Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminis

Thinking of feminism in “waves” continually makes for reinvention — a real stalling technique to real forward motion. The waves (now beginning to hear the start of a 4th wave) is a speck in the whole history of women. This belief that we need to start over leads to loss of our base, the solidity of our common ground, and sends women floundering again to find ourselves. We’ve been written out of history books, not lauded for our scientific and research innovations, disappeared in general so that girls need to “reinvent” themselves as professionals, academics, or “whatever they want to be but weren’t sure if women could do that.” The bigger the wave, the more it washes away the shore. We need the shore.

The excerpt below is from a relatively new publication called Conducive. This article, written by a former academic in literature and WS who stepped out to become a journalist, Heather Tirado Gilligan, gives us all a lot of food for thought.

Please feel free to post your comments on this article.


These marked contrasts and sharp exchanges between the second and third wave of feminism result from a larger cultural conversation from the turn of the century post-backlash years. The argument engaged in intergenerational spats and the softer approach of the third wave is primarily about popular perceptions of feminists: Are they militant, sexless, and dogmatic or sexy, freethinking, and label-less advocates for equal rights for women (and men)? The problem is, as others including Faludi have noted, this is a false dichotomy. The vision of 1970s feminists as eunuch cranks is not actual history, it’s a fantasy produced by the widespread cultural rejection of and ridicule for feminists, perhaps best exemplified by the label feminazi, popularized by Rush Limbaugh’ radio show and still widely used to discount any feminist conversation challenging enough to cause discomfort. In this definition, feminism seeks not equality but domination, and feminists are unappealing shrews who systematically stomp out the traditional joys of life: beauty, sex, children, love, and pleasure altogether.

Yet, as the crescendo for anti-feminism built in the 1980s and 1990s, women continued to face very real problems, as noted in Faludi’s Backlash: according to polls conducted at the end of the 1980s, more than 80 percent of women reported unequal pay and job discrimination, complaints of sexual harassment doubled from the 1970s, domestic violence shelters saw a more than 100 percent increase in clients between 1983 and 1987, and sex related murders rose 160 percent from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. Evidence like this shows the women’s movement was indisputably unfinished, and the need to press for gender equality wasn’t less urgent in the 1980s and 1990s—it was more urgent.

via Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminism.


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