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Tue May 29, 2012, 08:16 AM

Breaking feminism's waves [View all]

I hope this hasn't been posted before, but this is an old article I found when I was doing some googling today and reading up on the wave thing, which I now believe even more than ever is a pretty divisive construct. I liked this article. It made heaps of sense to me at least...

The women's movement isn't about angry prudes versus drunken sluts. The generational struggle is over power, not sex

Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes?

Second wave: "You're going out in that?"
Third wave: "Just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone!"

Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it's not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women's movement angry prudes versus drunken sluts has recently taken on new life, including among feminists.


The wave structure, I'm trying to say, looks historical, but actually it is used to misrepresent history by evoking ancient tropes about repressive mothers and rebellious daughters. Second wave: anti-porn. Third wave: anything goes!

But second wave was never all anti-porn think of Ellen Willis, for heaven's sake. It even gave us the propaganda term "pro-sex". The ACLU is jampacked with feminist lawyers of a certain age. In fact, feminists in the 70s and 80s had the same conflicts over pornography that are playing out today among young women over raunch and sex work.

You wouldn't know it from the media, but there are plenty of young feminists who do not see pole-dancing as "empowering" and do not aspire to star in a Girls Gone Wild video. Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs sold very well on campus. These women don't fit the wave story line, however, so nobody interviews them. The pairing up on sex issues is old/young, with the older feminist representing sour puritanical judgement.

And that's really strange. After all, today's "asexual, hirsute" 60-year-olds were the original sex-drugs-and-rock-'n'-rollers. In some ways, they were more sexually radical than today's youth, because they made a bigger break with conventional ideas of sexiness. Many a grey-haired women's studies professor was a braless free spirit back in the day. In fact, some of them still are. Nobody wants to hear, though, from middle-aged women with relaxed and generous views about sex, let alone who are still having it. Relaxed and generous do not a catfight make.

There is a generational struggle going on, but it isn't over sex. It's over power. For 20 years, young feminists have complained that older women have kept a lock on organisational feminism. Robin Morgan famously told young women who protested that her generation wasn't passing the torch to "get your own damned torch. I'm still using mine." So, tired of being assistants and tokens, they did. Branding themselves as a wave was part of it. By staking their claim on youth, they branded older feminists as, well, old. And old, in America, is not a good thing to be.


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Reply Breaking feminism's waves [View all]
Violet_Crumble May 2012 OP
seabeyond May 2012 #1
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redqueen May 2012 #7
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redqueen May 2012 #10
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MerryBlooms May 2012 #3
BlueIris May 2012 #4
seabeyond May 2012 #5
redqueen May 2012 #6
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redqueen May 2012 #12
seabeyond May 2012 #13
redqueen May 2012 #14
seabeyond May 2012 #15
redqueen May 2012 #16
Violet_Crumble Jun 2012 #17
Little Star Jun 2012 #18