Walker, third-wave feminist author, challenged feminist
boundaries at a talk during a Re-Imagining Community gathering
Oct. 27 in Minneapolis.
members of the Re-Imagining Community determined who should
speak at this year's millennial gathering, they opted for
women who might push the envelope a bitwomen who represented
the Re-Imagining Community's own penchant for the outer
edges. Third-wave feminist Rebecca Walker and radical feminist
theologian Mary Daly did exactly that, and then some. They
challenged the boundaries of feminism, and then went on
to challenge each other.
than 500 women and men from 41 states and seven countries
flocked to the Minneapolis Convention Center Oct. 26-28
to participate in the sixth gathering of the Re-Imagining
Community. Like the first one held in 1993, this ecumenical
conference set out to inform and reform the church in hopes
that it becomes more inclusive and less hierarchical. In
addition to Walker and Daly, the gathering featured talks
by the Rev. Kathy Black of the Claremont School of Theology,
Thandeka of Meadville/Lombard Theological School, and Delores
Williams of Union Theological Seminary. The gathering also
included workshops and ritual.
put, said Rev. Sally Hill, one of the organizers of the
first conference, "We are feminist."
exactly what that means was up for grabs, as demonstrated
by the messages delivered by Walker and Daly. In her morning
address, Walker called for a new kind of activism, one that
is rooted in the work of our second-wave feminist mothers
but is more open to contradiction and complexity.
need to bring together people of all different backgrounds
so that we are multi-racial, multi-class, multi-issue and
multi-sexual orientation," Walker said during an
interview with MWP.
women and men are being feminist in ways that differ from
the doing, thinking and being of the previous generation,
she continued. "We are less likely to think about
womanhood as essential, less likely to think in terms of
clear-cut generalities about what it means to be a woman,
or just about anything."
make the transition from second-wave feminism to third wave
requires a paradigm shift, Walker explained. "Our
work needs to be less about trying to convince people they
are feminist than it is to get the basic things people need
in order to survive, and provide them with access to those
resources. ... Third-wave feminism is not a codified, separate
movement in our lives, but is something we do every day.
We don't have to leave our lives to go be a part of some
consciousness-raising seminar. We are living these things
constantly, and we find sustenance and support in so many
different places for our burgeoning empowerment. ... We
don't need to try and get our [feminist] category included
in others, but rather try to deconstruct the notions of
In her afternoon address Daly disputed the concept of third-wave
feminism, though she had not heard Walker's address earlier
in the day. "I disagree with the term 'third-wave'
feminism because it seems to cut off the third wave from
the second," Daly said. "Communication with our
foresisters is necessary."
that point, 500 necks craned toward Walker, no doubt wondering
what she thought of Daly's criticism. They found out when,
at the end of Daly's message, Walker stood.
of Daly, Walker began by telling her she considered her
"one of the most incredible thinkers on the planet."
But, clarified Walker, "in choosing to use the term
third wave, I was referring to young women and men who are
turning away from the [feminist] movement altogether."
Using language like third wave implies that we are connected,
yet different, she said. "It's not about replacing,
but joining, it's about maintaining connection and maintaining
Walker's comments elicited a grumbling acknowledgment from
Daly at first, another member of the audience stood and
implored Daly to say more. She did.
to the "fabric of unseen connectedness" she had
talked about in her speech, Daly said her views didn't seem
so different from Walker's after all. The feminist movement
of the '70s was not dead, Daly had said earlier, but rather
its energy has dissipated. "We need to forge new strengths
and skills ... that are inspired by inherited memories and
glories but are better suited to the demands of the present
environment." Call it third-wave feminism or call it
the fabric of unseen connectedness, Daly said, there is
still work to be done, and that work calls the feminist
own personal struggle is proof of that. A professor of feminist
ethics at Boston College, Daly was tenured in 1969. For
25 years she taught in an all-women classroom, with an independent
study option for interested male students.
in 1998, a male student challenged Daly's classroom policy
and is being represented by the Center for Individual Rights,
a law firm that threatened to sue Boston College for sex
discrimination based on Title IX, a federal law intended
to provide women with equal access to education. In response,
Boston College administrators presented Daly with an ultimatum:
admit men to her classes, retire, or resign.
refused all of the above, and in the spring of 1999 Boston
College announced that she had resigned. Despite the fact
that Daly had not signed any such resignation notice, her
name and courses were removed from all preregistration materials
and catalogues and her office was closed. Daly filed a lawsuit
against Boston College for violating the terms of her tenure,
and will go to trial Feb. 7.
very desperate to win this lawsuit," Daly said, and
appealed to the audience to make contributions to the Mary
Daly Defense Fund. "They've disappeared me, savagely
is not an issue concerning just Daly and Boston College,
she said, referring to the school as a "hick Jesuit
is about what we are doing to all women and minorities,"
Daly said. "This is happening to lesbians, to women
of color, to anyone who appears deviant. It is the silencing
want me dead," Daly continued, referring to Boston
College. "They want every radical feminist dead. The
silencing of all strong women's voices is a stealth attack
... and it is not just a coincidence that it is happening
at the same time they are destroying animals and the earth.
... Our society is characterized by the inability to leave
seems as if that fabric of unseen connectedness is woven
even more tightly than we realize, Daly said, referring
to how surprisingly little times have changed since 1870,
when suffragist Susan B. Anthony addressed a crowd, saying,
"The fact is, women are in chains, and their servitude
is all the more debasing because they do not realize it.
O, to compell them to see and feel, and to give them the
courage and conscience to speak and act for their own freedom,
though they face the scorn and contempt of all the world
for doing it!"
that," Daly said, "is what I'm suggesting we do."
more information about Mary Daly's lawsuit or to make a
contribution, contact the Mary Daly Defense Fund, P.O. Box
381176, Cambridge, MA 02238-1176. Call (781) 433-7309 or
to this article by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.