If you skipped the obligatory women’s studies 101, you missed hearing about the "waves" in the women’s movement. "Wave" referred to the historical times when activism around women’s rights peaked (the right to vote, the right to choice). If you’re born post-1980, guess what? You’re part of the "third wave"! Yeah, it’s ridiculous. Somehow we went from the idea of building an actual movement for social justice to the notion of a movement built around whether you played Atari and reclaimed the word "slut." Check out this great critique by Heather Tirado Gilligan at Conducive (yes, she quotes me). Here’s my fave lines from her:
Calling for a wave does not a movement make, and manufacturing one will only invite us to continue drowning in the shallow end. Broadening the third wave’s general focus on women’s rights invites the likes of Sarah Palin to brand herself as a quasi-feminist role model, as if "strong woman" and "pro-women" were interchangeable terms. Continuing with the wave metaphor damns us to replicate the same ineffectual model of early twenty-first century feminism. The wave metaphor should not splash along at the expense of the progressive change we still desperately need.