New Philosophy

Feminist Philosophy

Why has there been a third wave in feminism?

According to its critics, the second wave was presumed to speak for all women while it merely propounded the interests of a small group of white, privileged American intellectual women. Two books crystallized this complaint: bell hooks’ (she spelled her name in all lowercase letters) Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism (1981) brought attention to oppression due to race suffered by women of color. Elizabeth V. Spelman pointed out the problems of a universalizing trend within feminism that left out differences among women in Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (1988).

White feminist complaints about “glass ceilings,” or invisible barriers to top positions in business, on the one hand and the stultifying aspects of home-making on the other, did not resonate with all other women. Poor women and women of color had worked outside their own homes, in factories and fields, or the homes of other women, for centuries; the “second shift” was not new to them. Because of this, a third wave was needed to address all women’s needs.


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