The Third Wave

How do young women feel about feminism?

I throw this question out there because I’ve heard from some young women that they: 1) don’t know what feminism is; 2) don’t care; 3) don’t feel like we need it or offices like the Women’s Center anymore.

I’m biased; I’ve been interested in feminism and women’s issues for a long time. But that’s just me. So do we need feminism? If so, what does or should it look like?

What is the role of offices like the Women’s Center, The Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education Against Sexual Violence, The Center on Women and Public Policy, and The Program for Women in the Institute of Technology? And those are just a few of the offices/departments on campus for whom gender equity is part of their central mission.

Organizations like the Third Wave Foundation are working to evolve feminism, and trying to expand the boundaries of the women’s movement.

Third Wave is a feminist, activist foundation that works nationally to support young women and transgender youth ages 15 to 30. Through strategic grantmaking, leadership development, and philanthropic advocacy, we support groups and individuals working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice. Third Wave is led by a board of young women, men, and transgender activists striving to combat inequalities that we ourselves face as a result of our age, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, or level of education.

Do we need organizations like the Third Wave Foundation? How do we connect women on campus with organizations like the TWF? Should that even be a goal? The bottom line is: we want to be an office that provides a dynamic and progressive array of resources, programs and opportunities for women. How do we do that?

Thoughts, Feisty Femmes?

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6 thoughts on “The Third Wave

  1. I think the main problem with what you are discussing is that young women don’t know what feminism is- the need a definition of terms, and to a certain extent, an understanding that those terms are fluid and mutable. The problem is that feminism has become a dirty word for some, associated with emasculating, sexless, joyless woman-stereotypes that turn people off immeditately- this of course being the whole point of that sort of fear-mongering misogyny. So, what young woman, who wants to be perceived by both genders as articulate, intelligent, beautiful, rational, and *gasp* sexy, would willfully take up the banner of feminism. The answer is none.
    Of course, I think most of us can recognize that this shrill harpie feminist is no more real a representation than the happy susie-homemaker Betty Freidan was deconstructing. The problem with any sort of label (liberal, conservative, feminist, humanist, reggeton all star) is that is limiting in it’s scope, it’s purpose is to draw boundaries and define parameters: if you are this, then you are NOT this….
    So I think we do need orgs like Third Wave, if only to educate and offer alternatives to stereotypes. Like all breathing, living movements, it’s important to keep growing and keep evolving with the changing needs of the people you’re trying to uplift and enlighten. Now that we are once again a colonial superpower, we need to take the discourse away from white middle class feminism, and investigate what it means to be a once and future colonial feminist- how do we address the rights of women while our country is oppressing their people? Fun.
    And finally, for the love of God, can we please make it clear that removing your clothes while black-out drunk for girls gone wild is not liberating in any sense other than the liberation of your individual body parts? I consider my self pretty sex-positive and ok with whatever makes you feel good, but can we try to make it clear somehow to our teenagers and young women (btw I’m 24) that becoming a sex object willfully isn’t really any better than being made into one? Thanks. I’m going to go put away my soap box.

  2. Ok, my opinion is not going to sound pretty, but this is something that I’ve been sitting on for a while. And please, this is by no way an attack! It’s an observation based on my own experiences.
    Of course I believe that feminism is still very much needed. I tend to have “militantâ€? tendancies, ha! Although I find myself at times reluctant, if only for a moment, to call myself just a “feminist,â€? Thus, I use the terms womanist or black feminist.
    This is the case because I always feel somehow left out and out of place in this “movement.â€? The term feminist conjures up the image of a white middle class woman, and this is speaking out of experience. There’s this barrier between feminist women of color and white feminists. In a sense, it feels like white feminists are the drivers of the movement and women of color are merely subjects, students, projects…etc, but rarely ever equal members, unless they conform to an imaginary set of rules that I haven’t laid my hands on yet.
    But a big problem that I have is this “color blindâ€? syndrome that runs amongst white feminists, that causes them to dismiss race/ethnicity…. Too often there are phrases thrown about like “we are all sisters in this movementâ€?, “we are all women, with the same struggles, ummm, no…our struggles are not all the same, and there is no true sisterhood. Dismissal of race dismisses a chunk of WOC’s experiences and opens doors to swiping generalizations that build more barriers.
    When a WOC’s experience is brought into account, there’s always this ideology of a “rescueâ€? mission that takes place on a white feminist’s part.
    I believe this to be a product of lack of knowledge of WOC in the U.S. and outside who have been actively fighting for women’s rights. Especially WOC outside the U.S. and other western countries tend to be shown or seen as powerless and in need of conversion to western feminism, while discarding these women’s religions and cultures.
    That being side, I find many women of color who cringe at the word feminist or see that it has no place for them.
    To bring in women of diverse backgrounds there should be a greater understanding of why it is imperative to include WOC voices as part of the movement and not a separate voice that only adds, “flavor.â€?
    Therefore, I believe it’s imperative to re-evaluate where the women’s movement is right now in terms of race…and all other aspects that makes use diverse. Let’s not just speak of equal rights without honestly understanding the needs, wants and aspiration of every woman in context of her cultural and religious background.
    Feminism, in my opinion, is now more than just a “dirtyâ€? word, it’s bordering on a racial term. Some women are not sure if it’s “for them.â€? I find divisions in such an important movement to be unsettling, because if we are to move forward, we need every single woman’s voice.
    Finally for women who are not aware of what feminism is and shun it because of lack of knowledge, I believe it’s our obligation as women who officially wear the feminist “badgeâ€? to inform our fellow women and men, to dispel stereotypes and untruths that is attempting to weaken this movement.
    I believe we need feminism more than ever, because women are getting too comfortable (“we have enough rights, what are these other women still complaining about?â€?…etc) but what they don’t realize is, what we have can just as easily be taken away. If we are not in constant awareness. Just because we have relative equal opportunity does not mean that we are getting it.

  3. that’s a really important point, Daliya that having equal opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean we are getting it.
    And I think your broader point is essential as well. When I said that we needed to now focus on post-colonial feminism, I realize now that i was speaking from a place of white priviledge, which for me is weird, because I’m also an Arab-American, and I guess my larger concern at this juncture is taking care of the women in Iraq etc., and that comes out of being half “white”- half arab (although arabs are technically white, but, whatever, you know what I mean). Race has never been as big of an issue for me as ethnicity, and I see them seperately. I guess I was trying to address the same white-centric short comings, but I see them from a different perspective… I guess this is proof that you will see things from which ever margin you occupy.

  4. “I guess I was trying to address the same white-centric short comings, but I see them from a different perspective… I guess this is proof that you will see things from which ever margin you occupy.”
    (I’m not sure how to “quoteâ€? things)
    Thank you for understanding what I was trying to come from. And I understand you very well when you speak of how your opinion was coming from the view of a white/Arab feminist. And that’s perfectly alright! I was also speaking from my own point of view.
    It comes down to admitting privilege and becoming aware that others will lack it and also being open to listening to what others are trying to say without feeling personally attacked. 🙂 It’s alright to admit our views are limited (I will be first to admit it). I fear the making of assumptions and generalizations, then getting defensive when it doesn’t match…and then reaching road blocks.
    My greatest concern is unifying women voices from different backgrounds to reach common goals or help each other reach individual goals…through the understanding of our diverse cultures and how feminism ties into them. Women from different cultures have managed to make feminism work for them, be they arab, african, asian etc and their work should not fall short against ‘western’ feminism. And this might be a personal view that many don’t share, but I certainly feel this way. Different views shouldn’t equal less importance or become somehow invalidated.
    It would be quite dandy if women from different background came together and discussed things within the movement that make them feel alienated or things that make the movement feel like it will not help their cause…just speak of what feminism has been to them or what their ideas of feminism is. I don’t know, from the circles I’ve been in, there seems to be a general silence….as if people spoke out… it’ll lead to the break up of the supposed ‘unity’ that the movement aims for.
    Am I making sense? 🙂
    “And finally, for the love of God, can we please make it clear that removing your clothes while black-out drunk for girls gone wild is not liberating in any sense other than the liberation of your individual body parts? I consider my self pretty sex-positive and ok with whatever makes you feel good, but can we try to make it clear somehow to our teenagers and young women (btw I’m 24) that becoming a sex object willfully isn’t really any better than being made into one? Thanks. I’m going to go put away my soap box.â€?
    I complete agreement. Maybe I am old fashioned but to me liberation does not equal becoming the very object that a patriarchal curves out for you. So I have problem when certain women, especially celebrities will behave degradingly and then attempt to say that they are feminist. Did I hear Paris Hilton throw about the feminist word? I think my brain exploded.
    My definition of feminism starts out with the dictionary definition and branches out to making daily conscious decisions that will remove me from confining gender roles that limit my growth or beauty standards that measures my worth based on my looks alone, just to name a few.

  5. I had to fix this sentence:
    “I’m in complete agreement. Maybe I am old fashioned but to me liberation does not equal becoming the very object that a patriarchal society curves out for you.”
    Sorry, I have a tendency of skipping words in my writing. And…let’s just ignore the other spelling errors, in both comments. ok? -hangs head in shame-

  6. Pingback: Feminism/Womanism/The Whole Nine « Feisty Femmes

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