One of the constant bug bears of my feminist identity is how often I have received criticism for not only BEING a Feminist, but for being a YOUNG Feminist and for how I ‘do’ my feminism. For years, I was afraid to identify myself as a feminist- I’d been told too many times I couldn’t be one- I was too young, too poor, too badly educated, too married (yes, married feminists in fact, do not exist /snark), I had children and horror of horrors, I had changed my name upon marriage.
It took a long time, reading The F Word and having a Feminist professor at college for me to ‘come out’ as a card carrying member of the sisterhood. So, it grates upon me even more now, when Second Wavers tell me I’m doing it all wrong and ‘that’s not what it’s about’ or my particular favourite- ” Speaking as the senior feminist” as if Feminism has some form of hierarchy and I’m a mere underling on the belly of the movement. Generally I get quite narked. And that is the polite version!
I’m all for recognizing and remembering the work of feminists who have gone before. I am all for celebrating the achievements of women who have been activists before myself and the generation of Third Wavers, to which I belong. I wouldn’t for a second want to undermine the hard work, and struggle that those women put in, or the things they achieved.
But in the same way that I wouldn’t be rude to Gloria Steinem for being older than me, or for having been part of the movement at a time that has a different political consciousness to the consciousness it has now, I don’t expect to have ‘Senior Feminists’ being rude to me because I’m only 25, or because I was married, or because I’m a mother, or because I like the idea of getting married again and taking his name. My feminism is not the same as anyone else’s feminism, but I do share with everyone from the most radical to the most liberal, a recognition that women are treated as second class citizens in this world, that this state of affairs is entirely wrong and I work alongside other women and pro feminist men, to put an end to that, just the same as every other feminist out there, regardless of hir age, gender, class, colour, orientation of religious beliefs.
Regardless, of the fact that I am a fellow feminist and activist, I am also a human being, as is every other young/third wave feminist and we don’t deserve to be patronised or spoken down to just because we aren’t second wavers, and we weren’t at Greenham Common/ Vietnam Peace Marches/ The Original Reclaim the Night Marches.
Bearing that in mind, I exhort, every Second Wave or ‘older’ feminist to think before she chastises a younger feminist for having a Pro Girlie attitude, or for being young, or getting married, or for choosing to change her name in an informed and thoughtful way. I ask Second Wavers to recognise that as technology and the world has moved forward and amalgamated new cultural expressions, so has the feminist movement. Women who are Third Wave activists will have a totally different cultural and political consciousness and experience to Second Wave activists. It doesn’t make us wrong, it makes us products of our time and experiences.
I would finally salute the women who have marched before us, who made zines, and boycotted goods, who held consciousness raising groups, who fought for a women’s right to choose, for us to not be raped or beaten by our husbands or partners and have it condoned in law. I recognise and celebrate your achievements. All I ask, is that you have the courtesy to do the same for us.