Katherine Revello Rebutting “DIY Spirit of the Third Wave”
Katherine Revello (Classical Liberalism)
Evan Klim (Democratic Socialism)
Third Wave Feminism moves from the realm of the political to the cultural. As the Mr. Klim states, Third Wave Feminism responds to “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 stories.”
But this shift from the political to the social has rooted the ideology in paradox. Feminism itself suffers from a debilitating contradiction: the movement folds the interests of all women under its banner, which it does by advancing a prototypical slate of “women’s issues” that are equally representative of the perspectives of all women. Such a practice admits no individuated distinctions, even when intersectionality—a practice that attempts to bring diverse voices into the conversation—is promoted. Identity politics make too often lumps grafts the grievance of the individual onto the grievance of a group: the struggles of one inner-city resident of minority racial status become the struggles of all. That singular perspective becomes representative of an entire community. This is not a practice that empowers the marginalized; it removes their agency and hollows out identity by presuming that certain experiences and positions are inherent to members of a particular race, class, gender, etc.
The collectivist bend of feminism was less problematic when the movement held as its goal fundamental political issues. The suffragettes fought not primarily for a political outcome, but for the consistent application of a principle. Their contention that women ought to have the right to vote was rooted not in ideas about gender, but in the idea that individuals, by virtue of their being, are equal and possess rights in equal measure. They asked simply that this principle, already engrained in the political ethos, be put into practice.
But shifting feminism’s focus from the problems of the political world to the problems of the social world only intensifies the issues of collectivism.
Political matters are public matters: the questions politics seeks to answers are those that touch upon the welfare of more than one individual. Social issues are often a function of private dysfunction: of the failures of interpersonal interactions. But social issues are largely private issues; they are the stories of individuals interacting, albeit imperfectly, with one another. Individual experience is exactly that: it cannot be extrapolated and taken as representative for broader societal trends. If third-wave feminism demands men and women “listen to the stories of marginalized groups and take their stories seriously when understanding how a public policy or social phenomenon affects someone,” it sets a standard that risks holding individuals responsible for issues they have no role in creating. This projected guilt can do nothing but inflame already existing grievances. Not only does such an approach make it less likely social issues will be advantageously settled, but it alienates those best placed to make change in future. Turning social problems into political problems removes them from the communities from which they arose. Life is contextual; any satisfactory solution to a problem will originate in the locality in which it arose, where members of the community interact and, by doing so, hold each other responsible.
Making one person’s problems emblematic of an entire identity group—and holding an entirely other identity group responsible for the wrongs done—is a surefire way to inflame grievance politics.
Yet, this is precisely what feminism, by collectivizing individuals, does.
Read More Articles on Third Wave Feminism