A friend who is working towards a master’s degree in art therapy recently informed me of a term for modern feminism I hadn’t heard before: Third-Wave Feminism.
A great deal can be said about the start of this movement and its roots, but in a nutshell, it’s a radical and extremely critical version of feminist ideologies, and worse — I’ve seen ripples of the negative effects it’s having on women everywhere.
What Is Third-Wave Feminism, and Why Is It Problematic?
Prior to my phone conversation with my friend, I had somewhat incorrectly termed Third-Wave Feminism “Neo-Feminism.” Neo-Feminism is what critics sometimes call ‘lipstick’ feminism or a type of feminism that focuses on empowerment through embracing (often harmful) female stereotypes (think high heels, pink shirts, and lipgloss). Third-Wave Feminism incorporates many of the tenants of Neo-Feminism, but that’s hardly the whole picture.
According to Brittanica.com, Third-Wave Feminists are “dedicated to supporting groups and individuals working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice” and seek “to question, reclaim, and redefine the ideas, words, and media that have transmitted ideas about womanhood, gender, beauty, sexuality, femininity, and masculinity.”
When many women look at it through a certain lens, it seems fine, right? But the trouble with any movement lies in the application.
The New Cool Card
According to a recent study done by data scientist David Shor (included by Intelligencer in their article “Men and Women Have Never Been More Politically Divided”), around 30% of all Gen Z women now identify as LGBT. A large portion of that percentage, probably more than half, is covered by women who are or who claim to be bisexual.
While I agree with this statistic, I think that one thing data scientists (and feminist groups) fail to fully grasp is why so many girls in a particular generation now align themselves with LGBTQ circles, and not just bi, but gender-nonconforming, non-binary, and all kinds of other ‘in-between’ labels.
30% of all Gen Z women now identify as LGBT.
Some statisticians (and rights groups) argue that the increase in labeling correlates to increased acceptance of and awareness of women on varying degrees of the gender and sexuality spectrum, but from what I’ve witnessed, this isn’t really the full picture.
In truth, there’s a kind of increasing self-aggrandizement that surrounds this idea of identifying as any type of LGBTQ. It’s a social marker that puts you in the “in” crowd. It makes you cool, it makes you one of the crowd. It also makes you “safe.” Let’s dive more into that last one.
Hating Men (and Other Women) Makes Us Better Feminists?
I’ve seen an increasing number of women swear off dating, swear off marriage, swear off kids, and especially, swear off men, in the last several years. I’ve also seen more and more young women identify as various combinations of the gender-sex paradigm, and they all seem to have one thing in common: they really hate men. They also really hate anything that reminds them of “traditional” women — i.e., women who are heterosexual, cisgender, and who want to form long-standing relationships with men that involve marriage, children, and some type of home life.
For Third-Wave Feminists, aligning with any of these things strips away their commitment to dismantling those questions, claims, and definitions about women and gender, and makes them hypocrites. They also label any woman who opposes their viewpoints about these questions, claims, and definitions hypocrites as well, and throw them under the feminist bus, so to speak.
Identifying as LGBTQ is an instant “pass” from Third-Wave Feminism.
This is why the above example of the “cool card” works so well for many young, unattached females. It’s easy to consider the possibility of being bi, or non-binary, or some other label — even if you never really were, or you weren’t sure that you were. I’ve known feminist women who proudly announced their bi status on Pride Day but never dated other women, and who are now married (to a man) with children and no longer make identification a big priority.
Could I be misinterpreting their intentions? Possibly. But I also have to consider the potential that “being anything” is better than being nothing to them because identifying as LGBTQ is an instant “pass” from Third-Wave Feminism. If you don’t identify as LGBTQ, you have to be all-in on the rest, and the rest is hard to swallow since it involves tearing down other women, making fun of their marriages and home lives, and treating outliers like they’re completely invisible when you’re talking about women’s rights issues.
What Do Third-Wave Feminists Want?
Third-Wave Feminism, in my opinion, not only wants to “crush the patriarchy” but also wants to be able to move in a circle where men (and traditional women) are not just optional, they’re completely unnecessary.
Being female doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to you or me — it means living a life of glitter and thunder, where all the worst female stereotypes marry an anti-child, anti-family worldview and deliver to the world a crowd of superficial, sexless persons who carry the banner of “Woman” without knowing what it really means. They’re pro-abortion, pro-sex (but the kind that “counts”), and pro-trans rights (because “Woman” is a tag-line, not a biological reality).
Third-Wave Feminism wants to be able to move in a circle where men are completely unnecessary.
In this perspective, any man who isn’t an “ally” is the enemy, and men, in general, are very optional, can be easily replaced, and should support them and their increasingly hard-to-pin-down perspectives/interests in every way possible. A man looking for a wife (or children) isn’t going to find any prospects in the Third-Wave crowd because these women don’t care about those things; they care about progressing an agenda that they’ve created.
And traditionally-minded women aren’t going to find much comfort or help in advancing issues they face from Third-Wavers, because they don’t matter as much as the kind of women Third-Wavers care about. They are the extremists. And unfortunately, they control the narrative.
Can We Do Anything Differently?
For conservative girls, trying to make it in a world controlled by Third-Wave Feminism is a dangerous prospect. You either have to be rigidly anti-culture and know when to keep your mouth shut (I adhere to this practice), or you have to have some cards to play that will let you weave through the lines. The bisexuality (or non-binary) card is one of those cards, in my opinion. As I mentioned above, the second you prescribe to any LGBTQ identity, you become “safe” in the Third-Wave lens.
Don’t let anyone tell you you need to be a certain way, act a certain way, identify a certain way to be female.
But this is a risky, and ultimately very problematic, card to adhere to because if you’re not fully committed to making your sexuality your entire identity, then you’re not going to feel safe for very long.
Instead, I feel that women should do these things to combat the new feminism:
Own your own female status.
Don’t let anyone tell you you need to be a certain way, act a certain way, identify a certain way to be female. This goes just as much for the girly girls out there as it does the tomboys. Whether or not you wear lipstick, are attracted to men (or not), or want to be a housewife or have a career has nothing to do with who you are as a woman. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Refuse to give in to hate culture.
We all remember that cliquey group from our high school or college years that was all about making other people feel like dirt. Resist! Men and other women are not your enemies. Everyone’s been hurt before, but that’s no excuse to write off entire groups (to say nothing of entire genders) as useless and unnecessary.
Don’t give in to the pressure to conform to a brand of feminism that makes you uncomfortable.
Lobby for the issues facing all women today.
Don’t get caught up in social justice jargon and hypocritical exclusion tactics (i.e., the kind of activism that promotes pitting sides against each other and dismisses one side’s opinions for the sake of advancing their goals). Advocate for the things that really matter, the issues that affect us all. Build your own brand of feminism, and don’t give in to the pressure to conform to a brand of feminism that makes you uncomfortable.
Take down harmful examples of Third-Wave Feminism wherever they occur.
Again, the Third-Wave Feminism narrative says that being a woman is all about high heels and bloodlust against the patriarchy (i.e., conservative society, marriage, and traditional family structures), and if you can’t be both of those things, then you’re just not a woman anymore. Don’t listen.
I know it can be hard, but sometimes you have to be a little counter-cultural in order to be truly female. That’s what feminism is really all about.