May 26, 2004 | Unknown

Surfing the Third Wave

In response to my recent blog entry about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Graham Young said he’s “sick and tired of people telling (him) that if women ruled the world things would be much more peaceful…”
Now, in my more radical, or heartbroken, moments, I’ve been known to claim, “all blokes are not very nice”, before opining that if gals ran the show it’d be “sunshine, lollipops” and other lovely stuff I’d tell you about if I could remember the rest of the song.
Mind you, if some of the collective meetings I’ve attended over the years are representative of what a girly globe would be like, have a cup of tea, a good book and a thick skin ready because endless tirades by ill-mannered Trotskyists wait (handy hint: keep your ALP membership card out of sight when going to such gatherings).
Graham makes a good point when he suggests that generalisations about gender may emanate more from a particular age cohort of feminists, which since I think he’s referring to those around his vintage I won’t delve into further at risk of revealing I was born at around the same time as him.
During my travels along the purple and green road to the feminist Oz, I have found some activists do still fit textbook descriptions of the major feminisms of the 20th century, including those who place patriarchy at the centre of women’s plight.
However, these days feminists are just as likely to take elements from all types and/or live out rarely acknowledged or defined Third Wave Feminism.
For theorist Ednie Kaeh Garrison, an important aspect of identifying what is Third Wave is to consider when it came into existence.
“As something other than Second Wave, the “Third Wave”, she argues, “can be defined by a different set of historical events and ideological movements, especially the (fundamentalist, Moral Majority, neoconservative, Focus on the Family, antifeminist) backlash that emerged in response to the women’s movement in the 1970s and so-called postfeminism feminism”.
This fairly recent manifestation of the fight for women’s rights has sometimes, and at times pejoratively, been dubbed DIY (Do it Yourself) Feminism, with the “Yourself” being particularly problematic for some.
The emphasis on individualism is not often representative of the ways Third Wavers work together, such as when constructing websites and zines and in their involvement in various groups, with one being the Radical Cheerleaders, who have taken the creaky concept of cheer squads and politicised it.
One of my favourite examples of the new feminism is the American magazine Bust, which believes women have intelligence, a sense of humour, a sex-drive and many interests. The name of another US publication, Bitch, reveals that the reclamation of language is an important way today’s feminists label themselves, rather than having others do it for them.
Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t have a Bust and to my knowledge doesn’t have a Bitch, so women in this country will remain experts on celebrities, royals, cooking and cross-stitching for some time to come.
The “tools” of the Third Wave might be different from the methods used by the Second, but they’re no less valid or valuable.
While it has been criticised by some, a stamp of approval did come early in its existence by “feminist mother” Betty Friedan when she said, “if they keep doing what they’re doing, thirty years from today we may not need a feminist movement. We may have achieved real equality”.
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Posted by Unknown at 4:27 pm | Comments (1) |
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1 Comment

  1. Darlene,
    Thank you for that take on Third Wave Feminism. Good to have it set out so clearly. I myself think that it is putting things wrong to talk about if ‘women ruled the world instead of men’.
    I have always understood feminist revolutionaries in terms of their attempt to construct a world beyond rulers – male or female.
    It is though very interesting to examine the role of women in Abu Ghraib – in particular General Karpinski and Lynndie England. The images are truly shocking, but do they suggest simply that women are as horrible as men? I do not think so.
    For instance I doubt if the 18 year old Iraqi who was raped by his US liberator in the name of bringing democracy to Iraq would agree that women are as bad as men.
    Nor do I think that it was women who were shoving brushes and light tubes up Arab anuses, even if one grants that the ultimate aim was one of demonstrating how different we are from Saddam Hussein.
    But perhaps I am getting a little hysterical as Graham would put it.
    I will content myself with a final statement. I do not believe that anyone, not even an Australian conservative, could seriously argue that the chamber of horrors that was Abu Ghraib could have been devised by women.

    Comment by Gary MacLennan — May 26, 2004 @ 6:46 pm

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