… or how do you bring 45 years on the boy’s side of the fence into alignment with being a feminist woman in 2016?
Cuz it turns out … that I am. A feminist that is. That I am and always was a woman isn’t news to anyone by now. But being a feminist is maybe even the harder part of my life for some to swallow.
The challenge was for me to decide was I first, second, third wave or … (psst… do we even have a fourth wave yet, I mean official-like and all?)
The truth is, I had to go back and look ’em up, because, astute as I am (believe me, when you’re dying of thirst in the desert of identity, a few raindrops of ANY girl talk about anything feminine was enough to get me to the next oasis), I soakedup everything I could along the way. Even I lost track of the shades of gray.
And really, these shades turned out to be black and white (literally in the case of a fourth wave and its splinter group, “White Feminism.” Trust me, you don’t want this shade of pale). And these labels are all absolutely perfect for “othering” (America’s favorite pastime). But they do have differences that has each wave shaking its head at the other.
I could define these you for you, but others have done a much better job … (oh all right, here you go.The following is from Martha Rampton’s, ”Four Waves of Feminism:”
http://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/news-events/four-waves-feminism. I paraphrase or add where necessary).
1st wave: The Suffragettes and the first “unladylike” activists challenge the “cult of domesticity”
2nd wave: St. Gloria and the Gang take on sexuality and reproductive rights, beginning at the Miss America Pageant in 1968 and on into the 90’s fighting for the right to define and govern our own bodies. Patriarchy and normative sexuality are broadly challenged.And, more importantly for this girl, sex and gender are differentiated. But maybe even more important to today, these amazing elders were the first to show that race, class, and gender are all interrelated. But this is also the wave that gave rise to, ahem,‘scuse me, but, wymin? Not that the majority of second wavers even gave these wymin a second thought, but they struck a chord trying to define the gender as having been born with a vagina (we’ll get into this later on…maybe).
3rd wave: These daughters of the Nineties took all of the above to a stiletto high extreme – embracing the very symbols of male oppression that infuriated their “mothers,” taking back the sexualized images of female sexuality as empowering examples of Grrl power. These are the femmes fatales that truly took having choice as their divine right – and nobody, not even another woman, can take that right away. This is also the gang that defies the binary en toto – embracing gender non-conformity from the top down (pun intended again, you’re beginning to catch on), and eschewing women-only “spaces” as anachronistic, and impertinent. The most telling fact about these gender-bending boundary-busters (I resisted using bustiers, okay maybe not) is that they refuse the label “feminist,” never agreeing to uniform philosophy or collectivism or goals.
As for the 4th wave, it’s still in the incubation stages, rising up from the soils tilled by its mothers. A moving out from academia, as Martha Rampton postulated to Elle Magazine, to the real world; a realigning of ideals from the lofty optimism of the third wavers to the world where the same threats that women have endured through the centuries haven’t changed – but they are the stuff now of public discourse from rape and sexual abuse to homo- and transphobia, Title IX, and maternity leave.
Thanks Martha! Now, where was I? Oh yeah… where do I stand?
“It’s never before this time been a better time to be a woman,” say the papers and pundits.
We have Hil to thank for that, they say.
Wha????? This is where my estrogen begins to boil. Call it the “outrage” enzyme that is the free radical circulating in my veins. “Time to be a woman?” This is where I can see what my elder “second wavers” were trying to put into the nation’s consciousness – the unconscious patriarchy that makes it seem as tho’ no toxic superfund will ever really scrub from our society. Our “time” thank you very much, was, is, and will always be.
But tell that to the white male sector of our society, cuz honey, they ain’t going down without a fight. As many memes on the internet have said, the e-word, equality, to a man means that they will have to give up a portion of what they now enjoy. It’s so deep that most have confused treating us like a lady as already going one giant leap beyond equality – and keeping us on the pedestals that each constructs “for us” takes so much of their conscious and (unconscious) time that (maybe if you squint) you can almost see why. Wait did I just go third wave on you? Or rather me?
Do boys “just be boys” and we just shake our heads, love them and smile? Do we not wear low cuts so as to not provoke, distract, or “send the wrong message” them? Get me going second wave again! Isn’t this fun?
No. it’s… well, the worst I can say, it’s disheartening.
Which, in my world, is the mostest, absolute worstest evil of them all. Something that forcibly removes the heart from its rightful place in all things, is the detail in the devil.
Disheartening in the same way that black parents have to have“the talk” with their children, particularly their sons, about how to conduct themselves when they get stopped by the police (they will) so they don’t die. How four-letter word is that? More to point, how disheartening is that?
Yes, we as women have been given an abridged version of the talk (call it the talk-light, a third less murder than our regular beer) since time immoral (SIC). Don’t walk alone at night. Carry a rape whistle and mace – the boogie-MEN are out there and just because we’re taught to be paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us. This is brought to us by the letter R for reality. And nobody thinks this is weird? Am I right? We are raised in fear. To fear. By Fear.
And could we blame us?
Because, given that not all anyone is anything, boys (notice the use of words here) are all we hope they are not. Men, the mature version of said group in question, are everything we hope they are. And here’s why we separate the men from the boys…
The trouble comes when they choose to be the one and never the other. This happens when Judges decide that “he’s punished himself enough already, so six months for rape is more than enough” and Ol’ Judgie-pie actually thought he would get away with it. That Ol’ Judgie-pie thought he was above moral, ethical or even societal outrage is exactly the problem. This dude didn’t even think it was a problem, and when public outcry jacks up like a set wave, he ducks from the ire.His defense becomes the issue rather than his f**king stupidity. And he will be allowed to slink away … and her rape will be a festering scar … on her. On us. A scar that we will all have that will make that limb a little less limber, a little less open for a hug, a little more disheartened for the next woman.
So, hopefully by now, you can see my problem. I do know how a Lacrosse team could not only gang up on a woman but try to hide it and then get help hiding it, from their fathers and uncles.
I have been in the room where all the young dudes got to laugh and joke about “her” or “them” with a dialect that has its own punchlines that need no set-up, a learned language of privilege and manifest destiny that defies logic. And I have watched as some of the women around me smiled thru gritted teeth for the few unfortunate times they found themselves in those rooms. And yes, I have also been mystified by the rare instances when there were sisters who seemed to embrace the misogyny and sexism, either as a survival mechanism or as … I dunno what.
I confess that I must work to harbor no judgment for my sisters in any of those categories – after all, I myself know only too well what we’re all trying to protect ourselves from. My armor was success; yours could be whatever you choose.
The fact that we have to protect ourselves is the issue.
But, I do know what we’re dealing with. I do know that the mere fact that we have an ism to call our own is the disheartening part. Yes, I have an issue that we have to have feminism at all. But honey, it ain’t feminism’s fault. In fact, as I’ve demonstrated above, the only fault this girl can see is when feminism divides women.
But the question I started with, which wave does this girl ascribe to, is, as of this paragraph, still unanswered … and maybe it’s because I can see the thread that got us to here.
It could also be that, at this stage of my life, I am smart enough to know what I don’t know and hopeful enough not to care? A bit recklass maybe… Guilty as charged.
But it’s where my years of being raised with privilege and to have privilege, makes me a little sharper at where society’s boundaries are … and therefore where the weak spots are.
Which makes me a most inconvenient woman. (You knew I’d get the firsties back in the game, right?)
Next time, My Womanifesto…
All my love –
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden