Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Third Wave of Feminism and Beyond

Posted by: Michelle Haimoff

Cross-posted on and

Last Thursday I went to a panel called “The Third Wave of Feminism and Beyond” at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City. The gallery is currently featuring a great exhibit of Cynthia MacAdams’ black & white feminist portraits from the 70’s.

Panelists included beat poet and performer Anne Waldman, Academy award winning actress and documentary film director Lee Grant, NOW NYS Young Feminist Task Force co-chair Jerin Alam and Women’s Media Center Director Jehmu Green. Liz Abzug, President of the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, moderated.

As is the case with all panels, the discussion wasn’t linear, but rather a mashup of interesting topics, ranging from women in the media, to issues of race, class and sexual orientation, to speculation on where the feminist movement is today.

Here are five Interesting things that were said:

1. Liz Abzug mentioned that her students don’t refer to themselves as feminists, saying things like, “feminism is just one part of my agenda.” It is only when she asks them if we have achieved what we need to achieve for women and girls in this country that they reconsider.

2. Lee Grant, who was blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950’s for being a Communist said that she hadn’t wanted to be a feminist. “I wanted to be the cute pretty girl,” Grant said, but Hollywood “wouldn’t let me.”

3. Jerin Alam talked about the imperialistic tendency of American feminists to say, “our way is the best way,” and to try to liberate the women of other countries rather than help them create their own brand of feminism. When asked how she reconciles feminism with Islam, she replied, “magically,” and encouraged us to visualize the world as a salad bowl instead of a melting pot.

4. Jehmu Green talked about the latest attacks on a woman’s right to choose, which she described as potentially the biggest rollback of reproductive rights in her lifetime. She voiced concern over how Obama removed the gag rule in secret, while Bush had reinstated it as a White House celebration, and pointed out that “right now we’re not behaving as a community, as a political force to be reckoned with.”

5. Green also distinguished the strides made by women in media in front of the camera from those made behind it. She explained that, even though we look like we’ve come a very long way in front of the camera, men still dictate 97% of the “clout” decisions (i.e. - what stories to run).

Everyone on the panel and in the audience agreed that Meryl Streep is a phenomenon.

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