Workshops  |  Consults  |  Shop  |  Contact
Openness is our greatest human resource.

Blog Entries tagged 'third wave'

So I was Tweeting Mad Men...

...and wondering with @JenDeaderick if, after her horrid birth experience, Betty Draper will read the Feminine Mystique, put her head in the oven or both. Which inspired the lovely JD to send me to one of Plath's many extraordinary poems:

Morning Song

by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
 

Sylvia Plath, “Morning Song” from Collected Poems.

Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath.

September 20th, 2009

Invitation to Oxford

Had to post this invitation from Oxford.

What do you think. Should I go? 

To Whom it May Concern at the Office of Rebecca Walker:

Please find attatched an invitation to speak at the Oxford Union on Tuesday 27th October, the motion for this forum will be 'This House believes that white middle class women have stolen the feminist cause from those who need it most'. The details of the motion are outlined in the attatched document, I'm sure that you will have alot to contribute.
 
The event will be taking place within Gender week, and will be run in conjunction with OUSU and OxWib (Oxford Women in Business). The format will be relatively informal, a short address followed by a Question and Answer, but obviously we can be flexible to any alternative ideas and requirements.
 
The Union has hosted a wealth of prestigious speakers including Mother Teresa, Richard Nixon, The Dalai Lama, Micheal Jackson and Malcolm X to name but a few. We would be honoured to add you to this list.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Best Wishes,
 
Secretary
The Oxford Union

September 17th, 2009

Third Wave: An accurate and succinct rendering.

This is an excellent description of Third Wave; one of the most accurate and succinct I've seen. From the online version of the Encylcopedia Brittanica:

The third wave of feminism emerged in the mid-1990s. It was led by so-called Generation Xers who, born in the 1960s and ’70s in the developed world, came of age in a media-saturated, culturally and economically diverse milieu. Although they benefitted significantly from the legal rights and protections that had been obtained by first- and second-wave feminists, they also critiqued the positions and what they felt was unfinished work of second-wave feminism.

The third wave was made possible by the greater economic and professional power and status achieved by women of the second wave, the massive expansion in opportunities for the dissemination of ideas created by the information revolution of the late 20th century, and the coming of age of Generation X scholars and activists.

Some early adherents of the new approach were literally daughters of the second wave. Third Wave Direct Action Corporation (organized in 1992) became in 1997 the Third Wave Foundation, dedicated to supporting “groups and individuals working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice”; both were founded by (among others) Rebecca Walker, the daughter of the novelist and second waver Alice Walker. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000), were both born in 1970 and raised by second wavers who had belonged to organized feminist groups, questioned the sexual division of labour in their households, and raised their daughters to be self-aware, empowered, articulate, high-achieving women.

More
September 4th, 2009

Yes, in fact, I do blame (F)eminism

So there seems to be outpouring of excitement about the Katie Roiphe piece on Double XX on motherhood as a narcotic. 

What frustrates about this "excitement" on Salon and all the other more "mainstream" blogs, is the way editors and many readers ignore the work of women outside of their "milieu" be they poor, black, Asian-American, gay, male, community-college educated or otherwise.

My book Baby Love, for example, is also about the subject of feminism and motherhood and making a surprising and seemingly "anti-feminist" choice, and yet received none of the nuanced treatment. In fact, Salon used my piece on this exact subject to excoriate me personally, running an ill-informed post by Phyllis Chesler in which I was labeled misguided, confused, and in the throes of some kind of misplaced mother-daughter drama. My work was dismissed as personal pathology.

Which brings us to Katie Roiphe. Good gracious, she and I hashed it out on Charlie Rose ten years ago. Her intellect is no more superior, her writing no more "eloquent," but her privilege is, truly, many more generations deep, and certain editors apparently believe she has much more in common with their readers--an unfair assessment.

The entire episode reminds me of one of the more insightful things my mother told me (and regardless of the current state of our relationship, my mother has told me MANY insightful things):

"We read them, but really, they do not read us."

Meaning, of course, that many white women of privilege and access think what they write is new because they don't really bother to read the work of women (and men) outside of their race and/or class. And yet we think nothing of reading theirs and weighing their contributions as part of our process of informing ourselves as we begin to do our own work.

And, really, truly, the bottom line? I blame it on (F)eminism. Why is it that women of privilege are able to do this with impunity in the name of (F)eminism?

Because this kind of racial and economic apartheid is built into contemporary, especially Second Wave, (F)eminism. This latest exchange of pseudo-philosophical banter is just one more line item on an exhaustive list of betrayals, insults, and selective dismissals of the work of many self-identified feminists and others who have long ago abandoned their affiliation.

This remains a breathtakingly short-sighted method of engagement. 

June 1st, 2009

The Headscarf--Revisioned

I really love the way this discussion about the hijab is continuing to evolve in the midst of The Obama Transition.

From Huff Post:

As always, the nexus of the clash between the West and Islam is the role of women. The Turkish sociologist Nilufer Golë has put her finger somewhat provocatively on precisely what secularists fear might be taken away, but also on what Muslim women are gaining.

"In contrast with the West," she has written, "where the public sphere was first formed by the bourgeoisie and excluded the working class and women, in the Muslim context of modernity women have been the makers of public space. In the Muslim context, the existence of democratic public space depends on the social encounter between the sexes and on the eroticization of the public sphere."

The wearing of the headscarf in universities -- which the AKP sought to allow -- is the flash point of the conflict. To be sure, the headscarf issue signals changing private and public distinctions through the re-entry of religion into the public arena of modern Turkey. But since headscarf proponents argue that it will enhance the opportunities of women in higher education, it also serves as a critique of the idea that only secularism equals modernity.

"Women proponents of the headscarf distance themselves from secular models of feminist emancipation," Gole argues, "but they also seek autonomy from male interpretations of Islamic precepts. They want access to secular education so they can follow new paths in life that don't conform to traditional gender roles, yet they also seek to fashion a new pious self. They are searching for ways to become Muslim and modern at the same time, transforming both."

In short, the established meaning of Islamic veiling is undergoing a radical transformation -- from a symbol of Muslim female submission and seclusion in the private sphere to a badge of public, assertive Muslim womanhood. For Gole, this sign of stigma and inferiority is in the process of being inverted into a sign of empowerment and prestige.

More

April 7th, 2009

Modern Beauty

So today I got an email from a young high-school student in Australia, Patricia, doing a report on Third Wave and Women's Magazines. Because she heard somewhere that I founded Third Wave (true), she sent some questions and I did my best to answer. How'd I do?

1. What is your personal definition of "modern feminism"?

Any act or thought that leads to a safer, healthier, more equitable and enjoyable experience for women and the people who love them.

2. How do you think mainstream girls/women's magazines have impacted upon "modern" feminism?

Girl's/Women's magazines impact women positively and negatively. They provide a sense of community, a location for fantasies of glamour, a shared generational visual language, a heightened appreciation for fashion, and content that is relevant and helpful for girls and women, i.e. articles on breast cancer prevention, body-image issues, and the plight of women in other countries.

However, the magazines are at odds with their own goals of befriending the reader. By defining beauty in a limited way-white, thin, rich, overly-sexualized, and objectified-the magazines manufacture in girls and women a desire to alter ourselves, or, even worse, to question the worth and fabulousness of our own (i.e. not white, not thin, not rich) lives in comparison to those portrayed in the magazine. And because models don't speak, their fabulousness is all about how they look, not how they feel. The reader begins to see herself that way, to focus more on the external, "Do I look okay?' than on the internal, "Am I okay?"

Lately, my biggest concern with women's magazines is the rabid obsession with consumerism they espouse. It's not just about looking like the model, sharing the same silhouette or hair style, it's about being able to buy the two thousand dollar pair of shoes, the sublimely supple three thousand dollar handbag. The paper is slick, the photography flawless, the styling outrageously seductive. The end result: Where is my credit card? How can I make more money? What do I have to do to get that? All of which can undermine financial stability, career options, and self-esteem.

That said, as a sporadic reader of women's magazines, I believe readers can, with a healthy dose of restraint and mindfulness, have an interactive relationship with a fashion glossy. That is, the reader does not have to be a passive absorber of the messages of the magazine, but can pick and choose, based on their level of insight into these matters, which ideas and images to integrate into their consciousness. Readers can also read/look with a sense of irony and critique, changing the offensive material into a piece of cultural matter to be engaged and partially rejected, and not mindlessly shaped by. This line of thought is consistent with the Third Wave idea that women are not only victims, but agents in our own lives; our work as Third Wavers is not just to diminish victimization but to amplify agency.

3. What do you think of the direction that these mainstream magazines are headed in? Negative or positive and why?

Mainstream magazines depend on advertising dollars to survive, which is why the magazines reflect so directly the interests of those advertisers. Make-up, pharmaceutical cosmetics, fashion, etc., will continue to claim more pages, and meaningful, unsubsidized content will continue to fall away unless there is significant intervention.

As media empires are driven toward healthier trends by consumers-like green products and conflict-free diamonds-I believe we will see some positive change. Supporting the Dove campaigns for Real Beauty is one way to apply the needed pressure for change. Dove is having an incredible impact on women, girls and the industry at large by expanding the standard of beauty in their models, and initiating dynamic public discussion about the right for women to feel good about themselves as they are.

4. Is there a counter balance to whatever effects these particular mainstream magazines have? Any examples?

Women have to take responsibility for loving and accepting ourselves, period. There is an old Langston Hughes poem about a woman looking for her reflection in a sink full of dirty dishwater. We will never see ourselves if we keep looking to the wrong places for glimpses of our beauty. We live in an amazing moment. Never before have there been so many incredible women at our fingertips. From Frida Kahlo to Anais Nin, Yoko Ono to Angela Davis. With a simple Google search we can see some of the most brilliant and fashionable women in the world. These women of history should become our magazines, our friends, our mentors across time.

Other measures for counterbalance include education: readers should know who profits from the magazines and how the mags function as pieces of pop culture. Feedback about beauty and everything else should come from reliable sources that know and love us. Women and girls need to be involved in cultivating dynamic lives. I am learning French, swim as much as I can, study Tibetan Buddhism, travel as much as possible, read, cuddle with my partner and son. There is so much with which to build a life filled with happiness. The magazines can be an alternate world, almost like a drug, that delude one into thinking that happiness is in there, in that make believe world, rather than out here, in the life you have. Not true!

Exposure to international standards of beauty is also helpful. In Mali a woman is not considered beautiful unless she has a large forehead. To realize that different cultures have different ways of defining beauty helps us to understand that ours is also just cultural, just local, and not universal. This can be quite liberating.

I could go on and on, but we should also remember that women and girls choose to read women's magazines. Why not research what they like about them, and then create a magazine that includes those aspects while transforming the others. SASSY magazine was very successful at this, partly because young women made it themselves. What about non-profits or patrons coming forward to support pro-woman, content-positive pages in women's magazines without losing some of the other elements that make the mags pop?

What about enlightened beauty product companies, again, like Dove, nudging editorial in a more healthy direction? Or maybe Dove can found a magazine in the same way Oprah did, based on their already successful campaign concept? I'd read that.

5. Do you believe that magazines aimed at teenage girls/young women encourage them to foster unrealistic expectations? If so, what?

I am troubled that glossy mainstream women's magazines suggest that by dressing, looking, and spending a certain way, the girl/woman will be assured respect, love, success, adoration, and attention; in short, a fabulous life. In real life fabulousness is more about balance, choice, access, safety, opportunity, intelligence. It's way more complicated than the way it looks in a magazine spread, and it takes a lifetime of hard work-internal and external.

6. Any extra comments/ remarks?

It's important to remember that the adornment and objectification of female beauty is an ancient ritual; women's magazines are only contemporary versions on a theme dating back to before Nefertiti donned her exquisite crown and applied her dramatic eyeliner. Critiques of the magazines are absolutely justified, but should be carefully considered. Female beauty will always be powerful, we just want every woman to feel and own that power.
February 3rd, 2008

Strike One for Team Hillary

Running on my Huffington Post Blog Today:

The Fence

As a bi-racial, Ivy-League educated, thirty-something feminist who campaigned for Bill Clinton, the election has me squarely on the fence. I love Barack's vision and know intimately the mosaic of ideas and experiences that helped shape it. I also feel a profound loyalty to Hillary who, after much sacrifice, has the chance to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.

Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the NYTimes didn't help Team Hillary [full disclosure, GS is my godmother]. It crystallized for me that Hillary, no matter how symbolically potent, runs the risk of being seen as a Second Wave candidate. She's one of the first women to gain power and access, and may be one of the first with power and access to ignore the criticisms of women of color, progressive men, and many young women, all of whom have been sending clear messages to Second Wave feminist leadership for well over a decade.

Messages like:

Women are not only victims, but active participants in the shaping of their lives. It's not Hillary's gender that may keep her from winning this election, it's her lack of preparation. If she had an inter-generational, multi-racial, digitally savvy, globally inclined machine behind her, crafting electrifying rhetoric like The Audacity of Hope and The Power of Now, she'd be swept into the White House by a landslide. Hillary wasn't forced into the number two position in Iowa, she made decisions that put her there. New Hampshire is a case in point; she made different decisions and got different results.

Racism and classism are as definitive as sexism. Did Steinem insinuate that Barack's gender, and not his talent, put him in the top spot? I thought black men were capable of performing at his level without an irrationally granted advantage. And the idea that black men always reach the Promised Land before white women? Forty per cent of black men don't finish high school in America, and one in four are incarcerated. Hillary, and her feminist supporters, are not going to win this election by glossing over the realities of African-American men.

Men are not the enemy. Steinem claims that sexism is responsible for Hillary's loss in Iowa, implicitly accusing men-at-large of devaluing women, while many of them may simply be more inspired by a candidate who happens to be a man. This type of divisive discourse that judges and alienates the many men who support the women in their families, communities, and the civic sphere every day is not only bad for women, it's bad for Hillary's campaign. Obama is running as a uniter. Hillary needs to avoid re-inscribing historical divisions in order to gain ground.

And, finally:

Young women are not stupid. The idea that young women are too naive to realize the pervasiveness of sexism is an old Second Wave trope used to dismiss and discredit an entire generation, many of whom now support Obama because he doesn't insult them. As a result, there are a few women lining up behind the "feminist" placard, but many more running in the other direction.

Far from being ungrateful or unintelligent, these women know that confrontational political labels and a religious fixation on gender aren't productive. They, rightly, choose to enjoy the rights they should have had all along, and find other, more complex approaches to righting the rampant injustice in the world. Hillary's gender is not enough to win their vote, and she needs to show them that she knows it.

So while there's still plenty of time for Hillary to win me over, Obama is looking pretty good at the moment. He's listened to what many of my generational peers and I have been saying for the last decade, and his momentum proves it.

January 14th, 2008

IMOW - Trailblazing: The Women of Nepal's Trekking Industry (24 min)

Hey everybody!

Here is one of my favorite Third Wave or "young feminist" sites: the Imagining Ourselves Project. They are having an on-line film festival, one film for each day of the month.

There are so many great, inspiring films. Check this one out about a women's trekking company in Nepal.

IMOW - Trailblazing: The Women of Nepal's Trekking Industry (24 min)

Happy Tuesday!

Rebecca
October 16th, 2007