This is a random thought that’s been going through my mind for about ten years or so – I guess concurrent with my work as a queer activist.
I was born in 1970 so I was raised with Second Wave Feminism influences, but not really penetrating my world – I had no feminists in my world. I did have strong women and both of my grandmothers – for different reasons – were proponents of women voting, holding jobs, etc. They were not feminists. My mother is not a feminist and none of my aunts or the moms that I knew were feminists. But they were impacted by changes in the workplace, changes in Congress and changes throughout the institutions and systems, changes wrought by feminists.
I read “The Bridge Called My Back” in 1993 in a feminist studies class, but I was a grad student. The book had been published in 1981 and it really resonated with this white Catholic girl from a working class Pittsburgh community. Why? I don’t know. I guess I was just primed to critique Second Wave Feminism without being conscious of it?
But when we talk about Third Wave Feminism, I feel out of context. I was very disconnected from pop and alt culture while I finished college, went to LSU and then moved to Kentucky. I don’t relate to Angela Chase from “My So Called Life” and I had no exposure to Riot Grrl culture, zines, or any of those cultural touchstones. I was never taken to work with my parents. I understand and agree with a lot of the concepts intellectually and in my day-to-day life, but I do not feel part of the culture at all. And that’s a huge divide, a barrier almost. I was as oblivious to the social agitation in the queer and feminist movements in the 1990’s as I had been when I was a kid.
I’ve spoken with other women my age and sense that they also feel disconnected from both waves, a reflection perhaps on the need to critique how class and age impact feminist identity. Maybe that has been happening and I’m simply unaware. But it feels real to me – that this concept of being between waves has a viable identity. It isn’t about missing out on television programs or music, it is the reasons that led to us missing out on those programs and the music. My touchstone television program was Roseanne – the only family on tv that looked like mine and that was driven more by class than any other sensibility.
Is there such a thing as a “mid-generation” feminist? Does our shared experience transcend merely feeling disconnected from mainstream feminists?