Re-presenting Feminisms: Past, Present, and Future

In this article I investigate what are thought to be generational differences within contemporary American feminism. I identify three dominant approaches to understanding “third wave” feminism: cohort-based, age-based, and theory-based, and then analyze empirical data to discern the extent of difference within and across “waves” of American feminism, using each of these approaches. Drawing from a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, I argue that third wave feminism might be better understood as an identity, rather than a distinct theoretical perspective, age group, or cohort. My findings suggest that feminists of all ages share many important aspects of their gender and political ideologies. Moreover, my analysis of “third wave” feminist texts and those “second wave” texts that directly speak to generational differences reveals that, in many cases, feminist scholarship itself reproduces the very differences it aims to understand. To the extent that feminist scholarship has failed to question adequately dominant portrayals of “other” feminist generations, and has failed to recognize the diversity of people and perspectives within all feminist generations, feminist scholarship has, in effect, reified distinct, static waves of feminism.