defines author and activist Rebecca Walker's life -- her
focuses range from biracial issues to bisexual awareness.
But the overarching concern of feminism tends to fuel her
energies. Recipient of the Feminist of the Year award in
1993 from the Fund for the Feminist
Majority and named by Time magazine in 1994 as one of the
50 future leaders of America, Walker recently compiled and
edited a book that explores the multiple sides of feminism
-- To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of
Feminism. Essay topics are as varied as those writing them,
from Jeannine DeLombard's desire to be the femme in her
lesbian relationship, to Naomi Wolf's analysis on women's
cravings for traditional weddings. Walker, 26, is also founder
of Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, a group organized
to encourage young women's leadership and activism. A&E
talked with Walker about her new book and her work in feminism.
people say we are in the third wave of feminism. What are
the current main issues for young women?
First of all, the whole idea of waves is erroneous in
that there have been a million waves in women's activism,
of course. But people seem to think about the first wave
as being the suffragist movement, the second wave as being
the activists of the late '60s or early '70s who did a lot
of work around reproductive freedom and around separating
sex from gender, helping us understand ways in which gender
was totally constructed.
organization Third Wave was conceived
as a way of creating a space for younger women to come into
activism in a way that was new and fresh and which would
give them an opportunity to redefine feminism. When we started
the organization we felt like a lot of the young women we
talked to were alienated from the whole concept of feminism
and were then stepping away from taking an active role in
fighting for or even discussing issues of concern like sexual
harassment or equal pay or discrimination in hiring. What
we wanted to do was say this is a way for us to articulate
a feminism that was not tied to any of perceptions of the
second wave, which may have been alienating.
come out of that is a feminism that is decidedly not about
taking on the big label of feminism but is about taking
a more active role in the fronts of a lot of different issues.
It's not just women's issues, but issues of racial discrimination,
sexual orientation and gender. So the Third Wave is something
that is multi-issue, multicultural, multisexual orientation,
which means we can do projects ranging from voter registration
to literacy to online activism to organizing gay pride marches.
third wave title also has been used to refer to the information
revolution, which follows the agricultural and industrial
revolutions. Author Alvin Toffler is often credited with
penning the phrase. Yet statistics show only about 30 percent
of online information users are female. How are you focusing
We've been working on the project Third Wave Online
as a way to bring young women's organizations together.
Just because I think it's important for women to use the
resources that are available and not of being afraid of
making those resources work for us. I think that is one
of the many differences of the generations. In the '60s
and '70s there was a real shunning of the establishment,
power or working with money. I think we understand that
we've got to be able to work with these institutions. We
have to be able to work with the media, we have to be able
to work with large sums of money if we want to accomplish
Alvin Toffler, I take it that one of his ideas is that as
we move into the future we're going to be looking at a world
that is less leadership-driven, that is more about individuals
leading themselves and trying to redefine community in ways
that aren't as hierarchically based. I think we at Third
Wave have thought a lot about that and want to cultivate
a feminism or an activist movement that isn't about two
leaders and an group of followers.
book contains different stories from younger feminists,
some which readers may identify with and others which they
may disagree with. What has been the reaction and have there
been any surprises?
The overall reaction is great. The most painful stuff
has been from older women who feel like the book is berating
them or that they are being excluded or pigeon-holed or
blamed for creating perceptions or divisions that they felt
they worked really hard not to make. It's really painful
because I felt like I took great steps to have an intergenerational
dialogue to not blame anyone. But I do feel like the book
the foreword is by Gloria Steinem. Do you still work with
those feminists of the second wave on some of your work?
you ever think you'll do another book like this in 20 years
or so when there may be still another new wave?
I'll probably do a book on bisexuality instead. But it's
interesting, people have been talking to me about pieces
that they would want to write like in To Be Real. It could
be interesting to do a follow-up, but it's definitely not
in the works.
you ever find that being so diverse and not pegged to one
particular issue stems your energy?
Like you have to sit down and concentrate on bisexual
issues for a period of time and then focus on interracial
relations at a different point. I'm pretty fluid, I just
move from one thing to the next. I feel like I'm more of
an artist than a strategist. I just respond to what I'm
feeling. Third Wave was kind of founded out of an intense
anger and frustration that I felt at not seeing young women's
voices come from out of the media responding to issues like
the Rodney King verdict or the Anita Hill case. "To
Be Real" was born out of a feeling that I'm different
from my mom and my mother's generation politically and I'm
terrified by that and I want to explore that. That's where
the book came from.
are you working on now that the book is finished?
I'm working on an autobiographical non-fiction book called
"Morphology". It's about growing up in a lot of
different backgrounds and creating an identity from that.
Walker will speak and read from her book, To Be
Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism,
at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Walker Auditorium, Walker Art
Center. $5. 375-7622