No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

Synopsis

No Permanent Waves boldly enters the ongoing debates over the utility of the "wave" metaphor for capturing the complex history of women's rights by offering fresh perspectives on the diverse movements that comprise U.S. feminism, past and present. Seventeen essays--both original and reprinted--address continuities, conflicts, and transformations among women's movements in the United States from the early nineteenth century through today.

A respected group of contributors from diverse generations and backgrounds argue for new chronologies, more inclusive conceptualizations of feminist agendas and participants, and fuller engagements with contestations around particular issues and practices. Race, class, and sexuality are explored within histories of women's rights and feminism as well as the cultural and intellectual currents and social and political priorities that marked movements for women's advancement and liberation. These essays question whether the concept of waves surging and receding can fully capture the complexities of U.S. feminisms and suggest models for reimagining these histories from radio waves to hip-hop.

Excerpt

No Permanent Waves engages the ongoing debates over the adequacy of the “wave” metaphor for capturing the complex history of women’s rights and feminism in the United States. But it also moves beyond these debates to offer fresh perspectives on the diverse movements that constitute U.S. feminism, past and present. The volume brings together seventeen essays—both original and reprinted—to address the connections among movements for women’s rights and gender justice over time as well as the conflicts and divisions within such movements at any one time. The contributors, from different generations and backgrounds, argue for new chronologies, more inclusive conceptualizations of feminist agendas and participants, and fuller engagements with contestations around particular issues and practices than has been possible when using dominant analytical frameworks. They address issues of race, class, and sexuality within histories of women’s rights and feminism as well as the cultural and intellectual currents and social and political priorities that marked movements for women’s advancement and liberation. The concept of waves surging and receding cannot fully capture these multiple and overlapping movements, chronologies, issues, and sites.

It is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when feminists in the 1960s first identified themselves as part of a “second wave.” The rubric gained popular currency, however, with Martha Weinman Lears’s article “The Second Feminist Wave,” published in the New York Times Magazine in March 1968. But the wave metaphor had been wielded much earlier. Irish activist Frances Power Cobbe, writing of social movements more generally in 1884, claimed that some “resemble the tides of the Ocean, where each wave . . .

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