The third wave of the feminist movement strove for social reform and began in the mid-90s and some say it is still continuing today, or perhaps it died out silently when the new millennium came. Nonetheless, where does that leave us today? Are we currently in a fourth wave, which some say is primarily on the internet, or have we achieved a post feminist society? In the case of American society we have not done the latter, we are actually in the fourth wave of feminism which thus far has been different from the other waves of the feminist movement because it actually draws on the ideas of a pre-feminist era.
In order for American culture to have reached a place where there can be a post-feminist society, two things must happen. The first is that corporate media must stop reminding women that one of their most important tasks is to police the boundaries of their bodies. By sending the message to women that they need to be a size two who wears Victorias Secret, drinks Slim Fast, and uses lipstick on a daily basis, they are encouraging women everywhere to strive to be the epitome of patriarchal ideals for women.
Ariel Levy argues in her novel Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture that everywhere she turns, she sees this type of behavior being promoted in the media. Levy says that she ¦ would turn on the television and find strippers in pasties. [She] would flip the channel and see babes in tight, tiny uniforms bouncing up and down on trampolines. Britney Spears was becoming increasingly popular and increasingly unclothed (87). Levy says that society justifies portraying women in this way by claiming that it is evidence of how much women have succeeded with the feminist project and that we have reached a post feminist society.
Levy learned through research for her novel that these sexy, seductive women on T. V. were actually the new role models for the fourth feminist movement, which showed how empowered women had become. Women no longer had to sit on the side lines as men read Playboy and objectified the women around them, they had now earned the right to do these things as well. This shows that today, culture in America is persuading women to be provocative and scantily clad to gain attention and approval from society, namely our male dominated society.
Its a clear indication that women still have progress to be made, and therefor we have not reached a post feminist society. Once the media stops portraying women as sexual commodities, women will then be able to establish themselves as a respectable, intelligent gender equal to that of men. The second thing that must change for America to achieve a post feminist society is womens obsession with a version of femininity that includes, but is not limited to, thongs, Playboy bunny logos, and strippers.
Levy tells us that only 30 years ago, our mothers were burning their bras and picketing Playboy¦ (88) because back then, the feminist movement was against the objectification of women for means of entertainment or anything else. However today Levy says that women are getting implants and wearing the bunny logo as supposed symbols of our liberation (88). Levy has it right, it is just a supposed symbol. There is nothing empowering for women in getting paid to pose naked after getting surgically enlarged breasts.
Levy cites Hugh Hefner as someone who would like to make women believe that they should embrace their bodies in what he defines as a post feminist world, but what he is actually doing is downplaying the reality of the inequalities that women face. She uses Hugh Hefner as an example of someone who dismisses this behavior as a byproduct of a post-feminist world, yet, this is imagined and were actually living in the fourth wave of feminism.
However Levy goes on to say that Hugh Hefner is making the same assumption as most other people in society; just because this generation came after three major feminist movements does not mean that everything this generation does is a part of a feminist plan. In fact our whole culture has women under the impression that the newest form of feminism for the fourth wave is female chauvinist pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves (Levy,89). Yet outdoing males in every male chauvinist activity is not a riumph, but rather a disappointment for the feminists of past waves who have worked to eliminate women as sexual objects to gain gender equality. The feminist movement is no longer moving forward in the same way today as it has in the past. This fourth wave of feminism is taking societal ideals from the pre-feminist era and applying them to this fourth wave in a false manifesto of feminists achievements. In this fourth wave of the feminist movement, we are actually going back to the ideals of a pre-feminist society.
Before the feminist movement was started, the ideals and goals of this movement were so revolutionary and ground breaking that it was hard for society to understand the reality of what it meant to be a part of the feminist movement. Now, almost 200 years after the first wave of feminism began, we find our culture back to square one in the fourth wave of feminism, questioning the so called radical goals of traditional feminism once more. Well, traditional feminism is no more. This fourth wave of feminism calls for a new type of feminist.
One who wears Playboy bunny logos and low cut jeans, objectifies her body and the women around her, and most importantly does not see any of this as being problematic because that would be old-school and uncool (89) as Levy puts it. This fourth wave of feminism includes actresses who wear sexually suggestive, soft-porn style clothing which they explain as representing strong women and empowerment. The idea behind the fourth wave of feminism is to enjoy being loved for your body, because that will get you all the freedom and liberation you need.
For instance, these actresses who dress similarly to porn stars and strippers earned roughly $125 million dollars for doing so (Levy,88). If that money does not buy liberation, then what will. This new feminist movement is also comprised of women who often use the terms liberation, empowerment, and sexy to replace the term equality which was once used synonymously with the feminist movement. This feminist movement has been touched by the previous waves of feminists, and therefore women today have earned the right to look at Playboy¦ (88) and so the fourth wave of feminism gave birth to what Levy refers to as the female chauvinist pig. Collectively, the feminists who lead this fourth wave of feminism are often confused with the people who believe that this is actually a post feminist society. This fourth wave is significantly different than the past three waves which is why it can be confusing to some that this wave includes feminists shamelessly displaying their bodies to the public, supporting strip clubs with their own patronism, and taking up jobs as strippers, Playboy bunnies, or porn stars.
Based on Levys novel and her idea of female chauvinistic pigs it seems that this fourth wave of raunchy feminism was brought about by media, but is being sustained by the women who embrace it, although I for one believe they do not actually know what they are embracing. It may seem to the public that the media is selling the the newest form of feminism, but what they are actually selling is the old objectification in a new empowering light. However women can not liberate themselves through means of objectification or manliness.
Women can not liberate themselves at all at this point because they are still struggling to be accepted as themselves, which is why they turn to established ideas and figures in society in an attempt to gain power. In our culture, the power lies within the media, but the real power lies within the people who know how to influence the media, which I hope someday will include some strong admirable feminists figures. Until then, we will continue to live in this fourth wave which is being constantly confused with post-feminism because of its pre-feminist approach, ironically.