No third wave?

// 14 June 2006

Zoe Williams is usually one of my favourite columnists at the Guardian, so I was pretty disappointed by her offhand mention of third wave feminism in her latest column.

She wonders why the UK doesn’t have a third wave of feminism. I think that anyone reading this blog knows that’s just not the case. It is true, perhaps, that UK activists are playing second fiddle to third wave Americans, although there are undoubtedly good reasons for that. Not least that UK third wavers haven’t had as much to unite against (Bush, challenges to reproductive freedoms, the dominance of right wing, religious conservatism). But that doesn’t excuse Williams – who is one of the leading women’s rights opinion journalists at the most progressive national in the country – from not realising that there is, indeed, a third wave.

As quite a few London3rdWave members seem to be going to this interesting-sounding debate in a few weeks, maybe someone will educate her on this?

Anyway, this article is not, actually, about the third wave, but about reclaiming the word “cunt”. Williams argues that – as the word vagina is just a bit medical-sounding – feminists would be better to reclaim “cunt” instead.

Is the Vagina Monologues a bit of a cop-out? She sort-of-has-a-point:

A correlative would be if the gay rights movement had started out reclaiming “queer”, and only claimed credit for reclaiming “homosexual”. Because it’s not explosively insulting, because it’s formal and a bit technical, because you can imagine it appearing on a legal document and not bawled across a bar in provocation, “homosexual” would have been a polite sort of coup. The mistake feminists make, when they object to the c-word but never approach it, and never use it, is to think that it will slip discreetly out of the language.

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