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An New Kind of Feminism: Born Globally, Instructs Locally

The Western world is often viewed as one of the birthplaces of feminism. Visions of women burning their bras and protesting Roe v. Wade often fill the heads of many in the United States when the word feminism slips from someone’s lips. A few weeks ago I listened to excellent NPR story about the word feminism. In light of the recent abortion controversy and Texas’s decision to block women’s right to pay for birth control, a new flurry amongst conservative and liberal has thrusted the word feminism back into the spotlight.

One of the distinguishing factors that many say separate second wave feminist with third wave feminist, is that my generation of third wave feminist don’t define our movement by reproductive rights. We were raised in a society where we never had to live without that right. Our sights have been set on other issues that more closely align to our diverse realities. Many second wave feminists have criticized my generation for our lack of activism--- there is still so much work to do and why aren’t we fighting?

And for the most part, I do agree with that statement. When comparing my generation to my parents’, it seems that we can’t get 60s style activism off the ground. The WTO protests trailed off, the Iraq war protests were stomped (did they ever start?), the Occupy movement is going nowhere fast, and yes-- women have to rearticulate their right to use birth control.

Last week my fiancé asked me why I hadn’t written about this debacle yet. The truth is; it’s too hard for me to write about this because I am in denial, I’m afraid and just utterly frustrated. It seems silly for some reason to have to publicly articulate my right to choose. Is this really happening? You know things are getting bad when John McCain has publicly instructed Republicans to lie off of women.

In the wake of this whole mess, what gives me hope isn’t the faith that I have in Roe v. Wade as a cornerstone of American public policy, but the fact that my generation has many role models to look up to and to learn from around the world. We might not know how to go about creating a movement on our own, but thankfully the child that globalization and social media bore is now instructing us how to fight locally.

On April 6, 2008 Wedad Demerdash of Egypt created a Facebook page to organize a strike of disgruntled workers in Tahrir Square. Her courageous act sent waves throughout Egyptian society, which led to the revolution that created the Arab Sprin. I by no means want to idealize the Arab Spring, seeing how thousands have lost their lives and it has sparked inconsolable violence, but I do want honor the Arab world’s tenacity and resilience. Here I am sitting at home, listening to debates about abortion and typing away on my laptop and I have the audacity to be afraid while women around the world are starting revolutions.

Our society has changed so drastically from the 60s, that we need a new activism. We are applying old activism to a new society and we are getting nowhere fast. What once was a white middle class Western movement that we tried to teach the rest of the world, feminism is now something that we are learning from mothers and daughters around the world. I think that the new activism we need is a feminism that is born globally and instructs us locally. This new activism is a movement the will be led by woman around the world.

Thank you for leading.
We need your help!
We need your strength!

In solidarity, Emmy

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