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Writing the F-Word: Girl Power, the Third Wave, and Postfeminism

  • Rebecca Munford
Part of the The History of British Women’s Writing book series (HBWW)

Abstract

The 1990s witnessed the beginnings of feminism’s transformation into the ‘f-word’, a word too indeterminate, too risky, and too offensive to be fully articulated. Feminist thinking in the 1990s called into question assumptions about the category ‘woman’, putting pressure on notions of a unified subject of ‘feminism’. Influenced by postmodern notions of subjectivity, and informed by developments in the fields of poststructuralist, post-colonial, and queer theory, third-wave feminism offered a response to the perceived limitations of second-wave feminism. The term ‘third-wave feminism’ was popularized by Rebecca Walker, who announced in a 1992 article for Ms. Magazine, written in response to the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings in the US, ‘I am not a postfeminism feminist. I am the third wave.’1 Distancing herself from popular postfeminist accounts of the demise or ‘death’ of feminism, Walker’s self-identification as ‘third waver’ affirmed the enduring vitality of feminist politics. Her use of the wave metaphor, however, performs a double function: at the same time as it conveys continuity and connection, it also articulates difference and dissociation. Installing the generational vocabulary that has characterized many of its subsequent expressions, Walker’s pronouncement about third-wave feminism intimates a movement away from the second wave and asserts a reinvigorated feminist politics.

Keywords

Feminist Politics Wave Feminist Queer Theory Woman Writer Historical Fiction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    In 1991, Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush. The proceedings were challenged by Anita Hill who had worked with Thomas and who made allegations of sexual harassment. Rebecca Walker, ‘Becoming the Third Wave’, Ms. (January 1992), p. 41. The meanings attached to third-wave feminism were developed in the proliferation of (mainly American) texts published from the mid-1990s onwards. See, for example, Rebecca Walker’s To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism (New York: Anchor, 1995);Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Rebecca Munford 2015

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  • Rebecca Munford

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