Third-wave Feminism & Why we Need It


My underarm and other parts of my body have formed soft tiny afros since I was 19-years-old at Pennsylvania State University. This personal hygiene choice is not something I consider a statement. It is a basic level of comfort as I find razors to be abrasive to my delicate skin.

Even so, sprinkled on Instagram and in the depths of Black Tumblr are little baby feminists with tiny hairs peeking through their sundresses. These are sprouts of third-wave feminism.

Here’s the thing;  I believe Feminism is as simple as those identifying as female no longer wanting to be treated like shit.

Third-wave feminism began when I was a pre-teen in the early 1990s. “It refers to several diverse strains of feminist activity and study, whose exact boundaries in the history of feminism are a subject of debate, but are generally marked as beginning [then] and continuing to the present. The movement arose partially as a response to the perceived failures of and backlash against initiatives and movements created by second-wave feminism during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, and the perception that women are of “many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and cultural backgrounds.

The fundamental rights and programs gained by feminist activists of the second wave – including the creation of domestic-abuse shelters for women and children and the acknowledgment of abuse and rape of women on a public level, access to contraception and other reproductive services (including the legalization of abortion), the creation and enforcement of sexual-harassment policies for women in the workplace, child-care services, equal or greater educational and extracurricular funding for young women, women’s studies programs, and much more – have also served as a foundation and a tool for third-wave feminists.

Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldúa, Bell Hooks, Kerry Ann Kane, Cherríe Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, Reena Walker and many other feminists of color, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of subjects related to race.”

Why is third-wave necessary?

  1. Because in the United States, what women are allowed to do to their bodies is literally being ruled by the Supreme Court as I type.
  2. Education, a fundamental human right is not given to us. So we comprise two thirds of illiteracy worldwide, and 60 percent of the world’s poorest people.
  3. We live in rape culture and tell our young women to not dress in revealing clothes, flirt too much, drink too much or go out alone at night.
  4. Women in the U.S. make an average of 78 cents to their male coworker’s dollar for doing the exact same job. That pay gap gets even larger globally.
  5. We are not being represented on a broad level, whereas many mainstream white feminists forget and silence the struggles of its diverse group.
  6. And because getting married to a man is still seen as an accomplishment.

Despite the counter culture I exist in, I sometimes smell misogyny on the men I go on “dates” with, it seeps through their pores. Women are still dismissed in classrooms, boardrooms, and bedrooms based on dusty standard of patriarchy. What third-wave feminism does that regular feminism does not address are the topics that are as diverse as the identities of all women.

Much like true democracy, we have to remember that our different ideals, identities and values must be heard and represented. We can not divide because I am straight and you are gay, because I am African-American and you are Mexican. We have to align so that our words and statements are more than just hair growing under our arms.

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