Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why I Dislike Third-Wave Feminism

People who have been around this blog for a while must already know that I dislike the so-called "third-wave feminism." Whenever I get to talk with one of the representatives of this movement, I get reminded of my dislike. So why does third-wave feminism bother me so much?

A fellow blogger tinceiri has left the following definition of third-wave feminism in the comment section of one of my recent posts:
Let me explain what third-wave feminism is about:


* Against Ableism
* Against Classism
* Against Ethnocentrism or Western-centrism
* Against Homo-/bi-/queerphobia or Heterosexism
* Against Racism
* Against Sexism or Misogyny
* Against Transphobia or CISsexism
* Against Religious Bashing
* Honoring Bodily Autonomy
* Supporting Sex Workers
* Anti-Biological Essentialism
Everything listed here, of course, sounds fantastic. What kind of a maniac could be opposed to these great things?

Unfortunately, the excellent intentions of third-wave feminists are completely undermined by the statement (from the same blogger I quoted before) that "third-wave feminism respects the choices of everyone." After a very short discussion, it always comes out that these feminists do not really support any kind of choice on the part of everybody. People who abuse others, racists, chauvinists, ableists, and xenophobes make all kinds of vile choices, and obviously third-wave feminists do not support those choices.

The question arises, then, if you do not in reality respect everybody's choices, why say you do? Why take up as your movement's motto something which is so patently untrue? My explanation is that when these feminists say they "respect the choices of everyone", what they are actually trying to say is that they do not want any of their choices to be questioned. Gaining rights always entails gaining responsibilities, and it is precisely the burden of extra responsibility that these feminists do not want. They want to exist in this comfortable reality where personal is not political, it is just a matter of choice. They want to preserve the right to live in a decidedly non-feminist way and still call themselves feminists. This discussion, for example, was one of the perfect examples of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

Third-wave feminism is, in my opinion, a brand of feminism that has no future. Unless we accept that having the rights of a valid and complete human being implies having the responsibilities of a valid and complete human being, our struggle for equality is meaningless.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

On theory, I agree with you. You are probably aware of that. But could you provide me names of third-wave feminists? I am only conversant with first and second waves feminists.

Also, is there a second wave feminist who, in the 1990s and 2000s surfed on the third wave of feminism? It's obvious to me that third waves feminism embrace neo-liberalism as the only political and economical option available.

Thanks!

Ol.

Anonymous said...

"It's obvious to me that third waves feminism embrace neo-liberalism as the only political and economical option available."

What? Please explain to us for whom this isn't obvious.

Anonymous said...

I meant the rhetoric of choice. Neo-Liberalism wants us to believe that we are free to pick among an endless repertory of possibilities. Everything goes as long a you can choose. This is the new kind of Neo-Liberal freedom, where ideas and commodities allegedly circulate freely. A big shopping centre of ideas. I was wondering if this correlates with the third-wave of feminism.

I write that neo-liberalism is the only political and economical option available, because it seems to me that we live in a world where, in fact, there are no options besides the (neo) liberal agenda. The (neo) liberal agenda has been defining the West since at least the end of the Cold War. Where are the alternatives?

Any thougths on that?

Ol.

Clarissa said...

Bravo, Ol.!

This seeming variety of choices, however, conceals a total lack of choice in important mattres. take US politics, for instance. There are only 2 parties to choose from, both of which are beholden to the same economic interests and only have some cosmetic, superficial differences.

The respect for any choices betrays a reality where there is no choice.

feministified said...

"third-wave feminism respects the choices of everyone"

It is not 'choice' per-se I think third wave feminists are protecting.

It seems to me they are protecting the plight of the oppressed,(who act against the hegemonic ideals), from being dehumanized by their class, race, immigrant status, religion, sexuality, life-choices, etc., etc., etc.

Clarissa said...

You mean they want the plight to continue???

tinceiri said...

I never said that "third-wave feminism" respects all choices and I corrected you on this in the last discussion. This isn't debatable.

And gee, before we get into the "comfortable reality where personal is not political" let's examine some third-wave feminists:

Naomi Wolf
Rebecca Walker
Maya Keyes
Audre Lorde

Now, let's go back and look at second-wave feminists:

Mary Daly
Germaine Greer
Phyllis Stewart Schlafly

Third-wave feminism does not seem political to you because you will never have to deal with racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the effects of biological determinism that third-wave feminists have. You are an affluent white woman who has a good job. You live in a wealthy country. YOUR political reality is different.

Second-wave feminists have a history of bigotry and they used "academics" to support oppression. Mary Daly was unapologetically racist and she openly attacked transexuals in her classroom. She did nothing but promote inequality in the name of "feminism" and her fucked-up version of equality. And she wasn't the only one.

Third-wave feminism does not seem "feminist" to you because it decentralized and it is not centered around Western-centered issues that are prioritized by elite, wealthy white people who either don't care about minorities or who think that merely speaking on their behalf is enough. In contrast, third-wave feminism asks for people of color to stand up for themselves.

Their concerns seem like a "luxury" to you because you will never have to deal with racism, homophobia, cisgenderism, or transphobia in the way that many of them have. And no matter how much you study and learn, you can never speak for their experiences like other second-wave feminists in the past have tried to do.

tinceiri said...

Also, that reference to Phyllis Stewart Schlafly should have been Janice Raymond who was the friend of the "radical" (lol) Mary Daly. Though, I have to admit that there wasn't much difference between the two in many regards - both believing, of course, that they were doing transsexual women a favor with their paternalistic denials of agency.

And who could forget Schlafly's great work, The Transsexual Empire? Ya know, the book that tried to argue (with a straight face) that transsexuals were trying to take over the world?

"I contend that the problem of transsexualism would be best served by morally mandating it out of existence." [TTE, p. 178].

Clarissa said...

"Third-wave feminism does not seem "feminist" to you because it decentralized and it is not centered around Western-centered issues that are prioritized by elite, wealthy white people "

-I would appreciate it if you didn't decide for me why something seems non-feminist to me. If you are interested, just ask.

Your conslcusions about my affluent, privileged reality are also extremely flawed. I was not born in a rich society, with a good job, high education level, etc. My reality is what I made for myself, so let's stop with the hysterical self-righteousness.

"And no matter how much you study and learn, you can never speak for their experiences"

-No I can't. And I don't. You, however, just tried to speak to my experiences as if you knew anything about them. Isn't it time to start practicing what you preach? At least a little bit?

Now, transsexuality is a very important issue that you bring up. Things that Mary Daly said about transgendered people are horrible and nasty, there is no argument here.

But. Third -wave feminists with their placating non-confrontational nature try to avoid hard, painful, potentially dangerous issues. Nobody as yet has found a way to integrate anti biological essentialism with the idea of transsexuality. And that's the reality. Nobody wants to address this problem because it touches ona lot of painful issues.

So if you avoid analyzing transsexuality and just accept it, you are, by definition, an essentialist. There is no way around that.

Of course, third-wavers are not much into analyzing anything. They are only into slogan-screaming and you-are-too-privileged-to-have-an-opinion silencing devices. With your last comments you have demonstrated this extremely well.

Clarissa said...

"I never said that "third-wave feminism" respects all choices "

- This is a direct quote from you: "third-wave feminism respects the choices of everyone." I haven't changed a word in it, so you can hardly object to your own words. :-)

But I know that you didn't mean it, and that's exactly what my post is about. I analyze the thrid-wavers' reasons for saying things they obviously don't believe.

tinceiri said...

I would appreciate it if you didn't decide for me why something seems non-feminist to me. If you are interested, just ask.

Your conslcusions about my affluent, privileged reality are also extremely flawed. I was not born in a rich society, with a good job, high education level, etc. My reality is what I made for myself, so let's stop with the hysterical self-righteousness.


Fine. But you can't deny that the "affluent, privileged reality backdrop" behind second-wave feminist thought and what it purports to do for you. You may have earned every single item that you have, or you may have been given everything from being born into a multi-trillionaire family - either way, that backdrop still played a role in helping you get to where you are now.

It is skewed in your favor - look at where a lot of second-wave ideas originated, and who their authors are. Look at why a lot of second-wave feminists TODAY hate third-wave feminists for "disagreeing with their political ideas." The ones that are hated the most are vegans who are personally anti-abortion but who are politically in favor of allowing everyone to decide, or male-to-female transsexual women.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, you have to judge a philosophy by the philosopher. It is impossible to ignore the privilege and the bigotry that is inherent in second-wave thought.

No I can't. And I don't. You, however, just tried to speak to my experiences as if you knew anything about them. Isn't it time to start practicing what you preach? At least a little bit?

I have never tried to "speak for your experience" as a Ukranian immigrant, only the fact that as a Ukranian that you will never experience many of the injustices and other horrible things that other people will. And I am not mitigating your experiences by saying that and I am not trying to compare that to what other people have experienced.

I am saying that you will never experience certain horrible things that other people will. This is why YOUR political reality is different for you.

Now, transsexuality is a very important issue that you bring up. Things that Mary Daly said about transgendered people are horrible and nasty, there is no argument here.

But. Third -wave feminists with their placating non-confrontational nature try to avoid hard, painful, potentially dangerous issues. Nobody as yet has found a way to integrate anti biological essentialism with the idea of transsexuality. And that's the reality. Nobody wants to address this problem because it touches ona lot of painful issues.

So if you avoid analyzing transsexuality and just accept it, you are, by definition, an essentialist. There is no way around that.


http://bashbacknews.wordpress.com/
http://www.incite-national.org/
http://olyladiyfest.wordpress.com/

Are you kidding?

I'm not saying that these guys are going about this in the right way (in some cases I'm not familiar with all the arguments) but you can hardly describe a group of third-wave militant anarcho-feminists who run around in black and pink turbans while slinging condoms at pro-lifers as being scared to confront painful and potentially dangerous issues.

Particularly when they are invading churches, building fortifications and traps to keep the police out during protests, and when they are attacking white power skinheads on the streets. Many of them are dealing with prison sentences precisely because they feel like they've been confronting these issues.

tinceiri said...

The person who left the original comment is not someone I would consider a "religious freakazoid" and even if she were I would have no problem with it whatsoever. Why? Because third-wave feminism respects the choices of everyone, not just those who have abstain from religious preference.

I'm not really objecting to my own words, nor is this a situation where "I said something but I meant something else." I feel that I've been consistent, but you may disagree.

Nor is the issue a situation where "we want to seperate personal and political," it's just that our version of political is a lot different from what second-wave feminism promoted.

Clarissa said...

"But you can't deny that the "affluent, privileged reality backdrop" behind second-wave feminist thought and what it purports to do for you. You may have earned every single item that you have, or you may have been given everything from being born into a multi-trillionaire family - either way, that backdrop still played a role in helping you get to where you are now."

-I don't really care which "backdrop" gave me my right to vote, have an abortion and attend a university. I am, however, very thankful to the women who worked tirelessly to give me all these rights.

The only contribution that the third wavers' have made to my life, however, is that they descend in droves upon me every time I dare to voice an opinion. That's MY EXPERIENCE with them. And it hasn't been either positive or productive.

At conferences, when I express my often controversial opinions, older feminists scream, argue, and make nasty comments about my talks. But at least there is a dialogue. The third-wavers, however, do nothing but "shush." "Shh, don't say this! You can't say this! It's wrong to say this!" is all I hear from them. Again, that's my experience with them.

If there are third-wavers who are unafraid of different opinions, of analyzing difficult, complex issues, of arguing honestly and directly and who can say something other than this boring claptrap about "respecting all choices", I'm dying to meet them. Seriously. Where have they been hiding?

Clarissa said...

On an unrelated note: please tell me how to use italics in comments!!! I've been trying to learn to use them forever but it doesn't work.

tinceiri said...

The backdrop is important because it puts your rights into context and it's basically the reason why women of color do not have the same rights that you or I do. They've been ignored by mainstream feminism and they're still being totally ignored.

You honestly shouldn't judge third-wave feminism or the followers by people who don't give you a chance at dialogue. Conversely it would be like saying that experiences with the Ladies Against Feminism would be desirable just because they are polite.

...not that I'm particularly mean to them, but they're not even fun to annoy. :<

You can use italics by following the directions this. Bold doesn't work, for some reason.