Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 4-1-2005

Capstone Advisor

Janis A. Mayes

Honors Reader

Gwendolyn D. Pough

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | Fiction | Other English Language and Literature


The self-proclaimed “third wave” ofUnited Statesfeminism, which rose from the abyss of “postfeminist” 1980s conservatism in the early 1990s, is a vibrant movement that is quickly picking up the pace of feminist organizing in the new millennium. Third wave feminists envision themselves as taking up the torch of the 1960-1970s “second wave” of feminism, but expanding upon it by emphasizing intersectionality (the complex interaction of multiple oppressions, e.g. sexism, racism, classism) and making room for sexiness, joy, and fun in feminist organizing and theorizing. It is a discourse that strives toward and privileges intersectional analyses that create space in which ambiguities, contradictions, and the unique realities of individual women’s and men’s lives—especially non-monolithic understandings of race, class, sexuality, religion, culture—are valued and honored as authentic.

However, I argue that due to the conceptualization of the movement as the “third wave,” unnecessary divisions are constructed between generation, nation, and culture that are contradictory to its most central and sacred visions. A critical interrogation of contemporary feminist literature reveals numerous shortcomings implicated by the feminist “wave” construct. By identifying as the “third wave,” contemporary feminist movement aligns itself with a historically racist and classist movement, even as it rebels against it to the extent that generational conflict emerges between second wave “mothers” and third wave “daughters.” As a result, divisions are constructed which a) preclude possibilities for meaningful transnational coalition; b) discredit innovative theory by women of color and progressive white women that existed prior to the third wave’s inception, which speak to many of the very issues the third wave prioritizes; and c) interrupt possibilities for transgenerational dialogue.

Ultimately, a “third wave” construct perpetuates the racist, reductive, and imperial historicization of mainstream Western feminism. Therefore, as the current “third wave” formulation serves very limited functions yet is responsible for creating multiple divisions and conflicts which are antithetical to feminist praxis, especially a feminism that seeks to create affiliations with global anti-sexist movements, I maintain that it behooves feminist theorists to re-imagine millennial feminist praxis by re-historicizing feminism in an international context.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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