Waves of Fem­i­nism: Gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences

Curl - - Over Exposed -

The fem­i­nist move­ment con­sists of three waves of ac­tivism. The pri­mary con­cern of first wave fem­i­nists (1848 to the mid-1920s) was women’s suf­frage (as you prob­a­bly know, the Kiwi gals were pretty im­pres­sive on this front). The 1960s marked a new, more con­tro­ver­sial phase of fem­i­nism. Se­cond­wave fem­i­nists (1960s to early 1980s) built fem­i­nist or­ga­ni­za­tions and fought for leg­isla­tive changes re­gard­ing the fam­ily, sex­ual re­la­tions, re­pro­duc­tion, em­ploy­ment and ed­u­ca­tion. Many of the op­por­tu­ni­ties we en­joy today (e.g., sport, ed­u­ca­tion, work- force, paid ma­ter­nity leave) were be­cause of the strug­gles of this gen­er­a­tion of women. Third-wave fem­i­nism emerged in the early 1990s and it is an at­tempt by young women to re­de­fine fem­i­nism as rel­e­vant for girls and young women today.

Third-wave fem­i­nism is a prod­uct of the con­tra­dic­tion be­tween on­go­ing sex­ism and greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for women. “We are the daugh­ters of priv­i­lege,” says Joan Mor­gan, a black fem­i­nist speak­ing on be­half of the younger gen­er­a­tion, and “we walk through the world with a sense of en­ti­tle­ment that women of our moth­ers’ gen­er­a­tion could not be­gin to fathom”. Although “sex­ism may be a very real part of my life…so is the un­wa­ver­ing be­lief that there is no dream I can’t pur­sue and achieve sim­ply be­cause ‘I’m a woman’”. In con­trast to sec­ond-wave fem­i­nists who ar­gue that women need to work col­lec­tively to change the male­ness of so­ci­ety, the fo­cus of third-wave fem­i­nists is typ­i­cally in­di­vid­ual ac­tion, not col­lec­tive ac­tivism, and they tend to be more play­ful in their pol­i­tics. The body is of­ten an im­por­tant site for po­lit­i­cal state­ment. Many young women today ex­press fem­i­nist ideas but re­sist the fem­i­nist la­bel, which has lead the me­dia to re­fer us as the ‘I’m not a fem­i­nist but…’ gen­er­a­tion.

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