Grrl Power and Third Wave Feminism

By Cabrera-Balleza, Mavic | Women in Action, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Grrl Power and Third Wave Feminism


Cabrera-Balleza, Mavic, Women in Action


She's cool, smart, confident, and independent. She can also be bold, rebellious, and daring. This seems to be the dominant image of young women today--an image manufactured through the eyes of advertisers. This ubiquitous image hyped in the media is represented in the tough and sexy "girl culture" symbolised by Buffy, Dark Angel, Ally McBeal, Motoko Kusanagi, Lara Croft, the Powerpuff girls, and Charlie's Angels.

All things being equal, will this image become universalised? Can young women be what they really want to be? Do these images reflect the realities of urban-based, university-educated young women?

Some women's studies scholars will argue that the perception that young women of today enjoy much more rights and freedom is just that--a perception. While they may indeed have more choices, in both the public and private spheres, they are also subjected to tremendous pressure because of the incongruities in how they grew up, the values they were taught, the standards of performance imposed on them, and the persona or image they need to maintain. Young, urban-based, university-educated women of this generation are socialised into a certain consciousness that embraces certain values inculcated by family, peers, school, church, and media, on the one hand, and rejecting many others, on the other. For example, many young women have a liberal view of their bodies and sexual expressions, including premarital sex. A view, it should be added, shared by their peers and families, although the former might be celebrating such openness of young women with their bodies and their sexuality, and the latter may be fretting about this. Yet, such an attitude of ease with one's body and sexuality is exactly one of the struggles feminists have fought for in the last three decades.

Why then do young women reject the label "feminist" even as they live out "feminist" ways of being and they have clearly benefited from it? Perhaps the portrayal of feminists by popular media as "man-hating, grim and determined women" has prevented many young women from identifying with the movement, let alone become part of it.

Is there more to the question than one of "image"? Another reason young women offer for their inability to identify with feminism is the political and ideological disagreements amongst feminists. While it can be said that this is just reflective of the diversity of the issues and the cultures within the women's movement/s *, it has also prevented the movement/s from working effectively particularly across race, class, and culture.

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