So do you think I could land a job as a feminist tutor until I’m done with my education and become a professor? I was online earlier, reading the news, and I got a random instant message from a senior at NYU. He said that he was working on an essay (due in two hours…yay college procrastination!) on the third wave of feminism and that he was completely stumped about what to write. Normally, I would delete the message box because all sorts of interesting people seem to find me online but I couldn’t resist the chance to teach someone about the third wave. He was really appreciative for my assistance and it felt great to give someone knowledge about a topic that is such a part of my person. And why not teach you too?
So there are three recognized waves of feminism in the United States (although there were many women before and in between who have fought equally important battles)—the first wave occurred from 1848 to the mid-1920s and focused mainly on a woman’s right to vote. The second wave extended from the late 1960s through the beginning of the 1980s and focused on the women’s rights movement—promoting a woman’s right to education, the ability to find meaningful employment outside of the home, the fight against women’s beauty magazine culture, trying to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, amongst other points.
The third wave was born in the early 1990s, and continues today, as a means to break free from some of the restricting aspects of the second wave. Many third wavers feel that the women’s rights movement took a rather white, middle-class, heterosexual perspective and that feminism should promote women of color, women from a variety of sexual orientations, disabled women, women in poverty, etc. Third wavers are also reclaiming the right to stay home and raise children if it is something that interests them.
The third wave also uses the media to publicize their messages far better than the previous two waves. Today, feminist magazines include women’s movement staples such as Ms. and Off Our Backs, but also new publications such as Bitch, Bust and Venus. The music scene features feminists such as Ani DiFranco, the band Le Tigre, and hardcore punk Riot Grrrls such as Bratmobile, Bikini Kill and Cheesecake. I also can’t forget Sarah McLachlan, who created the Lilith Fair tour—one of the first all-female summer tours and one of the best times of my life. Finally, there has been some incredible literature written during the third wave. Everyone should read the following books:
Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards
Grassroots by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Colonize This! by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman
Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne
Anything by author bell hooks