Mumsnet Logo
My feed

to access all these features

Feminism: chat

Can someone explain the different waves/types of feminism to me?

13 replies

Lessthanaballpark · 28/08/2021 08:57

I was lolling about thinking that I increasingly “identify” (🤣) as a radical feminist and was wondering if that made me second wave even though I wasn’t around in the 60s. And does it make me a Marxist? Which I don’t like the thought of because economic prosperity is nice.

Then I realised I didn’t really have a clear idea of the different types of feminism which is terrible for such a self-avowed feminist as myself.

So I thought I’d ask for help in my favourite place. This is my current understanding:

1st wave: late 19th to early 20th = political feminism, suffragettes, fighting for the vote, citizenhood and education rights.

2nd wave: 60s = radical feminism/ women’s libbers. Women as biological sex class. Liberation not equality is the goal. Most GCs hang around here.

3rd wave: 80s-90s = something to do with choice feminism, liberal feminism and riot girls. Capitalism takes over feminism and gives us shoulder pads and empowerment? A backlash happens and gives us Fatal Attraction.

4th wave: 2010s = intersectionality and identity. More anti-capitalist but more messy. Something to do with Tumblr. The rise of gender ideology. Everything goes pear-shaped and feminism is split down the middle by the trans debate.

As you can see I get lost somewhere in the 90s maybe because I was too busy watching Friends which incidentally is a hot mess of pseudo-feminism and backlash politics. But at least women were represented and allowed to be funny.

Also what is cultural feminism?

Please correct me and make me a more educated feminist!

OP posts:

YetAnotherSpartacus · 28/08/2021 10:30

2nd wave: 60s = radical feminism/ women’s libbers. Women as biological sex class. Liberation not equality is the goal. Most GCs hang around here

Not quite. The second wave was very diverse. It wasn't limited to one type of feminism and different types were popular in different countries. Also, it extended until nearly the end of the 80s when postmodernism took over.

Different types included liberal (old type), radical, cultural, materialist and socialist. Lesbian separatist was also up there.

Radical feminism isn't Marxist or socialist - it posits that the most fundamental inequality/form of oppression is between men and women. Otherwise, you are pretty much on track.

Marxist/Socialist feminism wasn't about ending 'economic prosperity' - it was about recognisng that social class divides women and gives some privileges over others. It was also about the socialisation of domestic labour (at good wages) to break down the gendered division of domestic labour.

I'm sure there are some good websites out there that explain this much better than I can.


Abhannmor · 28/08/2021 13:02

There is also the UK / USA divide.In the 80s you would often hear women in London say American feminism seemed more 'intelligent '. In practice they meant UK feminism focused on dreary stuff like the struggle of miners' wives. Where's USA feminism was about orgasms.


Abitofalark · 28/08/2021 13:14

As I understand it, the second wave was inspired by / came after the civil rights movement of the 1960s in America and other places (Paris 1968 among them, although Simone de Beauvoir's book The Second Sex, dated from 1949, so there was always feminism around; Germaine Greer and pals were involved in a sort of radical sub culture underground but her influential book The Female Eunuch which reached a mass of women was 1970), which would place the 2nd wave in the seventies.

There was a programme on Radio 4 - can't remember the date but it was within the last few months - for the 50th anniversary of the first Women's Liberation conference in Britain, in which original organisers and participants were interviewed about it and discussed the key demands of the movement.


YetAnotherSpartacus · 28/08/2021 13:16

I'm always amazed that early UK pioneers such as Sheila Rowbotham and Juliette Mitchell as well as Ann Oakley are not more recognised.


CrossPurposes · 28/08/2021 14:04

Vanessa Engle's 2010 series called Women is in YouTube. Well worth a watch.


MillieMumsnet · 28/08/2021 14:04

Hi everyone, we are going to move this over to the feminism subforum.


Lessthanaballpark · 28/08/2021 19:41

In practice they meant UK feminism focused on dreary stuff like the struggle of miners' wives.

Oh yes, there is a YouTube interview of Julie Bindel by Benjamin Boyce where she says that American feminism was more about upper class women whilst UK feminism was about working class women because class is such an issue here.

OP posts:

Lessthanaballpark · 28/08/2021 19:42

Also Postmodernism? Is this just the idea that the aims of feminism and all the civil rights movements of the 60s have been achieved?

OP posts:

SisterMonicaJoansHabit · 28/08/2021 19:43

I thought we were in third wave.

What is cultural/choice feminism?


Lessthanaballpark · 28/08/2021 19:58

I thought we were in third wave.

Lol maybe we are. I’m never sure if 1980s feminism was just an extension of second wave.

What is cultural/choice feminism?

I think choice feminism is the kind that says that any choice a woman makes is fine without realising that choices are always influenced by structural inequalities (which is what radical feminism looks at)

So choice feminist = “it’s fine to shave your legs if it makes you feel good and it’s your personal choice”

But radical feminist = “society has taught you that you’re ugly if you don’t shave and therefore it’s not a proper free choice. Why has society taught you that? Who does it benefit?”

OP posts:

thinkingaboutLangCleg · 28/08/2021 20:04

We’re in the supposed third wave now, not a fourth wave. As you say, though, the current ‘wave’ is about intersectionality and identity. … The rise of gender ideology. Everything goes pear-shaped

It’s about feminism that’s pleasing to men, therefore ‘sex work’ is good and TWAW. In other words, it isn’t feminism.


Lessthanaballpark · 28/08/2021 20:12

It’s about feminism that’s pleasing to men, therefore ‘sex work’ is good and TWAW. In other words, it isn’t feminism.

But how did we get to this bit? The individualism of the Thatcher years? I feel like it’s feminism derailed or perhaps the opposition successfully painted it as man-hating so the choice rhetoric was employed.

OP posts:

thinkingaboutLangCleg · 28/08/2021 21:03

I think it was partly the me-me-me individualism of the 80s, Less.

But the gender identity movement is a whole separate issue, started by male transvestites who wanted to expand their territory by pushing women's boundaries. Their slick PR, and the willingness of some gay-rights groups (such as Stonewall in the UK) to add T for Trans to the LGB banner, won them easy acceptance by people who didn’t want to look prejudiced.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Sign up to continue reading

Mumsnet's better when you're logged in. You can customise your experience and access way more features like messaging, watch and hide threads, voting and much more.

Already signed up?