Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Next Wave

Naomi Wolf

Whatever happened to feminism? Does Islam really turn women into “happy slaves”? Is America’s traditional commitment to democracy and equality in terminal decline? Has the West illegitimately monopolized the idea of human rights? Are there specific female values?

In the beginning, there was the “first wave,” the nineteenth-century feminists who fought for women’s suffrage. Then came the second wave, the feminists of the 1960’s and 1970’s who fought for equality before the law and of opportunity. At least in the West, feminism broke down the legal and ideological barriers that had precluded women’s full political and economic participation. But has the battle for emancipation really been won?

As a leading figure of feminism’s “third wave,” Naomi Wolf, author of such acclaimed books as The Beauty Myth, Fire with Fire, Promiscuities, and Misconceptions, has sought to answer that question.

Naomi Wolf advocates “power feminism”: women must assert themselves politically to get what they want. Yet, since all women do not have the same interests, owing to differences of race, culture, and class, she rejects the possibility of a universal female agenda.

Indeed, throughout her career, Wolf, who served as an electoral campaign adviser to Bill Clinton and Al Gore, has sought to transcend a purely feminist sensibility – the hallmark of feminism’s first two waves – by embedding it within a broader critique of contemporary politics and society. In her most recent book, The End of America, she seeks to identify the processes and policies by which democratic ideals and practices may be undermined.

Wolf's commentaries in The Next Wave, written exclusively for Project Syndicate, challenge conventional views – often held by feminists – about abortion, pornography, sexual harassment, and much else, while paying close attention to evidence and nuances that are often overlooked or intentionally ignored. Equally important, Wolf never loses sight of how public debate about such issues both influences and reflects the character and quality of our political institutions.

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