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This only comes from my own experiences, but has anyone also sensed a sort of friction between 2nd Wave Radical Feminists and 3rd Wave Liberal Feminists?

When I first arrived at the feminist movement, I'd thought that it was all loving — that we were a big family. It wasn't until I arrived at a Young Feminists Summit a few months ago that I, over dinner, heard stories of how feminists my age are afraid of the 2nd-wavers, that they might not "approve" of what these young feminists are wearing, or are offended by what these young feminists have to say. It wasn't until then did I realize that there were friction within our movement.

I've been accused now of being divisive of the movement, in that I am speaking out against some of the actions of 2nd Wave Radicals. Now: is it not our responsibilities as those who care about and are committed to this movement to speak out against those whose actions serve as a deterrent to our movement? Thoughts?


My initial reaction to your note is simply — yes, yes, yes. In fact, in my book Manifesta, there is an entire chapter devoted to this topic, the relationships between mothers and daughters, both "real" mothers and mothers/daughters in this movement. Plus, I now do a good deal of lecturing on college campuses and in many instances, step right into the middle of this "gap." Specifically, I see younger women being feminist and audacious and brave and political and I see older women not seeing it — because it's not how they remember it.

As I see it, the main tension comes back to an assumption that there is a very limited way to express one's feminism — and one that is based on a very "second wave" approach to feminism — protesting in the streets, having CR groups, demanding workplace integration. Yet, what made those tactics newsworthy and effective is that they were novelties. Today, those tactics aren't as effective and thus it seems more necessary for us to work for change by working with the system — this doesn't mean that we still can't be radical and outspoken, but I think we do so with more sensitivity to what might be effective.

I have been at one too many gatherings where the older women are entirely overlooking the younger women's contribution. And yet, when we have gone around the room and people have tallied up what they are doing in the name of feminist activism, the younger women are by far making more effort — mostly because they have the time and initiative and fresh perspective to do so. Yet the older women refuse to see it— because a) it either didn't make the news, or b) because they always want to qualify what is feminist or political.

All of that said...I actually personally feel entirely supported and embraced by most older feminists, but I know that's a unique perspective. And yet, I think I came to that place mostly because I stopped asking for permission and just kept doing my work. We certainly need to bridge these gaps — we need to learn what worked in the past, but ditto, older women need to learn how to try to new things. It's imperative that more communication happen and less judgment and assumptions.

-- Amy