November 13th, 2012 / 1:21 pm

Crowd Sourcing Question: What are the essential texts of third wave feminism?

Helpful suggestions greatly appreciated. I’m trying to put together a research list, and thought others might also be interested.

I posed this question on Facebook last week, and I got some good recommendations. I also got a sense that there’s some confusion over what constitutes “third wave.” (Does Camille Paglia “count”?) While I have a general idea about the distinctions between first, second, and third wave, I’d like to be more familiar with the important works that contribute to this specific conversation.

So here are the suggestions I received via Facebook…please help to increase and/or complicate the list…many thanks…

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, published in 1990, seems pivotal in the shift from second to third wave.

It also seems that Rebecca Walker’s essay “Becoming the Third Wave” introduced the term. It was published in Ms. Magazine in 1991, when Walker was only 22. She then went on to co-found the Third Wave Foundation.

From there, I got the following book recommendations:

Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women

Cynthia Enloe’s The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire

Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richard’s Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women

Inga Muscio’s Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl

Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism

Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics

Agree or disagree with these books as representative of “third wave” feminism?

What else?

Suggestions need not be nonfiction. I’m sure there’s great poetry, prose, etcetera that could enrich a conversation about third wave feminism, too. Riot Grrrl punk band Bikini Kill, Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, Glenum & Greenberg’s Gurlesque Anthology, etc.



  1. Dirt Gallogher

      this list is depressing.

  2. A D Jameson

      I was going to say Riot grrrl, which was my indoctrination and interpolation to 3WF.

  3. A D Jameson

      I’m teaching Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men next semester. It’s too new to be essential, although I think it will prove an important book. And her 2010 Atlantic article of the same title caused already a lot of response. One aspect of Rosin’s project is looking for points of adherence and resistance between the attitudes and lifestyles of young women in the US today with the ideologies and arguments of second-wave feminism.

  4. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Look for Becky Thompson’s piece “Multiracial Feminism,” it offers a good critique of the wave structure to add to the conversation.

  5. Christopher Higgs

      Thanks, Tim & Adam!

  6. A_Witt

      Please don’t forget Naomi Wolfe (The Beauty Myth, or even Vagina, which Katie Roiphe (fun to discuss in contexts of feminism) attacked). Her “method” frequently gets poor reviews, but that gives one pause to ask if acceptable methodology reflects gender bias. A contrast to Wolfe is Alina Kline, who wrote the amazing YA novel Rape Girl based on her own experience of being raped in her own house at a high school party.

  7. A D Jameson

      Everything I’ve read about Vagina makes me think that it is the most awful book ever written by anyone.

      (Mind you, I’ve not read it myself.)

  8. A D Jameson

      That sounds good. Why must feminism come in waves? (Uh….)

  9. megan milks

      heck yeah third wave feminism! hmm – daly, firestone, and millett seem pretty firmly second wave to me — what’s the case for them being 3rd wave? i would add to this third wave list the Yes Means Yes anthology – it pretty radically transformed the feminist discourse on sexual desire and consent. i second/third riot grrrl – perhaps the manifesto? and gurlesque. also michelle tea’s Rent Girl – the film All Over Me — My So-Called Life. bitch magazine, venus magazine, sassy. this is all terribly, regrettably white of course. Make/Shift Magazine is much less white – Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out is great and the Colonize This! anthology is a must. you might take a look at zine culture too — tons of stuff is archived at QZAP.

  10. Christopher Higgs

      Awesome! Thanks, Megan. That QZAP archive is amazing…there’s so much stuff!

  11. K.K.B.

      I highly recommend including some science books. I love “Woman: An Intimate Geography” by Natalie Angier because it’s beautifully well written, and also Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s “Mother Nature: Maternal Insticts and How They Shape the Human Species” or her new one, “Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origns of Mutual Understanding.”

      Not only are these books so totally engrossing, but I feel like embracing science is a particular strength of Third Wave feminists. Feels like we’re less scared of facing “biology is destiny” nonsense head-on nowadays, especially once scientists like Hrdy pointed out the blinders so many old fashioned Darwinians wore. (Check out some nice reviews on her work over at bookslut: “She offers a wonderfully female corrective to many male-focused evolutionary theory and anthropology”) Plus, indisputable science knowledge about sex from the female pov is such incredible ammunition. I love not having to say “my opinion is,” and instead getting to say “the fact is” and then having the researched data to back it up.

      (Though depending on the course load, maybe just some excerpts from Hrdy’s work?)

      I also think that “The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order” edited by Marcelle Karp is a pretty fun overview of the variety in Third Wave energy. I’d also include the new “Rookie Yearbook One” edited by Tavi Gevinson, because it’s brand new right now and that’s always a thrill.

      Have you considered other media? I’d assign Lena Dunham’s show Girls for sure. Or at least some of her essays, like her charming First Love piece at the New Yorker:

      But honestly I think the very best one (and also the fastest – – a nice brisk one-day read) is Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.” Brilliantly and succinctly nailed so many weird things about being a girl today, and it’s fun to read and fun to quote and fun to think about.

      Good luck! Your class sounds awesome.

  12. K.K.B.

      Read this pretty compelling response to The End of Men. Check it out:

      “The myth of matriarchy is one of patriarchy’s oldest inventions. Those stories of primitive warrior queens, buxom mother goddesses and tribes of Amazons are no evidence at all that women did once rule the world. As most anthropologists have recognised for decades, these are cautionary tales invented by men to justify their own dominance.”

  13. A D Jameson

      Thanks! I’ll definitely include this in the class—really appreciate it…

  14. rawbbie

      I think Carrie Murphy’s Pretty Tilt is a good example of something that is third wave without being Riot Grrrl, Pussy Riot, or Gurlesque…

  15. rawbbie

      I mean, those are pretty hard core, and you don’t have to be radical to be third wave, i don’t think.