Feminazi. Man-hating. ‘Kurang ngewe’.
We’ve heard them before, especially if you’re a feminist. And if you have been a feminist for the past years, you have been a third wave feminist. Third wave feminism marked its beginning in the early 1990ies and continuing to the present. It has been a response to the second wave feminism. It has been recognizing women of colors, ethnics, nationalities, religions, and cultural backgrounds and expanding feminism to include the diverse identities.
If it has begun in the 1990ies, how come we’ve only heard it now? The Internet plays a role. Christine Petit of University of California-Riverside studied, “That is, how do social movement networks on the Internet translate into actual coalitions and cooperation between social movements? Castells (1989) notes the importance of the Internet, which he sees as a society that transcends place, as an organizational tool. “While organizations are located in places, and their components are place-dependent, the organizational logic is placeless, being fundamentally dependent on the space of flows that characterizes information networks. […] The more organizations depend, ultimately, upon flows and networks, the less they are influenced by the social context associated with the places of their location.” She also noted how Internet reality reflects social reality. Tumblr is part of the Internet.
Feminism on Tumblr is a rash extraction of what is happening outside Tumblr and it is unashamedly vulgar in interpretation. From protruding breasts underneath t-shirts saying “This is What a Feminist Looks Like”, illustrations of menstruation leaks on panties—or lack thereof, to wearing a costume depicting a vagina during marches. Is it radical feminism? Radical feminism is a perspective within feminism that calls for radical reformation of society in which patriarchal supremacy in any social and economic context is eliminated. The fundamental idea is considering supremacy of patriarchy as source of oppression.
Unlike many other feminists, even though I have heard of it before, I first discovered third wave feminism—in action—on Tumblr. Also on Tumblr, I stumbled on the criticisms against it. From Tumblr, I learned about ‘slut walk’. The conception of ‘slut walk’ arose from the notion that whatever appearance a women has, her clothing to be exact, it does not justify sexual assault of any form—from catcalling to rape. Begun in year 2011, ‘slut walk’ is popularized by Amber Rose and it has become a transnational movement of protest marches calling for an end to rape culture involving victim blaming and slut-shaming of sexual assault victims.
Nevertheless, do third wave feminists seek supremacy of its voice by mimicking patriarchy? Lisa Wade, author of “American Hookup”, noted from her research that women tend to adopt supposed masculine traits, such as promiscuity, in the ‘hookup culture’. Women have taken on male practices in the male-dominated ‘hookup culture’. Can we view third wave feminism using the consideration? Embodying masculine traits, such as aggression, in presenting ourselves as feminists for instance. There is of course a fine line between presenting oneself as a feminist and protesting. Have third wave feminists become too evasive in presenting themselves?
What happens when third wave feminists engage themselves in hookups? Lisa Wade did not elaborate further in her book whether, for instance, being promiscuous engage women in the ‘hookup culture’. She only explained that the supposed trait is rewarded. In other words, it has become a rationalized behavior to the extent that it has become a rational behavior. In the times of social media, rewarding cannot get any easier. Seemingly, on Tumblr, the more a third wave feminist exhibits aggression, the more rewarded they are. It is an irony that the more we rationalize these behaviors, the more we seemingly normalize sexually perpetrating behaviors. It is nothing but a coping mechanism and a society normalizing it is merely a society coping. It is no wonder a society blaming lack of sex for critical sensibility is a society confusing cheap vulgarity for sexual liberation.
I then pondered on what is at the end of the cycle. I suppose the cycle ends at victimhood. Victimhood is another characteristic of third wave feminists on Tumblr. Third wave feminists presenting themselves as victims have drown out the voices of aspiration of feminism. It is as though racing to become victims legitimizes feminists and the ideology itself. Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning told The Atlantic, “Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.” Victimhood has become a shared experience among third wave feminists, be it on Tumblr or elsewhere, and it promotes social solidarity. It is a question whether it compensates the lack of courage, integrity, and dignity, in our collective narrative.
Can I identify with third wave feminism, specifically on Tumblr? I don’t mimic patriarchy and I don’t oppress. I tend to perceive the means of oppression is the means to oppress among the oppressed and enforce a hierarchy of its own. Identifying as a third wave feminist means identifying with the aspiration of third wave feminism. Identifying as a third wave feminist means fostering gender equality and not reversing gender oppression. Identifying as a third wave feminist means reflecting on our collective narrative and better it in order to bring forth our best selves—a woman. That is feminism in action.