Blogging the Theoretical

Feminist Waves

August 18, 2011 · 15 Comments

After reading Johnson and Coleman, it should be clear that feminism is anything but monolithic. For this post, I would like you to speak to the following:

What aspects of feminism (according to both authors) did you find most compelling? Most unsettling? Most salient? Most arcane? Given this, please articulate a 100 word vision statement on what you think activists should focus on right now and what you think feminism can or should contribute to the cause.

Categories: Against the Waves



15 responses so far ↓

  •   emseav09 // Aug 25th 2011 at 11:49 am

    Activism in relation to gender equality and social justice should start on a smaller scale and with progress on that smaller scale provides a window of opportunity to invoke change on a larger scale. Feminism needs to be approached on an individualistic basis. Women must individually fight for feminist goals of gender, equality and social justice in terms of how it would affect there individual lives. In the fight for changing gender power relations feminists can shed light on the areas in which need work by actively voicing their opinions on the struggles women face in their own relationships due to the power dynamics within them.

  •   ogmcma08 // Aug 25th 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I believe there needs to be a balance. Feminism has become solely individualistic. It is not a movement, it is a not a group, it is made up of individuals who choose or choose not to take action on issues that one feels strongly on. Those who choose to not, remain quite stagnant in their position. Although they may have strong beliefs, a lack of action will produce no change. Those who act, seem to ignore what has come before. In that respect, I agree with Coleman. There needs to be an acknowledgment of the past and triumphs of our mothers. I am not saying that we need to adopt strategies past, because those have become bunk. We need to recognize and adapt. That being sad, the biggest issues that my generation is facing today is the underlying degradation of women and their bodies. Although we have been lucky to be granted education, freedoms, employment opportunities; we are still second best. We are sexual objects, and we are treated as such. I am not saying that sex should become obsolete, but I want men in my world to see me for who I am. To respect my intelligence, and not degrade me because of my features. We all have different goals, and in today’s feminist world there is not one theory, not one goal, not one way to establish what we desire. However, we need to acknowledge the past, and communicate with our fellow individuals to spread the word on what is concerning our generation today. Maybe if we are all aware we can then formulate a plan of action.

  •   sjack10 // Aug 25th 2011 at 5:52 pm

    What I found to be the most compelling is how individualized feminism actually really is. When you first hear the term feminism you only think of it as being “one” thing because that is how it is categorized when there are actually many different kinds of feminism(s) which means that are many different types of feminist. These difference are so prevalent when reading the Johnson and Coleman articles. You have feminist who are confident in the “practice” of feminism and then you have those who question not only themselves but their “feminist practices”. What does it really mean to be a feminist? I found it somewhat unsettling to find someone who was so unsure of something that they claimed to be or to believe in. It blows my mind that most woman just sit around and pretend like everything is fine. In the past hundred years we have gained many rights but we still have a long way to go. How can we just sit around and act like making 15% less than a man is fine. Wage disparity based not only on gender but race as well is definitely an issue that something needs to be done about. We need people out there to remind us of the past struggles so they are not forgotten. We need to learn from the past to learn how to hopefully correct the future. Wage disparity not only effects us now but effects generations that have yet to come. If nothing is done, history will just keep repeating itself and it will a never ending cycle.

  •   ahvang08 // Aug 25th 2011 at 7:14 pm

    The most compelling aspects of feminism in the articles was the idea of “feminisms.” That there is no right or wrong way to be a feminist, in fact there are a wide range of feminists that have beliefs in different aspects of our society that need to be addressed. The most settling statistic in Coleman’s article was the fact that in New Zealand there has been an Equal Pay Act since 1972, however women only get around 83-85% of men’s average wage in the same occupations. I think the most important issues feminists should continue to work on are equal rights and opportunity in the workforce because that is the driving force in upholding a stable household.

  •   jmmore09 // Aug 25th 2011 at 7:32 pm

    While reading Johnson and Coleman, there have been plenty of questions in regards of the various issues revolving around feminism(s) and how feminism can contribute to these concerns. Considering that gender equality and social justice is an important attribute that activists strive on, there is a personal matter that many feminist face and that is having a balance on the roles that they are “assumed” to take on. Divorce has become more common in the United States and is increasing tremendously throughout the years. Women who label themselves as feminist tend to question their role as feminist, living through the notion that the relationships that they create with men are bound to be unfit because it does not pertain to the norms of “feminism”. Many feminist live with the desire of wanting to be married and having a family yet, feel in a sense that they’ve lost their right of individual choice because that is what society has embedded in women since birth. The fact that women are overthinking their roles as feminist to have this balance between pleasure and business leaves a strand in the relationship with their partner. The term “feminism” is a broad definition for many women who label themselves as feminist. Feminist should understand that though the historical content behind feminism is acknowledge, the term “feminism” is what they make it.

  •   rcrich09 // Aug 25th 2011 at 8:50 pm

    For me the most fascinating aspect of the two readings and their interaction was the argument made by Coleman in her critique of third wave feminism’s individualism. I found this distilled in the passage, “Feminism is not simply about an individual woman choosing how she will live her life, and it is not sufficient to claim that an individual’s intention to resist and subvert dominant power structures or societal conventions equates to feminist resistance and subversion.” I argue that she is drawing a proverbial line in the sand dividing feminist philosophy and feminism. I found this most interesting in comparison to the military in which individuality is snubbed out because the task is more important. On one hand this is unsettling because generally more militant groups often march over less visual problems in the pursuit of their great work; however, I can also see how focusing on one issue such as the dissonance created between hegemonic heterosexuality can be seen as less active. I’m fascinated by the question of legitimacy and whether or not it’s enough to know something if you aren’t trying to make change beyond just making something visible. The academic in me says perception is power and to see is to know how to change; however, there is a sense of urgency in all problems of equality and seeing does not seem to be sufficiently immediate. Thus I agree with Coleman that because issues such as wage inequality are not metaphysical then parsing out what it means to be a feminist should be done after more effective strategies towards societal equality have been exhausted.

  •   esmarv09 // Aug 25th 2011 at 10:08 pm

    The individuality surrounding third wave feminism is a very compelling part of the movement. It is important that all individuals are able to see the importance of equality, rather than a small group trying to make a big change. Although the individual efforts contribute to different aspects of the feminist movement, there needs to be a general support from society. As long as women are paid less and treated like sex objects and feminists are stereotyped as butch and lesbian, progress cannot be made. It doesn’t matter how many waves or types of feminism it takes to move forward, as long as those who label themselves as a feminist do so with a purpose and with an intention to promote change.

    Emily Marvin

  •   bphess09 // Aug 25th 2011 at 10:41 pm

    For me, the most prominent aspect of these two readings is the concentration of how phases of feminism have embedded a “need” for females to complete a daunting self-actualized task. In reality, this task varies from person to person which focuses on the individualistic effort. The intersectionality theory from Coleman indicated that there are sections and divides of feminism that have individually influenced change; therefore, each section is considered an integral part of a wave. Ultimately, it seems as though there are apparent stages and “stepping-stones” towards the ultimate goal but they are by no means concrete. The ultimate goal that is sought through each wave is personalized based on individual perspective and experience, which loosely shapes the marginalized efforts of feminism.

    Brooke Hessney

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:25 am

    Though they both identify as feminists, the perspectives of Coleman and Johnson are situated within divergent discourses, and here perhaps we find feminism’s most salient dilemma: how does one market feminism as relevant to the generations to come? The question Coleman’s article in particular leaves me asking is, what is a feminist besides an opinionated person, generally female, determined to alleviate the societal ills they deem pertain to the female sex? This seems to be the only common denominator. Earlier movements involved women banded together to confront a concrete opponent — the obvious social disparities between women and men, to the detriment of the former. Now, more women attend college than men, graduate with more advanced degrees, and go on to hold positions as leaders of the free world. It seems the patriarchal figure that loomed large in yester-years has been beaten into the shadows, resulting in a sense of disquiet that has women looking over their shoulders but hesitating to speak about what seems only a spectral concern. Instead of banding together to fight, the feminists of the third wave seem preoccupied with personal quandaries such as: in the age of the independent female, who foots the bill? While this is arguably a hyperbolic critique, the question remains: what becomes of feminism when the third wave settles for a compromise that trades solidarity for a form of self-sufficiency championing complacency rather than change?

    Kate Aseltine

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:25 am

    A big part of what I believe feminism to stand for and to promote is the idea of choice. People should not only be entitled to their own decisions concerning their own body, minds, and their livelihood in general, but simply the choice(s) pertaining to such things. I think feminism activists should focus on those choices that are in jeopardy of being taken away and those that are not already given to us. Doing this can consist of participating in such ethical movements as those fighting to keep, or regain, the right of ?pro-choice?. The right to choose whether one wants to terminate a pregnancy.

    Monica

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:28 am

    While reading Johnson and Coleman, there have been plenty of questions in regards of the various issues revolving around feminism(s) and how feminism can contribute to these concerns. Considering that gender equality and social justice is an important attribute that activists strive on, there is a personal matter that many feminist face and that is having a balance on the roles that they are “assumed” to take on. Divorce has become more common in the United States and is increasing tremendously throughout the years. Women who label themselves as feminist tend to question their role as feminist, living through the notion that the relationships that they create with men are bound to be unfit because it does not pertain to the norms of “feminism”. Many feminist live with the desire of wanting to be married and having a family yet, feel in a sense that they’ve lost their right of individual choice because that is what society has embedded in women since birth. The fact that women are overthinking their roles as feminist to have this balance between pleasure and business leaves a strand in the relationship with their partner. The term “feminism” is a broad definition for many women who label themselves as feminist. Feminist should understand that though the historical content behind feminism is acknowledge, the term “feminism” is what they make it.

    Jennifer Moreno

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:30 am

    I believe activists should focus on getting different ideas out to the public. Not only reflecting one perspective or viewpoint but helping others raise questions as to what choices are they making in life and are those choices due to opportunity, privilege or limitation. They should start out small, holding conferences and planning events, that explain to women that they do indeed have choices in life…the choice to stay comfortable or to challenge. I also believe that a feminist can contribute to this aspect because not only does a feminist strive through independence and choice but they also contribute to society by asking questions of “why” or “why not”? In the reading by Lisa Johnson, she raises questions as to “why cant a feminist have a boyfriend or do they even have one”? And as a feminist myself, I have never put myself in any position to question “does a man cripple me or does he enable me to hold more power because of the equality we hold within a relationship”? (Or if there is even equality within the relationship?). For example, why cant a woman work at a high top position and still be a mother? Why does society think that motherly duties cripple a woman from holding a position as a CEO or manager? In all, third wave feminism can contribute to this cause for the fact that many women have the opportunity to choose now and sort of think for themselves (because of the fact that many more women are educated). Some have even shifted away from social reconstruction and have decided to not carry out the American Dream but others have chosen to fulfill their motherly duties and work while at the same time switching their roles. And that is fine. If they are in an equal relationship and the man chooses to play the mother role while the mother goes out into the workforce…there is nothing wrong with that. Both spouses would be enforcing a feminist outlook because of the fact that they are comfortable, confident and they have made a choice; the only way to change society or views is to lead by example.

    Jennifer Rodriguez

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:31 am

    I have previously had the opportunity to learn a pretty substantial amount about the sex worker industry in the United States, mostly from a special topic class Sexual Orientation and Political Law so the view point of “Because I’m a whore” was one that I had been previously exposed to and one that real sex workers share across the globe. It became perfectly clear after reading the Coleman and Johnson pieces that there is no clear definition of feminism and it comes in many forms but both authors did narrow down the definition a bit. For Coleman feminism can come in many forms but in all scenarios it must be working towards a goal, a goal of social justice and equality. This makes a lot of sense to me because what is a cause without some goal? If you don’t know what you’re working towards then you will never succeed. Agreeing with Coleman on this point leads me to believe that the Australian sex workers views about feminism and its relation to sex workers holds a lot of validity. She makes it clear that the feminist movement should have the common goal of protecting women from exploitation and promoting sex worker safety when it is working towards protecting sex workers specifically. This seems to fit the limits that Coleman puts on what is and isn’t considered feminism and in my eyes sex workers can play an active role in feminist movements because they are trying to promote social justice and equality.

    Without conceptualizing sex workers participation in feminism in this way you may be inclined to think that being a sex worker would be directly in conflict with being a feminist because of the nature of their career choices. Johnson expressed a similar conflict of interest when trying to balance being a feminist and an ideal wife and woman. I realized while reading her piece that an ideal world for me, one where the feminist movement had nothing left to do, would be one where individuals could make whatever life choices they wanted and be treated with equality and respect. In this world if a woman really enjoyed pleasing her partner and being the ideal wife she could without betraying the feminist cause in any way. And the same would go for the sex worker who wouldn’t be judged for her career and would instead be offered the protection any woman deserves. The Australian sex worker held the opinion that the sex workers should be directly involved in any feminist movement trying to help them because they know what will actually be helpful and what will accidentally make things worse. Often times feminists fighting for a cause that they are not directly involved in can back fire because it isn’t what the individuals need. In Johnson’s case her individual way of helping herself was finally explaining her actions to her partner and explaining what she needed from him. The question that is left unanswered in my mind after breaking down what each of these writers had to say is; if feminism becomes about individuals and there is no longer unity in the movement will anything be universally accomplished?

    In my opinion activists should be focusing on areas, like the sex work industry, that are still being exposed to exploitation and unsafe conditions. These are the people that need the most help. When helping them activists shouldn’t come from the outside and set their own agendas. They need to find out what the exploited group really needs. They should work directly with the group to make measurable accomplishments like not only having the options of being a sex worker working alone or registered with a brothel and have to carry that classification with you the rest of your life.

    -Violet Batcha

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 5:47 am

    In these readings I found it very interesting that there is not one specific explanation for anything. Also, through Johnson’s reading I understood that our generation is not questioning the things we learned, but rather we are questioning ourselves. I also found it interesting in Johnson’s reading that when she wanted to marry her boyfriend he said that “I love you to much to make you something that small”. From that I understood that he was being more of a feminist then she was. However, anyone can be a feminist no matter what they want out of life, as long as they want the best for women. In Coleman’s reading I found it most interesting when she stated that “we have to be up front about the fact that some of the old ways of seeing and understanding things are not up to the task and some of the new ways of doing things may be missing the mark”. Feminists need to find the perfect medium. From both these readings I believe that there are many different forms of feminism. As long as women are fighting to make a difference to better situations for themselves then that counts.
    Troli

  •   degan // Aug 26th 2011 at 9:56 am

    Reflecting upon both the class readings and the first class discussion, I think that feminism, particularly this supposed “third wave of feminism,” has several uniquely specific problems. However, I think that Jenny Coleman perhaps notes feminism’s greatest problem, when she states that “competing feminisms…exist within any given period of time” (5). In this sense, feminism can never be considered a strictly “uniform perspective” because there is a such wide range of issues that a person could consider ‘feminist’ (9). For example, in the case of lesbian rights or sex working, many feminists may disagree as to whether these issues really constitute a feminist concern. Some feminists might argue that these issues are inherently related to the feminist cause, while others might find that they are not relatable to the primary feminist goal of gender equality. In many ways, this simple lack of clarity is the greatest problem for feminist because it confuses or otherwise frustrates a feminist’s complete identification with the contemporary wave of feminism. On the one hand, feminism can be seen strictly as an equalizing movement and yet on the other, it can be seen as a movement extending far beyond the goals of political, economic, and social equality. As Lisa Johnson notes, many feminists argue mainly for “less restrictive gender roles,” where the nuclear family can be considered only “one relationship configuration among many” (49). And yet, while female empowerment and equality are central goals to the feminist cause, many issues that are considered feminist seem to reach beyond the simple call for the same rights as men.

    Caity P

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