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Third Wave Feminism: an annotated bibliography
This is a summary of the research I have undertaken to identify who makes up third wave feminism, discover their issues, analyze the tension between second and third wave feminism while shedding light on an upcoming trend of a fourth wave. I list my ten most credible sources in order of relevance and divided them into three parts; identifying third wave feminism, the response from academics, and moving forward.
First, I have structured the bibliographic material, to begin with “Listen Up” by Barbara Findlen, and “To Be Real” written by Rebecca Walker as primary sources since these selections of writings are from a third waver’s perspective. Rebecca Walker is also the contributing editor to Ms. Magazine and co-founder of Third Wave, a multi-national, multicultural organization devoted to initiating young women’s activism, which makes her a respected voice when speaking on behalf of third wave generation of feminists. I have included these two in the bibliographic material because many papers cited elsewhere in this bibliography and within the scope of my research make references to these books as primary sources when seeking to define the third wave generation.
Deborah Siegel’s Legacy of the Personal, another paper often cited by academics, roots her analysis in a close reading of Listen Up and To be Real with the understanding that these writings do not represent “third wave” or “next generation” feminists in total but seeks to capture a general understanding of this often misunderstood group of women. The author notes that next generation feminists seem to see third wave feminism as a historical phenomenon, yet Siegel exposes various historiographical questions, problems, and ambiguities the concept of third wave feminism raises mainly that postmodernist, post-structuralist, and multi-culturalist critiques have shaped the form and content of ‘the personal’ expressions of third wave feminism to view as an evolution in feminist thought – not a break from the past.
In Feminism’s Third Wave, authors Lisa Rubin and Carol Nemeroff observe the characterization of young feminists’ self-expression, by feminists and non-feminists, as “Self-obsessed’ and “divorced from matters of public purpose”. This makes young women/feminists highly marketable and is often the subject as a target audience with discretionary dollars, that can be profitably exploited, but also as a new and highly marketable image. The author’s questions whether third waves’ self-reflection, their grappling with contradiction and ambiguity and consciousness -raising experiences can also be viewed as political expression; what impact do their confessional tales have on feminism as a movement and as a discipline? I have introduced this paper into the bibliography as it points to the need to check the mental status of young feminists and the need for psychological and emotional support especially from feminist therapists to support and guide young women through their consciousness-raising experience. Failing to acknowledge the inter-dependency of the waves and their goals undermines feminism’s transformative possibilities, therefore inter-generational dialogue becomes equally important to defuse generational differences to make way for the fourth wave.
The next selection of writings focuses on the response from academia to third wave feminism where authors, Stacey Gillis and Rebecca Munford assert in “Genealogies and Generations: the politics and praxis of third wave feminism”, academia believes having a ‘third wave’ implies that second wave feminism is over, and that ‘third wave’ has often been confused with ‘post-feminism’. As such the paper examines the ambiguous relationship between those who identify themselves as third wave and those belonging to a field informed by post-structuralist, postmodern theories of subjectivity and identity thus creating tension between the two groups. In an effort to understand the third wave phenomena the article examines how theorists and scholars have made the move to finally address third wave feminism as an academic subject.
This lead to a conference, spearheaded by the same authors, which further examined the tensions between third wave feminism and Women’s Studies in an essay Harvesting Our Strengths which report their findings. Upon acceptance, it seems that identity politics about the category of “woman” came into question with Queer, trans-gendered, postcolonial and Gendered Studies. Gillis and Munford writes that Women’s Studies is either accused of ‘victim feminism’ or not being academic enough and on the other hand “too academic” by feminists outside of the academy. These sentiments are echoed in “Who’s Afraid of Third Wave Feminism?” where author Jonathan Dean acknowledges the divide that Gillis and Munford write about between activists and academia but notes that his essay does not take this divide into account. Dean states the ‘third wave’ was originally called upon to inject a degree of openness, diversity, and internationalism into feminism and notes a biased distinction in postfeminism between ‘victim feminism and power feminism’. Both paper highlights what place third wave feminism could have within Women’s Studies and what place could Women’s Studies have within the academy in light of third-wave feminist thinking. I have also added is Clair Snyder’s “What is Third-Wave Feminism?”, which provides a critical analysis on Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie, and Rebecca Munford’s Third Wave Feminism highlighting a lack of clarity about the nature of the movement and lacks an accurate description of what the movement actually is at this point.
I have concluded my bibliography with essays from Colleen Mack-Canty and Diana Diamond which seeks to explain the next developments and current trends for feminism beyond the third wave. Mack-Canty gives an excellent overview in, Third-Wave Feminism and the Need to Reweave the Nature/Culture Duality, of the three groups that make up today’s third wave feminism; youth feminism, post-colonial feminism and eco-feminism and provides an in-depth overview of the contributions from each category. Although these feminisms are reweaving the nature/culture duality by theorizing from the notion of embodiment, the author points to eco-feminism as making the most significant additional contribution in this regard because it works to specifically include non-human nature in its theorizing. Diana Diamond’s paper, The Fourth Wave of Feminism: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, provides psychoanalytical perspectives of the fourth wave generations with goals of global and spiritual inter-connectedness which are similar to the goals of eco-feminism. In bringing about this spirituality Diane Diamond observes how psychoanalytic clinicians are uniquely positioned to spearhead the fourth wave which must integrate the unfinished issues and contradictions of the last three waves. This overarching vision combines spiritual practice with political action, economic power and the insights derived from psychoanalytic theory and practice.
Whether one views the feminist movement in an oceanography of four distinct waves or as one fluid and evolving movement toward female equality and empowerment with benchmarks of achievements, it is clear that new themes of spirituality and global inter-connectedness will reinvigorate feminism and heal the generational divides in theory and practice.
Walker, Rebecca, To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, Anchor Books, 1995, Print.
To Be Real is an anthology on feminism and female empowerment in the nineties opening doors of understanding and prioritizing political commitment and self-acceptance. The collections of writings refute the concept of a strictly defined and all-encompassing feminist identity and seek to explore contradictions and ambiguities of female empowerment and to lay the groundwork for a feminist theory that accepts and respects differences. The submissions by different writers are personal, honest and record a trans-formative journey taken, building empathy and compassion because they believe life experiences are the best basis for a feminist theory. Most of the writers speak as daughters and it leaves the reader wondering if third wave feminism is trying to prove their independence and asserting themselves from the feminism of their mothers who fought so hard to win the rights that their daughters are so comfortably enjoying. Recommended to a general audience, To Be Real is an excellent resource for women of all ages who are searching for new ways for feminist expressions.
Findlen, Barbara, Listen Up: Voices from the next generation, Sealpress 1995, 2001. Print.
Listen up creates a visible, public forum for young feminists experiences and to affirm their presences – feminism is not dead. Several write about the ongoing process of integrating their feminists’ identities with ethnic, racial, religious, sexual, regional and class and other identities and explores their ideas, hopes, struggles, places within feminism and within other social change movements. Findlen asserts there is no single “young feminist” perspective but more to the point there is no one “feminist” perspective either – there never has been. Both To Be Real and Listen Up gives voice to young feminists’ personal experiences making it a good books for anyone who has questions of identity and would like to relate with other young women through a feminist lens, activism, sex, body image, making a living, girlhood, racism, violence, self-defense and relationships.
Deborah Siegel examines two anthologies; Listen Up and To Be Real, edited as noted above, by women who identify themselves as “third wave” or “next generation” feminists. The author argues given that postmodernist, structuralist, and multi-culturalist critiques have shaped the form and the content of third wave expressions of the personal, what are the possibilities and limitations of such theoretical analysis for a third wave of feminist praxis. Although their texts seems an appropriate starting point for a discussion of third wave theorizing as an activity, by rooting her analysis in a close reading of these two texts, risks limiting her scope to the expressions of a select group of writers that cannot speak for an entire generation. Yet, anyone wishing to conduct a critical analysis of third wave feminism would benefit from Siegel’s analysis of the cluster of voices that represent young women from different backgrounds articulating their commonalities and differences which could work as a method for “getting at symptoms”.
Gillis, Stacey and Rebecca Munford, (2004) “Genealogies and generations: the politics and praxis of third wave feminism”, Women’s History Review, 13:2, 165-182: online version.
Gillis and Munford examine the ways in which post-feminism and third wave feminism are used interchangeably, both within the academy and in the media. The research analyzes the tensions between the two generation and misunderstandings surrounding third wave feminism which forms the basis of their arguments. Third wavers feel the academy has failed to meet the needs of those women outside of it and has little impact on the material needs of women, which can only be redressed by activist activities. Feminist theorists believe that the wave generation model does not allow for the collective memory of female-based thought, empowerment, and activism. This paper will be useful to those who are seeking to understand the generational divide between second and third wave feminism and helps the reader to formulate an answer to the question; how does another wave contribute to the future of feminism?’
Dean, Jonathan (2009) “Who’s Afraid of Third Wave Feminism?” International Feminist Journal of Politics, 11:3, 334-352, DOI: online version.
Using quantitative analysis, Jonathan Dean examines issues relating to ‘third wave’ feminism within British contemporary feminist debates especially those that have contested the notion of a ‘third wave’ of feminism. The paper acknowledges the divide between the academy and activism that Ellis and Munroe highlight and wishes not to engage in such debate. Instead, the paper focuses on highlighting that this notion of a third wave has caused unnecessary generational divisiveness as young women see themselves separate from second wave feminism. Dean advises others to view ‘third wave’ as a theoretical position instead of a ‘generational paradigm’ and agrees with Ellis and Munroe’s observation that viewing ‘third wave’ feminism in generational terms is problematic as it suggests that second wave is redundant and needs to be replaced. This paper helps readers move to viewing ‘third wave’ essentially as an ’empty signifier’ or a discursive resource to a substantive entity that calls for more sustained critical engagement with the ‘generational paradigm’ of third wave feminism.
Gillis, Stacey and Rebecca Munford, “Harvesting our Strengths: Third Wave Feminism and Women’s Studies”, Journal of International Women’s Studies; April 2003, Vol. 4 Issue 2
This article is based on a conference designed to redress the ‘third wave’ generational divide by rethinking its causes, its divide, and possible bridges to help construct a positive dialogue between third wave and Women’s Studies. The article interrogates what it means to be a feminist, both in theory and in practice and testify the possibilities of a constructive dialogue between Women’s studies and third wave feminism by highlighting how the two can unite in terms of their shared politics so that third wave feminism might account for all women and for all women’s conditions. This article will be particularly useful to educators, professors in women’s studies and young female activists who wish to see a women’s studies that is not based on ‘victim’ feminism and doesn’t hurt itself with identity politics.
Snyder, R. Claire, “What is Third-Wave Feminism? A New Directions Essay”, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2008, vol. 34, no. 1, c2008, University of Chicago, Web.
This essay explores a variety of popular and academic literature on third-wave feminism in an attempt to make sense of a movement that may seem confusing. Of particular note, the author zeros in on Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie, and Rebecca Munford’s Third Wave Feminism providing a critical analysis of the literature stating the format of these two books plays into the lack of clarity about the nature of the movement and lacks an accurate description of what the movement actually is today. Snyder concludes suggesting to describe third-wave feminism as a tactical response to the conditions of post-modernity rather than portraying it as a new postmodernist stage of feminist theory. This paper would be one of interest to those who are conducting a critical analysis of third wave generation literature although in some areas are unnecessarily overly critical of this new generation of young women.
Rubin, Lisa & Carol Nemeroff “Feminism’s Third Wave”, Women & Therapy (2001), 23:2, 91-104, DOI: online version.
Rubin and Nemeroff offer an alternative view of “third wave” expression, seeing young feminists’ as honest in their struggles with various identities as a return to grass-roots activism and a return to “the personal”. Body issues may be the pivotal point to third wave issues that mobilize the current feminists and the article seeks to examine the personal and political aspects of third wave feminism by observing young women’s relationships with their bodies. Rubin and Nemeroff share their findings from a study conducted with young women to share body narratives and included an analysis of the circumstances in which these women had come to know feminism and the ongoing backlash against it. Councillors, therapists, psychoanalysts, and teachers would benefit most from this reading as it stresses the importance of mental health and spiritual guidance from feminist therapists to support the next generation of feminists through their consciousness-raising experience.
Mack-Canty, Colleen, “Third-Wave Feminism and the Need to Reweave the Nature/Culture Duality”, NWSA Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Fall 2004), DOI: online version.
Mack-Canty profiles three types of feminism: youth feminism, post-colonial feminism, and eco-feminism, and the importance of each that forms ‘third wave’ feminism. Highlighted in their findings is the trend to move toward global inter-connectedness and spirituality through eco-feminism which contributes a crucial additional cluster to third-wave feminism by attempting to reweave the nature/culture duality that also encompasses non-human and by including the notion of embodiment in its theorizing. Threaded throughout these eco-feminist perspectives is an effort to explain how nature/culture duality occurred and/or how to approach weaving it back together. Mack-Canty reveals how the mental and physical health fields can facilitate the work in theory development expanding concepts of human and nonhuman nature, increasing our awareness of both embodiment and the natural world.
Diamond, Diana “The Fourth Wave of Feminism: Psychoanalytic Perspectives”, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 10:213-223, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2009, online version.
Forward trends in feminism come from psychoanalytic thought which has much to offer in understanding the ways in which narratives of gender foretell destiny. Diamond asserts the work as psychoanalysts try to understand the complex dialogue between internal (mental) unconscious dynamics and external sociopolitical realities for women to recognize when conflicts rooted in social inequalities experienced individually as insoluble problems and when conflicts may keep women from attaining the political and economic power to change their realities. The fourth wave insists the use of the interdisciplinary teams with the insights of psychology to aid our understanding of the intersections between large groups and personal psychology for women. Psychoanalysts and those that practice in the mental health field will benefit from this essay as it encourages the importance of including a vision of health and human inter-relatedness accompanied by a spiritual dimension.