Now that I’ve had a good chunk of February to contemplate the choices of Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright in their comments about the younger generations of women in support of Hillary Clinton, while I still find their comments short-sighted, offensive and outright condescending they are a bit more understandable if you pay attention to the evolution of feminism.
First-wave feminism was the hardest. These were not just the ones who fought for us to have the right to vote, but also the right to their own destinies without the approval of a father or a husband, the right to an education and a profession, and many of the options we as women now take for granted.
I don’t personally believe that first-wave feminism would have had even a foot in the door if it weren’t for the Industrial Revolution’s mass production allowing greater freedom from the painstaking labor of life, particularly in urban areas. Even then, while it gathered poor and rich women alike, it was only those of greater financial capability that were able to make the most difference.
Other historical events that gave more power to the first-wave feminism, including the needs of both World Wars. Both of the World Wars took so many of the men away from jobs necessary to maintain not only the wars, but to maintain civilian life as well. Women started working in factories, farms and anyplace where there weren’t enough men to fill all of the necessary roles. Even though they were laid-off at the end of both wars, the fact that they proved capable of doing the jobs of men started to change the view of the public on what women were truly capable of.
On the other hand, second-wave feminism started in the 1960s and 1970s. After the victories of the first-wave, second-wave needed to focus on the cultural aspects of equality. They fought to legally redefine the outdated laws regarding rape to include married women being forced to acquiesce to their husband’s right to sex. They fought to redefine outdated laws on abuse, and to support those who were being abused – both women and children. They fought to make the world acknowledge that those who are vulnerable in our society deserve to be protected. Yes, they fought for the right of abortion, because abortion has frankly always been with us – but keeping it illegal meant that women and girls died when they did not have to, because no one regulated the people giving them – things like clothes-hanger abortions, drinking poisonous teas or taking poisonous herbs, throwing themselves down stairs or other ways to force a miscarriage. Things that women have done for CENTURIES, just like many women before the 60s ended up being “sent away” to recover from “rheumatic fever” (which should be spelled “romantic” fever).
Like with the first-wave feminists, class background as well as ethnic background meant that both waves focused on those who were white and fairly well off. Women of other ethnicities or those living in poverty were all wrapped up into the idea of “vulnerable adults”, and rarely if at all had any kind of voice in the changes the second-wave brought about.
Both first and second wave feminists were FORCED to band together, forced to show a “united front” supporting each other even if they couldn’t stand each other or couldn’t agree even on each others’ goals. First wave and Second wave feminists were murdered for their beliefs, beaten and raped, attacked both in print and in person. Unfortunately, this also led to that same myopia that afflicts many “men’s rights” groups today – anyone or anything are critical of the feminist movement, or of certain feminists, is therefore destructive. I’m not saying that third-wave feminists are not murdered, beaten, raped or attacked for standing up for what they believe in, but I am saying that it is not in any way, shape or form the kind of numbers that the first two waves experienced.
Third wave feminism, from what I’ve seen and experienced is far more inclusive. Not only more inclusive of other ethnicities, but also inclusive of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and many other linked issues (i.e. intersectionality). The majority of feminists are focused more on full equality – not just for women, but for everyone…men included. Because, what we third-wavers learned from our ancestresses is that fighting for ONLY one section of humanity is NOT enough.
Oh, there are sub-sets of third-wave feminism that aren’t in any way inclusive at all. Radical feminists, for example, are so angered by our so-called “patriarchal society” that no forms of compromise are possible. Only the complete overthrow of our current system of culture will content them. To them, often anyone who has a penis (including gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women) is automatically evil, and should be treated like secondary citizens.
I don’t personally believe that ANY human is inherently evil, no matter what labels they carry. And THAT, my friends, is what I see gaining strength. But those who are stuck in an earlier understanding of society, or who ONLY want to see “people like them” gain ascendancy in power and influence are going to keep fighting it. They can’t see that just because someone is different does not mean that they are bad or evil. It just means they are different.
Sadly, what I am seeing with Clinton, Steinem and Albright is that because they are stuck in their myopic view of the world, they cannot see that people need equality, not just women. And with Clinton being bought-and-paid-for by her corporate masters (helps that she’s “people like them”), and cannot see that there are just as many people fighting against marginalism that are of EVERY class, color, creed, gender and ethnicity – I refuse to vote for her because all she offers is “more of the same.” We need something different, something that will bring the country together instead of continuing divisiveness.