Something went wrong between the 2nd and 3rd wave of female political action.  The class based analysis so firmly rooted in the second wave seemed to have been gradually pushed to the margins and replaced with a the conception of intersectionality that in its initial phase could have gone hand in hand with the more traditional feminist analysis.  Intersectionality is the idea that people can experience different layers of discrimination simultaneously based on their race, sex, and class served to furtherfill out traditional radical feminist theory and increase the sensitivity toward women with diverse race and cultural backgrounds.

So far so good?  Right?

Well it would be all good if we just incorporated this utilitarian and useful 3rd wave innovation.  The notions of ‘identity’ and ’empowerment’ were also gifts from the third wave and where some of the analysis began to go off the rails.

From the notion of ’empowerment’ we get most of the dead branch known as Liberal Feminism that is about doing actions in society, that if they feel good and make you feel good, they are in fact empowering acts.  This leads to the idea that activities like pole dancing and stripping can be ‘feminist’ acts because they are empowering the individual woman with agency (?) and power within society.

Many feminists would pause here because like most features of society, patriarchy operates on the macro as well as the micro level.  To return to our previous example, the occupations of both pole dancing and stripping may indeed provide empowerment on the level of the individual, but on a boarder social analysis both serve the male gaze and continue to reinforce the commodification and objectification of the female body.  So perhaps we can see where some friction exists between these two theoretical feminist standpoints.

The notion of identity is also useful in certain contexts because it allows discrimination and oppression that exist within society to be categorized and analyzed with greater precision.  Identity is a tonic against the sometimes homogenizing nature of theoretical work and allows theory and praxis better able to respond to the needs of women from diverse backgrounds.

Identity has now metastasized.  In certain ideological circles it rests above nearly all other theoretical concerns.  More importantly the notion of identity has been severed from the social, material reality we all share.  What we think about ourselves now has a certain reified air that precludes any sort of questioning or critical examination.

For instance, it is now popular to ‘come out’ as non-binary.  Being non-binary is a vague notion that an individuals personal expression isn’t tied to their sex  – so a male person can have a ‘boy-day’ or  ‘girl-day’ depending on their mood.  You gentle reader, would not be alone in concluding that people claiming be non-binary may just be fulfilling the need to feel edgy and special in society.  It’s nice to stand out I suppose, but adopting male or female stereotypes and demanding that others play along with your wacky pronouns and related charade seems like a rather cumbersome and ultimately anti-social way to go about achieving that goal.  Furthermore, since no person embodies all of the stereotypes of their sex but rather a mixture of the two, we are all, in fact, non-binary (just with less narcissism that those boldly ‘coming out’).

Another particularly problematic aspect that has arisen is the notion of self identification and that one’s personal declaration of gender somehow overrides the societal norms and expectations we all follow.  The most common point of friction is when men, because they have gender feelings, decide that they are women and should therefore have access to female spaces, services, and sports.  The problem is that self id does not change the male socialization, nor the male patterns of behaviour that require all inhabitants of the class of men to be excluded from female only spaces.

Transgender ideology is deeply misogynistic.  Women who disagree with gender ideology and men in their spaces are ostracized, threatened, and called bigots because they have the temerity to raise concern with the erosion of their boundaries and sex based rights within society.  Transgender ideology is also an impediment to the safeguarding of women and children as again, male gender-feelings are given precedence over female safety in society.  The conflict will not resolve until the men involved in the transgender movement respect female boundaries and the female ‘no’.

Being gender diverse is fine, but one must respect the material realities of sex and sex based oppression that exist within our society.