Note: the following applies to US feminism specifically; though I’ve seen the results of feminist movements in some other places, I don’t know enough about their history to make any intelligent comments.

I still don’t believe in anything so defined and homogeneous as waves of feminism. Well, maybe I do, if you consider it from the oceanography standpoint – waves are constantly churniing, individual molecules of water can move in and out of a wave, and flotsam can be carried along. But anyway, someone recently asked me about third wave feminism, having been disturbed by some of what she’d seen under that identification, and I do think it’s possible to generalize about some of the changes from the 1970s until now.

I would very much appreciate discussion from any feminists about whether this feels right to you, and if not, what you would change or add. (I would very much *not* appreciate comments about how all feminists hate men and want to emasculate all boys – in fact, I’m likely to assume that any comment assuming that “all” of any group of humans react identically is most probably incorrect.)

As a gross generalization, I think it’s fair to say that since the 1960s, feminism has consisted of the idea that a person’s opportunities should not be defined or limited by their gender.

From what I’ve seen I’d say that people who identify as third-wave feminists would still agree with that line, but that they’d say it isn’t quite as simple as the 1970s view.

Point 1: ALL women need to be included in that. One problem with 1970s feminism is that it tended to focus mostly on the goals that benefited middle-class white women. Those were important goals (the right to work at any job, for instance) and they needed to be won, but they weren’t always the highest priorities for all women. For instance, for for poor women who had always worked but who needed support for their working, anything from health insurance to low-cost daycare to access to clean water in developing countries. It’s not that 1970s feminists were fighting the wrong battles, it’s just that they missed a lot of the battles that needed to be won in order to win the war (and maybe got the prioritization of battle zones wrong, as well).

Point 2: ALL people need to be included in that, and not everyone considers gender as something that is binary and that never changes. The gay rights movement keeps growing its umbrella, from covering gay men and lesbians to LGBT to LGBTQi (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex) but these are feminist issues too, if feminism is to achieve the goal I stated above, of not limiting people by gender.

Point 3: ALL people need to be included in that, and it’s as important for little boys to wear pink sparkly shoes if they want as it is for little girls to play with trucks if they want to. Actually this is something 1970s feminism did address – I just re-listened to Free to Be You and Me in its entirety last night (it turns out to be good erging music) and it’s all over that album, but it never got as well-understood as a feminist goal, as the right of women to have good jobs did.

Point 4: Trust women. Adults get to make their own decisions – even if you think they’re wrong, even if it looks like an unfeminist choice. Sometimes they are wrong, and they still get to make their own choices; sometimes, often, they understand the stakes and the bigger picture better than an outside observer can.