Wednesday, April 26, 2006


There's a very interesting post by Nubian called Gender does not trump race. You should go over there and read it, she does a great job of deconstructing gender and race as interconnecting systems.

But that's not actually what I'm going to talk about. In her article Nubian said:

It is very naive and very, very 2nd wave-ish to say, “well, gender trumps race.”
I'm not an expert on the American feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, although I do know a bit about it. But I really don't think 'well, gender trumps race' as an argument, was a defining feature of the feminism of that time.

Nubian cross-posted this post to Alas and I resoponded there. She replied, and I'm taking this reply here, because I don't want to derail her thread:
and i realize a number of different movements were taking place, but from my understanding, most of them had a similar goal of addressing gender oppression of women

sisterhood is global slogans
lesbian seperatist feminism
radical feminism
This may be where we fundamentally disagree, because I don't think that any of these ideas, by themselves, support the argument 'gender trumps race'. Arguing that gender is important and fighting gender oppression is not arguing that it 'trumps' anything else.

The other thing I wanted to argument with, but didn't because I didn't want to derail Nubian's thread is this:
The Third Wave was coined and founded by Rebecca Walker who is half black and Alice Walker’s daughter and it’s ironic and sad that the third wave is not much less racist than the second wave.
I'm always a little surprised whenever I see anyone using the term second-wave feminism. I thought the two wave model of feminism had been so thoroughly discredited that no-one would dishonour the feminists who worked between women winning the vote and the 1960s by continuing to ignore their existance.

The term 'third-wave' makes me actively angry. Women who called themselves second-wave feminists have the excuse of ignorance. The history of women's resistance had been systemtically ignored and repressed, so it's no wonder that women in the 1960s didn't realise that there had been huge amounts of activism in the past. But part of the activism of women's liberation was rediscovering this history, which is why the term second-wave feminism stopped being a term that people used to identify themselves with. Although, unfortunately, it is still used by the media reasonably often.

To use the term third-wave willfully and knowledgely ignores the history of women's resistence (a fact that Rebecca Walker is aware of, and points out to interviewers).


  1. I find this really interesting, because as I read it, I realised that I did in fact consider feminism to have originated in the 60s, even as I knew my country to be the first to get women's votes because of the suffragettes. Sometimes I wonder where the hell my brain is as I automatically accept the way things are depicted by society. Of course there have always been women who have been feminists- but isn't it easy to think the way we're supposed to, without even knowing it?!

    (And apologies for my ignorance, will do better next time...)

  2. Thank you to all who have taken action in the past. Recently, US Women Without Borders reader David Teague sent our letter to the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times about the violence in Darfur. His local papers published it, reaching nearly 60,000 of his neighbors.

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  3. Thank you very much. That was the same objection that I had to the post. I hate the "wave system" for all the reasons you mentioned. History erases us all the time, why are we doing it to ourselves?

  4. Those wonderful suffragettes. For anyone who's interested I suggest reading about Emily Pankhurst with particular reference to the white feather.

  5. I think you missed the point of my post entirely.

    I was talking about all feminist work between the gaining of suffrage and the women's liberation movement.

    I agree that some pretty shitty things were done by those fighting for suffrage over the years, but Emmeline Pankhurt was not the whole movement.