Friday, July 9, 2010

What's in a Name: Or, Should NAW be renamed?

As linguistic snobs and literary geeks, Erica and Emily believe in the power of the word. Why else would they constantly talk about language and rhetoric and critique the way that public figures and other writers express themselves?

And because Erica and Emily believe in the power of the word, we at Not Another Wave have entered into a debate about the very name of this blog. If you want me to put this debate in context, read on (oh, how I hope you'll read on). If you want to skip straight to the vote, just scroll to the bottom of this post.


What do waves have to do with our own brand of feminism? Well, as Erica discussed in the very first NAW post ever, scholars tend to talk about the history of feminism in waves. More specifically, they refer to two main waves: First Wave and Second Wave. American First Wave Feminism was characterized by suffragist movements. Organized feminism was still pretty conservative in those days, and the demands were just a start: they wanted the vote, and they couldn't afford to ask for much more. Plus, the majority of the suffragists were white women from upper class and upper middle class families. They did great work, but they weren't always in tune with the needs of women from other ethnicities and socioeceonomic backgrounds. In their desperate efforts to get the vote out to at least part of the female population, they were sometimes downright racist and hateful.

Now, I (Emily) am not good with historical dates, so please don't judge NAW if I get any historical details wrong, but as I understand it, that first wave got going during the Emancipation movement and continued up until WWI, after which women finally got the vote in the US. Even later than our English sisters, I must point out.

The brand of feminism most people are familiar with, though, is referred to as Second Wave Feminism. Second Wave Feminism had its hay day in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This movement was characterized by disillusionment, as women whose mothers and grandmothers had fought so hard for the vote suddenly realized that there was still no gender equality in the US. These women decided it wasn't ok for there to be more shelters in the US for animals than for women and children who had survived abused. They decided it wasn't ok for men to be paid more, on the dollar, for doing the same exact jobs as their female counter parts. They decided benevolent sexism was not justified in telling women not to "worry their pretty little heads," or in imprisoning women in the false dichotomy of whores and angels. And you know what else? They decided they were sick of being told that women were not supposed to enjoy sex, and that while women were supposed to be pure and innocent on their wedding nights and never have sex with anyone outside of wedlock, boys would be boys and men had needs, and men had every right to cheat as long as the cheating was discrete.

So these second wave feminists shook things up. They questioned the culture that had perpetuated myth after myth about women being inferior to men. They demanded true equality in marriage and refused to "obey" their husbands. They demanded that we revoke sexual double standards, and they set about teaching women that they had the right to determine how their bodies were used. They did not all support abortion rights, but many did. They were sick of seeing people shun women who gave birth outside of marriage, while the father got off scott free because, "hey, boys will be boys, and the girl should've told him no."

Like their first wave ancestors, second wave feminists did phenomenal work. Just consider how much more egalitarian marriage is today, compared to what it was in the fifties. How much easier it is for men to talk about their feelings or change diapers without receiving social censure, and how much more acceptable it is for a woman to develop a career of her own rather than dropping out of college the instant she meets a nice boy and gets married.

Unfortunately, the legacy of Second Wave feminism isn't all rainbows and lollipops. While Second Wavers did a whole lot of good, they made a lot of enemies in the process (such as the news media, a very unfortunate enemy to make), and they left just as many women feeling marginalized as the First Wavers did. In general these women weren't deliberately racist or classist. But they forgot that the issues faced by African American women in the Bronx were a heck of a lot different from those faced by women in the wealthy, educated elite. Thus movements like Womanism sprang up, to address the enormous gaps in the gender equality movement left by out-of-touch white feminists.

Then, something very unfortunate happened in the Feminist movement - somewhere between Second Wave feminism and whatever is coming next, people got this weird idea that sexism no longer existed in the US. That sexual harassment was a myth created by women who wanted to get good men fired for no good reason, and that women only got raped by evil men. I wonder sometimes if this backlash is a testament to the Second Wave's success. The Second Wavers worked really hard at convincing people that sexism was a human rights violation, and now people take the concept of sexism so seriously that they can't see it in anyone who is less than evil. Especially if those someones are themselves. Whatever the case, today there are many people who believe we have already attained equality and that there is nothing more worth fighting for through feminism.

So what happened to the feminist movement? Well, it got scattered. We ended up with feminists like Erica and Emily who are still religious and who specialize in preventing domestic abuse. We ended up with many women of color joining the Womanism movement. We ended up with feminists who focus on fighting for abortion rights, and feminists who argue that abortion is demeaning to women. And then we ended up with blogs like, which is very exclusive about who is allowed into the feminist camp. (Hint: Mormons and Catholics are not welcome). Overall, we ended up with lots of different feminist camps, but with no "mainstream feminists" (no matter what those who oppose "mainstream feminism" would like us to believe about those mean mainstreamers whom they can never actually name).

Enter Erica and Emily. Desperate to form a community where people from all walks of life could discuss their views on gender, biological sex, and feminism, we started Not Another Wave. We called it Not Another Wave because we wanted so much more than another wave that would fizzle, alienate minorities, and then die. We wanted something that would last, and we wanted a community where conservatives like Carl The Open Minded Chauvinist could talk openly with Wiccans, transgender folk, and homosexual and bisexual individuals. Where a Catholic bisexual who has two degrees in Women's Studies and is engaged to a man would not be told she was selling out to heterosexuality. Where a Mormon feminist wouldn't be told she had betrayed all women by staying true to the faith she believes in.

But as much as we love the name "Not Another Wave," we're beginning to wonder if that name translates to our readers. The length of this one post alone reveals how much context it takes for a reader to appreciate the title. And while we love all the readers we've acquired thus far, we want even more readers. We want even more people to stick around and join the conversation. Because two feminists who grew up on the same street, in the same small town and who have similar internal mixes of feminism and religion, do not a diverse conversation make.

So we're putting the question of our name to you, our loyal readers. Do you think we should keep our name as it is, or do you think we should change it to something new? Something catchier and easier to access? The alternate names we've brainstormed so far include short and sweet names like "genderisms," and longer ones like "There's a Feminist in my Blog." So here's a short list for you to vote on. This won't be a deciding vote, per se, but we will factor your voices into whatever we decide:

Not Another Wave (that is, keeping the current name)


All The Feminists

There's a Feminist in my Blog

The Feminist Next Door

And let's leave the list at that for now. If you have other suggestions we'd love to hear those too. We can hold a new poll later on if we need to.


  1. I don't mind the name, but if you insist on changing it The Feminist Next Door is fun!

    Brilliant writing Emily!

  2. Yeah, well written. You give a great context for our title. Still working on brainstorming...but I'm liking the suggestions we're seeing.

  3. I would not like you to change the name at all. All to often, a movement leaves the individual out of the equation. We satisfice our ideals into a larger movement in order to feel that part of our ideology is moving in the right direction. We often forget that a movement or a wave is merely a group of disagreeing people that happen to agree on one or two very general ideas. The inertia of the group often creates outcomes that are wholly unwanted by some or many of the movement members. By saying Not Another Wave, you include the beauty of dissent within the movement. Erica and Emily have often disagreed while maintaining harmony of discussion and purpose. That is what this should be all about. If one were to conjecture that the founding men of the U.S. were of one heart and one mind, or any group for that matter, I would consider that a gross and terrible generalization. This country, the first and second waves, the NAZI party, Stalinism, and free speech were mere inertia–the dissent was trumped by the one or two ideals that everyone shared. But NAW is slightly different. It is the embrace of dissent. Feminism is important, but from every feministic view point. I would consider it a loss, judging especially from the ideas posted, but most importantly from my attachment to the blog. Not Another Wave does not need to fall prey to Just Another Cliché.

  4. I love the name, as I understand the title and read "We don't need another wave" but it can be indeed a little cryptic for the new feminists out there.

    The feminist next door cracks me up! ;)

  5. Oh, thank you, thank you! For pointing out the old (very incorrect) adage of boys will be boys. Utter nonesense. Our society needs to stop sending boys conflicting messages about manhood (and their definitions are as fluid and fallacious as they could ever be, in my opinion) and make sure they know that it's ok to be emotional, it's ok to want to be an equestrian, it's ok to be a mama's boy or to want to talk about things. This false machismo of mocking womanhood and then not doing anything that could be considered 'gay' needs to be thrown into the incinerator, if I may be so bold. A true man upholds and reveres women, respects their influence, and counsels with them, not puts himself above them. A true man confides in those he loves, be they his wife, a brother, or a best friend, and is willing to offer a shoulder to cry on. A true man, a real boy, will only come to be as he sheds that gender straitjacket that the contradictory Boy Code imposes on him.

    You may like to read "Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood" by William Pollack. I feel it is along the same vibe as "Reviving Ophelia". In fact, Mary Pipher gives the Foreword to the book, if I am not mistaken.

    Forgive the rant, I just needed to get that off of my chest. You might say I am passionate about it, as a psych major and hopefully some day a child psychologist.