Matricide by the third wave?

Katha Pollitt in The Nation  thinks not:

In “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide,” her cover story in the October Harper’s, Susan Faludi argues that young feminists are frivolous fashionistas who choose Lady Gaga over Gloria Steinem and consumerism over activism, thereby betraying the cause—and their second-wave mothers, real and figurative. Faludi thinks today’s young feminists are out to kill their mothers, much as young women in the 1920s rejected the Victorian matriarchs who had won them the vote: “Over and over, a younger generation disavows the women’s movement as a daughter disowns her mother.”

Jessica Valenti’s piece in an earlier Nation  argues a quite different point.  She does see younger women as ignored and/or sexualized by the older feminists, but she lays a heavy charge at her elders’ door.  That is, they’ve neglected what must be the core goals of a sustainable feminism:

Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged. What’s most important to remember as we fight back against conservative appropriation is that the battle over who “owns” the movement is not just about feminists; feminism’s future affects all American women. And if we let the lie of conservative feminism stand—if real feminists don’t lay claim to the movement and outline their vision for the future—all of us will suffer.

Feminism has in fact restricted its attention to “white women’s concerns” and, as such, become vulnerable to the idea that Palin and the Grizzlies can also be feminists.

These are such important issues.  What do you think?

And by the way, we should watch what we write if we have children!  Rebecca Walker’s  reactions to her mother’s writing should give us all pause.  It certainly calls matricide to mind.   (As far as I know I have nothing in print beyond one unfortunate comment comparing cats and babies, or more accurately, observing that I might not have had a child had I had a cat.  Sorry!!  Obviously just a joke!!!)

7 thoughts on “Matricide by the third wave?

  1. The article linked to indicates Rebecca Walker’s reaction is not primarily to her mother’s writing, but to how her mother treated her and treats her. Alice Walker really sounds like a dreadful woman – is the article a fair description of her, does anyone know?

  2. I’ve been worrying for a while that, with respect to the space of sexual possibilities for young women and it reigning norms, there’s a new “generation gap” — one that feminist philosophers of my (older) generation, at least, are for the most part ignoring. The full-blown version of my most comprehensive writing on this subject will appear in Charlotte Witt’s soon-forthcoming collection of essays called Feminist Metaphysics (which, by the way, contains some amazing work by Sally Haslanger, Linda Alcoff, Marilyn Frye, and many other feminist philosophers, established and up-and-coming). But my view on this subject is still a work in progress, and I’d be happy to send a talk version to anyone who’s interested in reading or, even better, helping me with it!

  3. Thanks, Nancy! I finally put the link to our posts on your work into my comment (#1 above). I’m assuming people can find your email address on your page at Tufts.

  4. Tina, about Alice Walker: I think we need to realize that this is one view, that of someone who appears to hate her. I can see gaps where another interpretation is possible.

    I’m very short of time. Let me add that AW may have been trying to pull together an exceptionally difficult life; I can remember having a child about the same time, and there were almost no models one could follow. It all seemed chaotic to me.

  5. I found Astrid Henry’s book, “Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational Conflict and Third Wave Feminism” to be an interesting read on this topic.

  6. I feel the need to preface any remarks on these matters with concern for not using/abusing false dichotomies. Nonetheless, I venture to contend that a good deal of what passes today for third wave feminism seems to my possibly narrow mind to serve the social function of rationalizing the internalization of the latest (and many of the oldest, which are still around) forms of harmful gender stereotypes. Many accounts of what distinguishes the third from the second wave seem to me simply to reproduce (through ignorance or otherwise) many of the main and most important elements of second wave feminism, combined with alleged elements that seem to rationalize harmful gender stereotypes so that ‘feminists can have their MTV’ (which is one of my dated ways of wording the contention).

    Catharine MacKinnon is one of my greatest moral heroes, along with many others such as Sandra Bartky and Alison Jaggar. Of course, like all pioneering and great work/movements, we make progress both by keeping what works and by making modifications/innovations as people develop improvements. My narrow mind just continues not to see the need for much more than (or substantially different from) the kinds of hard work (past, present and future) done by second wave feminists.

    On the other hand, there are problems such as the ‘Nanny Question’ in Feminism discussed (along with many others) by Joan C. Tronto and the excellent work by Uma Narayan (to name quickly just two representative examples). However, this work seems to be part of the larger project in the past 10-30 years of realizing more and more how much we need to apply all of our ethical/political concerns, principles, and theories (not just those involving feminism) at global and more inclusive levels (as opposed to the traditional levels that roughly assumed application to certain groups within certain boundaries, such as national ones), It seems as though the main and most important tenets of the second wave contain the requisite principles, commitments, and theories for this global and more inclusive application for which most all theories of ethics and justice require overhauling. Ann Cudd and Martha Nussbaum, for instance, certainly and wonderfully work in this direction (though perhaps not as far as many would like).

    I would like to say that we might be better off without these distinctions (between the second and the third waves) and whatever polemics come with them. However, in my humble opinion, the best work by third wavers involves continuing, improving, extending, and more appropriately applying the best work by second wavers – while subtracting the concerns about the third wave briefly and roughly expressed above. One alleged problem here is that such “subtracting” seems to amount to an updated version of the unfortunate work that second wave feminism needed to work toward if not accomplish in the first place (that is, very roughly trying to convince certain third wavers to transcend various forms of sexist false consciousness). The problem is that this alleged subtraction problem brings me back to the ideas with which my comment here began.

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