violence, rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation etc. The fight is still one, online and offline, you with me?
Keep checking this blog, because after learning about the waves, I've have seen we still need to fucking fight these issues and I still have a lot - A LOT - to learn. You with me?!