The Gender Equality Movement

All inclusive gender equality, not one-sided hypocrisy

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Is Feminism Ripe for a Fourth Wave?

Posted by Curt on Friday, 2 July 2010

There’s been a lot of talk going around lately about this new Fourth Wave of feminism.  I must admit that I am not a very big fan of this Wave model of feminism – it seems like it’s only counted as a “Wave” as soon as it becomes the prevailing feminist view in academia.  But nevertheless, it’s the terminology most widely used when talking about feminist history and most generally agree with Jen Nedeau’s characterization of the waves of feminism thus far:

“If the First Wave was about access, the Second Wave about equality and the Third Wave about diversity – what will the Fourth Wave be about?”

Good question.  I’m not the only person out there who’s came to the conclusion that feminism, as it currently exists, by itself is no way to achieve gender equality yet is not anti-woman or a traditionalist, even if I arrived there for different reasons.  However, unlike me, there’s a number who do not appear willing to give up the label of feminism; rather, they seem to be trying to co-opt it for their own agenda.  You’ll notice many conservatives trying to do this exact thing and call themselves “Fourth Wavers”.  They may be politically motivated, but it doesn’t undercut the main point they’re making, the one that I think truly matters: that the Fourth Wave will be about inclusiveness.

Some wouldn’t agree.  Of course, those who don’t agree don’t appear to have a very clear idea of what that Fourth Wave should stand for.  It seems to me that most of such Fourth Wavers appear to be trying to address a new age spiritual shift or the technological shift in feminism to the internet more than the ideological shift, which I think would be a mistake when it’s historically been measured through the latter.  Don’t get me wrong; the internet has brought about some amazing changes and these changes do affect the feeling and attitude of the movement, as does any spiritual changes, but where do they affect the ideology?  From what I can tell, there’s hardly a difference between those Fourth Wavers and most Third Wavers and this is what matters when it comes down to it.  Maybe the shift between Waves aren’t meant to be so abrupt, but if a Fourth Wave comes about, I think it needs to be for it to have any real impact, and an emphasis on inclusiveness would be the way to do it.

If this is the case, despite my refusal to identify with or endorse feminism, I may well be fully a part of this emerging Fourth Wave of feminism.  If it’s really about inclusiveness, which I really hope it is, it may well work to the advantage of all individuals.  And indeed, as I’ve said before, gender equality concerns everybody, thus everybody should be involved and nobody excluded.  If this is the case, I will lend it my support even if I won’t identify as any label as far as my beliefs in regards to gender equality go as a greater inclusiveness will inevitably result in the empowerment for all, not just the female half of the population.  This Fourth Wave could possibly result in the balance I’ve been calling for.

This would have been true during the First Wave, arguably the Second too, but now? A lot of people who do criticize feminism, myself included, actually desire gender equality.

But I shouldn’t get my hopes up.  After all, the figure being associated with the Fourth Wave (at least of the inclusiveness version) the most right now is none other than Sarah Palin with her insistence on being considered a feminist and emphasis on bringing pro-life and conservative politics into the feminist movement.  Let me be clear in that I cannot stand Sarah Palin.  She is nothing but a talking point windbag, an easy target for the left; which is perhaps why they like talking about her so much when, me coming from a more right winged standpoint than anybody on the so called “left”, she seems rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Regardless however, the point that the Fourth Wave should include individuals from all political viewpoints and make an effort to reach out to men as well as women would be of benefit for all no matter who brings it about, so long as the Third and Fourth Waves do not coexist in a way that becomes politically polarizing, with the left wing feminists in the Third and right wing feminists in the Fourth.  I’ve already talked about how Third Wavers tend to exclude those based on what I think is rather arbitrary criteria that may well be more politically motivated than motivated in the interests of gender equality or even women as a whole.  There’s no doubt controversy would ensue if the Fourth Wave did take on this character and become popular; after all, wasn’t there controversy when the Third Wave rose and usurped the Second Wave?  Well, that’s probably not an accurate statement, as these changes are a lot more fluid than that, hence why I’m very cautious of trying to make myself appear as if I oppose all feminists.  Either way, I just hope it wouldn’t devolve into a politically polarizing argument; gender equality is above all that.

On the one hand, this idea of a Fourth Wave is hopeful, but on the other hand, it’s uncertain.  Like I said, the recent right wing interest in trying to insist on their feminism may be nothing more than a fad.  But however the Fourth Wave comes about, I do hope that it does emphasize the inclusiveness I speak so much of.  Gender equality would go a long way if feminism was balanced in such a way that it brings a positive, balanced, and more inclusive message.  This would appeal to the masses far more, giving them a medium through which to advocate the gender equality that I believe the vast majority of all Americans truly want rather than the polarizing state of feminism as it currently exists.  For now, I remain cautiously optimistic.

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4 Responses to “Is Feminism Ripe for a Fourth Wave?”

  1. Jess Chapman said

    The tone of feminism’s Fourth Wave will likely sound a lot like you describe. One of its products, I hope, will be a destruction of existing “gender parity” policies that promote statistical equality over systemic equality. It will also have a lot to do with discrimination faced by LGBTs (especially Ts nowadays), which will probably turn a lot of social conservatives off but is still worth exploring.

    • Curt said

      I agree with you on all points, although I think the Third Wave already is trying to address the issues faced by the LGBT community. Perhaps it might not be doing it as effectively as they should, though if a Fourth Wave were to do so, I wouldn’t consider it something unique to it as a result.

  2. Anonymous said

    she looks pretty happy for having a bad taste in her mouth

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