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3rd Wave Feminism

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Essay title: 3rd Wave Feminism

Lois Banner uses the term and discusses the idea of a “third wave” of feminism in chapter seven. “Third wave” feminism refers to the period beginning in the mid-1980s and on into 1990s where a new generation of feminism and feministic ideals were founded. In order to understand the “third wave” there must be an understanding of the “second wave.” In short, “second wave” feminism focused primarily on the inclusion of women in traditionally male-dominated areas. This new third wave of feminism seeks to challenge and expand common definitions of gender and sexuality for women.

Banner believes the third wave was born out of a concern for sexuality and women’s bodies in political debate and cultural representation during the 1980s and 1990s. A new generation of young women, known as “Generation X” and “postfeminists” did one of two things; they rejected the known idea of feminism or chose to define feminism themselves, based on their own terms and ideas. The idea of defining it to themselves was most prevalent with regard to sexuality and sexual expression. It was from this way of thinking that “third wave feminism” was born.

The philosophy of third wave feminists is very much a revised philosophy when compared to the beliefs of those women who came before them. Things that first and second wavers frowned upon became things that third wavers now embrace. For example, “third wave feminists refer to themselves as “girls” and call for “girl power,” using a term that second wave feminists rejected as sexist.” (Banner, pp. 214-15) This new wave also feels that there is a certain power in wearing makeup and revealing clothing. Some women also feel culturally free and rebellious by getting piercings and tattoos. Girls in “Generation X” even view playing with Barbie as good and liberating thing. The idea of looking at themselves in positive ways in terms of things once considered a bad or inappropriate is similar to how gays adopted the term “queer” and an acceptable word in the 1980s and how today many young black people will use the word “nigger” among themselves as an accepted non-derogatory term.

Another example of how women began to feel a new sense of power for themselves and their sexuality is can be found in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998. The question of sexual harassment arose among many of the older feminist leaders, because to them it was a clear case of man in a position of authority taking advantage of a woman with far less power in the workplace. On the other hand, younger feminists felt that Monica used her, then, 22 year old sexual prowess to get what she wanted sexually and that all the events were consensual in order for her to feel a sense of empowerment. Plus she admitted in interviews that she had flirted heavily with President thus successfully seducing him, but the bigger goal for her was seducing a man with his power.

Other philosophical differences existed as well. Women in this third wave focused on new issues of importance. One must remember that during the 1980s and 1990s and into today, much of what women were fighting for during the earlier parts of the 20th century, was achieved, so new issues became important (once you gain suffrage, you need not fight anymore to gain it). Issues such as sexual abuse, incest, and a complete lack of sexual education in public schools became hot topics for this new generation of feminists. Sexual education was very important because the United States is among highest statistical leaders in the rate of teen pregnancy and STD’s in the industrialized world.

Along with these new problems and concerns, came a new wave of women’s organizations. Groups like WHAM (Women’s

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