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"Making Waves" by Lisa Bradshaw

Below is an excerpt from Lisa Bradshaw's article, published in September 2000 (inaugural) issue of Nervy Girl! in which Emi was prominently quoted. I'm proud of the fact that I am the first person to use the word "fuck" in this brand-new publication.

Making Waves
By Lisa Bradshaw
Nervy Girl!
September 2000


Locally, the Portland Feminist Action Group (PFAG), formerly known as Amazon Salon, is putting those theories to work. Organized last spring, members meet twice a month to "plan and carry out actions on issues related to our lives," according to member Lisa Weasel, who also teaches women's studies at PSU. Their first action was confronting shops downtown that emphasize the "perfect" woman, by drawing outlines of their own bodies on the sidewalk, leaving behind tags such as, "Dare to create your own image of beauty."

Weasel says they still discuss equal opportunity, but today it's not so overt. Discrimination is more subtle, she explains, and their feminism focuses on "having an awareness of gender, race, poverty, sexuality - the power structures of today and how they affect everyday life and intersect with each other."

Emi Koyama, PFAG member and founder of the on-line third wave action group Feminist Conspiracy describes third wave as "feminism for people whose lives are complex." She explains, "It's for the women who cannot accept the simple answers. And this simple answer could be lesbian feminism, it could be liberal feminism, it could be radical feminism, it could be any of those variations in the second wave. But those simple, universal answers cannot satisfy what they need." Koyama sees national groups such as NOW as too mainstream for her, instead creating out of Feminist Conspiracy such campaigns as "Fuck Your Gender" and "The Battered Women's Militia."

It may seem that the third wave has forgotten or abandoned legal politics and the ERA, but they simply expect change to occur in theoretically different ways. Weasel explains that they question the categories of gender more than equal rights, "because if you want to change how power is balanced and maintained, then it's really important to understand how that works." The desire to change the world is still there, but the third wave works from the inside out, informing a collective consciousness in order to change power structures of all kinds: political, social, work, identity, ability, etc.

Koyama defines "feminist" as "woman searching for her authentic self," but believes that legal changes are needed to allow this authenticity, because "when women are discriminated against they can't be authentic at work or in their families." So in essence, the personal is political in the third wave, just as it was in the second. To really be able to look at society and realize the experiences that affect you and inhibit your growth means changing your personal space to allow authenticity, but it also means altering the power structures that cause the inhibitions.

That doesn't mean that third wavers don't see working toward a common goal as beneficial. It just means that goal could change to meet everyone's differing needs. It would also allow feminists to work on issues of greatest importance to them, be that needle exchange, the lesbian community, or the ERA.

Consensus, Koyama says, has become less important because it's often unattainable.

"I don't believe in consensus," Koyama pointedly states. "The need for consensus often creates pressure for the minority to conform to the majority. I know how that has been used against women of color. I know how hurtful that is."

Lest ye think I'm heralding the third wave as a progressive feminist utopia in comparison with some kind of old guard feminism, I'm not. Movements shift in theory and action based on generational politicization and current possibilities. The problems of racial and queer integration in early work, for instance, are much less of a problem today because this generation has grown up with integration. Women politicized pre-1970s were often racially segregated and told that homosexuality was a perversion. How could we expect such diverse groups of women to come together under those social circumstances and magically understand and support each other based on one collective identity of "woman"?

The third wave has the luxury of the experience and achievements - theoretically, legally, and socially - of their predecessors to help form their own view of modern feminism. They grew up integrated, taking women's rights for granted, and witnessing amazing role models. Third wavers didn't invent the ability to recognize and appreciate complex feminism; they inherited it. It doesn't mean their feminism is better, it means it's dynamic. Like a wave against the shore, this third feminism will continue to swell and rush, bringing with it new life, new ideas and a new view of equality.