Thursday, 13 December 2007

More on postfeminism/the third wave

Bizarre seminar today. The final class of the semester for this module - a Feminism 101, if you like (although I got pretty bored of analysing pop culture through the same, repetitive theoretical framework towards the end).

So we're talking about bringing feminism out of the academy -- where, admittedly, it's now most influential. Tutor eventually presents her idea of what The Third Wave is, and I'm pulling a face, thinking 'no, no, no - this is not my experience of grassroots activism and the community at all'. She's saying that (unlike the second wave!?) the Third Wave is made up of white, middle-class American women who see an entitlement to be feminine almost as feminism itself. And I'm sitting there feeling quite confused, and my classmates are doing the same. And eventually she says "So you disagree, verte?" And I start blabbering on about how the Third Wave is heavily influenced by postcolonial and queer theory, and the intersections this particular 'wave' has with queer communities and sexual minorities, and the majority of my classmates who are involved in any kind of activism say much the same, and she looks completely mystified.

A feminist academic, who's written for twenty years on feminism and pop culture, looks mystified by the concept of this feminism.

So who's she to tell us we need to get feminism out of the academy, that it's OUR responsibility, if she's not taking that responsibility herself enough to know what younger women who identify as feminist, or whose thought is heavily influenced by feminism, are about? Eventually she asked us to send her some links.

I'm writing an essay for her and am going to attempt to unravel the Third Wave and the postfeminist using a specific example that's currently a bit of a cultural phenomenon over here. I find it bizarre that these feminist academics who write the 'postfeminist', who moan and whinge about what feminism ISN'T doing, what we're NOT achieving, and, as she so kindly puts it, are actually UNDOING, are so out of sync with the world at large that they're missing what the grass roots movements are actually up to. Whether we're blogging and commenting and discussing, or forming groups like Queer Mutiny or Feminists Against Censorship, or working for think tanks, or volunteering, or running women's/queer festivals, WE ARE THERE. The Third Wave does exist. In the UK we have very little prominence or access to mainstream politics, but that doesn't mean we're totally invisible.

And it's about time we stopped being ignored.


thene said...

(unlike the second wave!?)

Have you read this by BFP?

And what is your mysterious bit of cultural phenomenon? Do tell!

Phil BC said...

Ah, I didn't realise you were a UK'er!

Just out of a matter of interest, was your tutor a former activist who moved into academia, or did she get into feminism at the point it was setting itself up in the UK university apparatus, and so bypassed activism completely? If so, that may go some way to explain her incomprehensibility.

verte said...

Ooh. Yes, I had, but it was good to reread it in this context.

My mysterious bit of cultural phenomenon is neo-burlesque. :)

verte said...


No, she was very much an activist in her 20s. She had a baby quite young and went through the education system later. She still does quite a lot of political work with think tanks and government bodies, but in terms of grass roots activism, she's completely out of synch. It's not really that surprising, but still completely infuriating considering her published work contains so many assumptions based on very little knowledge... But that's her way, so I'm told!

Shaina said...

Thanks for writing this.