What is Third Wave Feminism?

Updated: January 19, 2023
Third wave feminism is a continuation of the feminist movement that began in the early 1990s. It is a response to the perceived failures of second wave feminism and the rise of the post-structuralist and post-modernist movements.
Detailed answer:

The term “third wave” was coined by Rebecca Walker in her 1992 essay “Becoming the Third Wave.” Walker defines third wave feminism as “a multi-tendency cultural feminist movement focused on challenging power structures that have historically oppressed women under the guise of protecting them.” She also defines it as an ideology that emphasizes freedom of choice for all people regardless of race or gender.

The third wave arose out of dissatisfaction with second-wave feminism’s emphasis on identity politics and its failure to address issues such as racism and classism within the movement itself. The third wave focuses on intersectionality: recognizing how different forms of oppression intersect with one another to create unique experiences for each individual woman or girl (such as black women or lesbian women).

In contrast to second-wave feminists who tended to be white, middle class or wealthy and often straight, third-wavers were more likely to be people of color (POC). They were also more likely to have grown up during the Civil Rights Movement or other social justice movements; many were involved in anti-racism activism prior to becoming involved with feminism.

The third wave also sought to challenge heteronormativity, which refers to cultural expectations that everyone is heterosexual and married.

Third wave feminists reject traditional gender roles (women as homemakers and men as breadwinners) and instead promote equality between genders in all areas of life, including work, family life and personal decisions such as what careers to pursue or how much money to make.

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What is Third Wave Feminism?. (2023, Jan 19). Retrieved from