DIY Spirit of the 3rd Wave
Evan Klim (Democratic Socialism)
“Imagine if you have a team and you don’t let half of the team play. That’s stupid.”
~President Barack Obama~
Feminists have historically made inroads in the fight for equality between men and women by getting the public thinking about the issues plaguing women and what could be done to address them. First Wave feminists were concerned with getting women the right to vote. Second Wave feminists were concerned with addressing systemic sexism in the public and private sphere and giving women the ability to “exercise their creative and intellectual faculties” in everyday life. Political and social change made it possible for women to progress within the world, but women are still, by and large, held back by barriers ingrained into society relating to ageism, classism, homophobia, racism, settler colonialism, and sexism.
Consequently, Third Wave feminists have responded to these barriers within society by creating forums to allow women from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to voice their experiences in the hopes that material changes can arise from their experience. Indeed, the first two waves of feminism were important in the sense that it got the public thinking about important issues relating to political opportunity, sexism, and the continued the subjugation of women, but Third Wave feminists wished to illustrate the multifaceted nature of the issues plaguing women.
Civil rights activities and critical race theorist, Kimberlé Crenshaw illustrated this with the introduction of intersectional theory, which argues that “multiple levels of social injustice” shape one’s own experience in the world. Third Wave Feminism, therefore, gives feminists and the public at large a deeper understanding of the world and how inequalities are experienced.
With this, it is imperative that people, both men and women, listen to the stories of marginalized groups and take their stories seriously when understanding how public policy or social phenomenon affects them. Indeed, following the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford got people thinking about the prevalence of sexual assault and how it affects women. Now as a man, I cannot say that I know what it’s like to be a woman. This fact, however, does not absolve me, or others, from listening to others and understanding how their experience in the world differs from my own and how their world is affected by practiced taken for granted.
Intersectionality, therefore, fits well within this conversation because it gives us a frame to understand issues and what keeps women and other groups marginalized. By carefully listening to their stories and understanding their point of view, political and social change can be possible.
As Crenshaw argued, “Where there’s no name for a problem, you can’t solve it.” Consequently, if people don’t listen to women, we, as a society, cannot progress and address the issues that effects women and other marginalized groups.
As for the question of who decides what proper feminism is and how it should be practiced, Nilika Mehrotra argued that feminism “often acquires specific character in a variety of contexts. It has been both viewed as an ideology of women’s movement itself aiming to create a world for women beyond simple women’s liberation or equality.” What this means is that while feminists look to eliminate inequities between men and women, feminists around the world would argue that certain steps need to be taken in order for full equality to be reached.
For example, in places where it is difficult for girls to go to school, measures need to be taken to educate women and protect women to allow for progress. Aid can help local feminists achieve goals such as educating women and ensuring their safety and wellbeing, but it is important for feminists in developed nations to listen to the needs of a community and get men on board with the goals of local feminists. Paraphrasing Obama, we can see that giving women the opportunity to play can give the team a chance to succeed. Indeed, ideas and practices might be challenged, but feminism arises in response to a refusal to accept the status quo.
Accordingly, by listening to women’s stories and taking their plights seriously, feminist practices can heighten people’s awareness surrounding the issue and empower women to take charge and produce political and social change that addresses issues deemed salient within a community.
As for contemporary movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and the Women’s March, these campaigns have been shown to be successful in getting the public thinking about issues from a feminist point of view. These movements aim to dismantle barriers which keep women out of politics, including getting people thinking about the continual issue of sexual assault and harassment. In the spirit of punk rock, each campaign is “in your face” and these movements aim to affect how men treat women in everyday life and also how policies need to change if women are to be included as members of the movement towards a better future. Indeed, there is still much work to be done and the ideals of feminism still provide us with goals to achieve: both politically and socially.
Evan Klim is a sociology student at Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario) who has planted thousands of trees across Canada.
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