Dead or Alive?
As we wind down a week that accidentally but positively focussed on issues facing women in their 20’s, I am jumping in the deep on what continues to be a polarizing topic even after a century or more – Feminism.
With this first post of the day, as is the case with all my morning posts on Mondays through Fridays, items of news related to the main feature are highlighted. This morning, a few such news items interested me as they painted a most colourful picture of the nuances of the feminist rhetoric today. Later this morning, my featured post will centre the conversation on a comment made by American author and former “political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton,” Noami Wolf who, according to Wikipedia became the “leading spokesperson for third-wave of feminism in 2007.”
The Waves of Feminism
The word alone is enough to raise the blood pressure of many – men and women alike. Women began publicly stating their “right to be,” back in the 15th century through their writings but feminism as a “movement,” did not come together until the 19th century with what has since been called “First-wave feminism.” This was the period of agitation primarily for women’s suffrage or the right to vote with the centres of activity being in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States.
Second and Third-waves of feminism would take us through issues having to do with the post-war domesticity of women, women reproductive rights and employment and equal pay for women among others. Though it seemed to have lain low for a bit, the feminist movement never died. It went underground as it attempted to clear its voice. During this time, others, including a younger and more tech-savvy generation, gained a better understanding of the issues affecting women in a new world, with new technologies and new challenges.
Today, welcome to the Fourth-wave of feminism!
Read an interesting article about this new period of the feminist or gender equality movement, as that seems to be a more unifying concept, written by Kira Cochrane in The Guardian. Describing her conversations with some female activists for gender equality, she noted that they described themselves as inter-sectional feminists:
The theory concerns the way multiple oppressions intersect …today’s feminists generally seem to see it as an attempt to elevate and make space for the voices and issues of those who are marginalised, and a framework for recognising how class, race, age, ability, sexuality, gender and other issues combine to affect women’s experience of discrimination. (Read more)
Forging An Agenda For Fourth-Wave Feminists
This understanding resonated with me as my experience with feminism in North America has left me on the outside, pondering my belonging to a movement that largely does not reflect my experiences as a black woman and immigrant, who has been marginalised and discriminated against in the work place, church, and even among groups of other “oppressed” people, such as the LGBT community.
More about that later, for now my thoughts went to every day issues that 20-year old women are confronted with and I wonder where does this Fourth-wave of feminism fit in? How are the movers and shakers of the movement today educating, empowering and supporting say for example this young woman who quit her job after being told to go home and change in more appropriate attire? What about the girls in high schools across North America who are also expected to abide by dress codes as they watch their male counterparts’ butts on display? And what can be done to ensure that the rights of sex workers and porn stars are being protected? The adult entertainment industry has undergone some huge changes in recent years, with the stars of websites such as sex-hd.xxx demanding equal pay to their male counterparts and fair treatment on set.
Will this inter-sectional feminism speak to issues such as women choosing to have or are being encouraged to undergo double mastectomy as a preventive measure against breast cancer? Reports are that a growing number of women are choosing this option, dubbed as the Angelina Effect, after the famous actress who herself opted for the surgery. Watch:
Is there a role for this wave of feminist in the seeming battle against aging women – the one that attempts to block us from certain jobs, roles in the entertainment industry, as well as dressing us down in fashion not even fit for the grave?
Same Issues, Different Day = New Approaches
All of this might seem unconnected to you but if you think about it, it really is not. With every period of change, the female activists or feminists have had a set of challenges pertinent to their time that they fought for or agitated against. Looking on and experiencing my journey, it would seem to me that while the issues may be the same, the approaches may have to adapt, moving us to look in – at ourselves individually and among ourselves as women, a group.
As well, we have to look globally. With a more connected world, one that is linked by technology, apps, smart phones and Skype, North American feminists no longer have an “excuse” for not educating themselves – first and foremost – about the cultures of women across the world. Then, as a second step, if inter-sectional feminists are truly interested in what unites us, part of their work and leadership will be to lead in the interest of the many and not in the interest of the few. That would mean, a less prescriptive and a more adoptive and representative approach in the “movement.”
Have a great Throwback Thursday!