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Third Wave feminism


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A movement for the renewal of feminism's original project—i.e. equality between the sexes—expanded to incorporate those women, particularly women of colour, and women from the Third World, who felt excluded from Second Wave feminism. Often conflated with so-called post-feminism, although it is not the same thing at all, Third Wave feminism has its roots in the disappointments and conflicts which brought the Second Wave to a halt. Writers like Gloria Anzaldúa and bell hooks argued for a new conception of feminist subjectivity that took account of race as well as class and gender. In the public sphere, feminism fought to retain the gains it had made, in the face of an anti-equal rights onslaught by the Reagan and Thatcher administrations in the US and UK respectively. The tipping point, so to speak, was the way Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas were handled in 1991. In spite of Hill's testimony, Thomas was nonetheless confirmed as a Supreme Court judge, sparking Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice Walker, the author of The Colour Purple (1982) to write a stirring riposte for Ms. magazine entitled ‘I am the Third Wave’ thus giving the movement a name.

Further Reading:

S. Gillis, G. Howie, and R. Munford Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration (2007).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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