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Who Are the "Young Feminists"?

second wavers hand-picking the palpable

Forum: WMST-L
Date: 06/05/2002

On 06/04/02 09:09 am, "Hannah Miyamoto" wrote:

We were discussing at the BECAUSE sexuality conference in Milwaukee last month that what the Third Wave lacks is cogent political theory to go with its counter-cultural aspects. [snip] The Third Wave, however, seems to have gone to the other extreme--ignoring the past.

It was Gloria Steinem, the architypal second wave feminist, who not only groomed Amy Richards but also presented her as *the* "young feminist" to the media. It is the second wave feminists who run Seal Press who select which "young feminist" they will promote as part of their "Real Girls" series, and edit out any element they find dangerous. It is the second wave feminists of Ms. magazine who picked 21 "young feminists" for the twenty-first century. It is no surprising that they are coming up with the list of "young feminist" leaders who do not threaten the second wave feminists, who are somewhat palpable.

Meanwhile, those young feminists who have sound political analyses or doing serious scholarship are finding it hard to be taken seriously, either in activism or in academia, by those feminists who run feminist activist organizations, feminist publications, or Women's Studies department. They are bombarded with administrative and teaching responsibilities that discourage them from pursuing scholarship or theorizing. They are dismissed as whining and denied opportunities to publish or present their ideas when they present serious critiques of the second wave theories, and accused of "ignoring the past" when they attempt to historicize the second wave, when in fact many second wave feminists' inability to position their own movement within the historical context *is* a greater offense against its history.

In addition, many second wave feminists are betraying their own analysis of the system under which certain people's theories are legitimized (men's theory about women, white people's theory about race, etc.) while others not by uncritically perpetuating it against young women, as they have in the past against women of color (e.g. UC Santa Cruz viewing Gloria Anzaldua's _Borderlands/La Frontera_ as not "theoretical" enough) and others. I see this dynamic in how Linda Wayne's theoretical arguments are dismissed, complete with the use of a hysterical (misogynist language, I know) example, much the same way earlier feminist critiques of the "patriarchy" has been dismissed as "political correctness run amok," except this time it's "deconstructionism run amok."

Emi Koyama <>

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.

Note: After posting the above comment, I received an email from Bettina Aptheker, the chair of Women's Studies at UC Santa Cruz. In the above comment, I was referring to the UCSC History of Consciousness Program's decision not to admit Gloria Anzaldua as a student. I stand by my statements, since I never suggested that Women's Studies was responsible for any of the incidents I was referring to, but agreed to post her email below for clarification.

From: Bettina Aptheker
Date: 06/18/2002

I hope that you might consider putting something up on the website that corrects your original statement. Women's Studies is not and never has been part of Hist Con, and was never party to the decision not to admit Gloria as a student. I well remember the incident and expressed my dismay at the time to those whom I knew in Hist Con. This was well before Hist Con hired Angela Davis so it is many years ago now, and things change. For example, there is a very strong research cluster of Women of Color which is predominantly located in Hist Con and which Angela and another colleague Neferti Tadiar mentor. Apart from this Gloria taught for Women's Studies, and I was just in touch with her to possibly teach again for us. And as Corinne mentions we all use her work in our classes. She is an indispensable treasure. Personally I was disturbed by your statement since it was so inaccurate. It would be really helpful if it was corrected. Thanks very much, and best regards, Bettina