The Feminist "Click"

by Kim Allen

The second wave, through various consciousness-raising efforts, popularized the concept of the feminist "click." This is the moment when a woman suddenly realizes that men generally treat women like crap, both on a societal scale (74 cents to the dollar, anyone?) and on a personal scale ("honey, if you're the one who cares so much about the bathroom being clean, you ought to be the one who cleans it"). This is usually the moment when a woman decides to become a feminist in order to work toward a more just and equal world.

The second wave succeeded in popularizing not just the feminist click, but the concept of feminism itself, so that there is now a whole generation of adult women who grew up in a world with feminism. We are, of course, the third wave.

The click is more complicated for us. There are a number of factors that combine to make our discovery of and personal relationship to feminism different than the second wave's. It takes this entire web site to explain all of them, but I'll just list the ones here that are relevant for the feminist click:

In other words, third wave women already know the word "feminism," but when we look in the popular media, there is little of substance for us. We can listen to some male commentator whining about how women have taken all of men's power. Or we can listen to some Boomer-aged feminist icon asking why young women seem so fragmented and apathetic.

Seriously, I have had the surreal experience of watching a panel of second-wave feminists debate whether my generation even exists in a feminist sense. Tell me, how is this different from the panels of male "experts" who debated in the early 70's whether women were really capable of serving in high government positions or in the active military? It is totally bizzare to watch people talking about you like some laboratory phenomenon-- "Do you think these people really exist? Do they have brains? Should we let them make their own choices?"

I've noticed that for the third wave, the feminist "click" is less about realizing that men are assholes, and more about realizing that the second wave is not the only form that feminism can take.

At least once a week, we get email here on the 3rd WWWave web site from a woman, usually between the ages of 15 and 35, who says, "Wow! I'm so glad you exist! Feminism never made any sense to me until I read your site. I got caught up in it for hours, just reading and reading. Thanks for taking the time to put all of this up; it really changed my perspective." (*)

Sounds like a "click" to me.

It's not that we need to silence the second wave voices that remain strong-- feminism needs women of all ages working together against the real enemy (those who would limit women's freedom). But I think it's vitally important that the third wave voices become louder so that more young women can hear them. In a delightful convergence of terminology, we are getting more clicks now that we have the Internet. Let's build on that for the sake of the feminist future.

(*) You can read some of these emails here

Copyright © 2000 by Kim Allen

07/05/07 at 2:16