Thoughts on Fourth-Wave Feminism

*The following post is based on my very limited understanding of a series of complex topics

Many people argue that we have been in the midst of Feminism’s fourth wave since 2012. The fourth wave isn’t especially different from the third. The only major distinction is the mobilization that takes place over the Internet through social media. The purpose of this post is not about fourth-wave Feminism specifically but more about intersectionality, the idea originally popularized by third-wave Feminism but that remains at the forefront of the contemporary Feminist movement.

Based on my understanding of intersectionality, it’s the idea that marginalized demographics should help one another to uproot systematic oppression. As a result, contemporary Feminism is concerned with numerous aspects of identity including race, sexual orientation, and ability. The ultimate goal of the movement is to usher in an equitable, multicultural society in which one’s identity will not result in oppression. A merit-based society where everyone is equal, has the potential to succeed, and will not be subject to discrimination is something that I would personally love to see. My goals for society are certainly in line with those of fourth-wave Feminism. In an era in which ideologies like white nationalism seek a fundamentally different future for society, one that upholds the systematic oppression of non-whites, I think it’s definitely important to seek out the goals of intersectionality.

Among the well-educated, fourth-wave Feminism seems to be the zeitgeist and considering the multicultural egalitarian society it seeks to usher in, that’s probably a great thing. However, there are a few potential issues I have with the ideology.

  • Broadness of Policy: As a result of intersectionality, the ideology is extremely broad. Saying that one is a “fourth-wave Feminist” involves agreeing with an enormously large list of policies besides the fundamental tenets of Feminism and multiculturalism. I agree with just about every aspect of the ideology besides its policies on Israel; however, that one simple difference is irreconcilable for many fourth-wave Feminists.
  • Discourse Strangulation: A major component of fourth-wave Feminism is political correctness. Political correctness ensures that language does not uphold the marginalized status of certain groups. In my opinion, political correctness is important but becomes counter-productive at a certain point. Sometimes necessary dialogue is restricted on the basis of not being politically correct. I believe that if Feminists were more willing to engage in dialogue and debate, they would almost certainly win and convince more people of the importance of their cause.
  • Demonization of the Non-Marginalized: If the goals of fourth-wave Feminism are ever to be realized, it’s important to get as many people from non-marginalized demographics on board. However, the ideology has a tendency to demonize and ostracize members of non-marginalized demographics. Equality for all is the goal and non-marginalized groups should not be made to feel as though the actualization of Feminism will put them in an inferior societal position relative to any other demographic.
  • No Non-Violence Clause: As a Pacifist, I worry about any ideology that doesn’t value peace as a top priority. Any polarizing ideology likely needs to write off peace somewhat; however, this is deeply troubling to me.

I think if fourth-wave Feminism were to resolve some of these issues, it has the potential to be the ideology capable of ushering in a far better society. However, it has many obstacles to overcome.

  • Political Difficulty: For the reasons I’ve listed above, it seems as though many progressive-minded people are still at odds with the ideology. It is somewhat idealistic and the practical-minded among us will likely disagree with some of the specific policies the ideology advocates for, thus isolating a large number of people whose goals nonetheless align with Feminism (myself included). Progressives should be united; however, some of the non-moderate policies put progressives at odds with contemporary Feminism.
  • White Nationalism: While the previous obstacle refers to a disagreement about the means by which a more just and equitable United States is ushered in, white nationalism seeks to prevent that society from being ushered in at all. It’s unfortunate that people feel this way; however, I can certainly understand why some people do.
    • Rural whites, a group that many would argue are in fact marginalized, are not acknowledged to be by many in the context of intersectionality. The poverty, drug addiction, lack of economic opportunity, and the undermining of their more traditional values that numerous rural white Americans are currently experiencing seem to be issues that are overlooked by the Feminist ideology. However, given the conflicting goals of these two ideologies, I worry that their differences may be irreconcilable.

Ultimately, I agree with the goals of fourth-wave Feminism. However, if its ideas are ever to be truly implemented, I believe it needs to figure out how to appeal to a larger number of people, specifically traditionally non-marginalized demographics that nonetheless might be struggling.

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