Calling For The Fourth Wave: A Manifesto

IMG_20170304_130932This article was co-written by Ella. Art by Ella.

I. Preface

Whatever third wave feminism first set out to be, it has transformed into a wholly different beast.

It promised to be an intersectional, more progressive refinement of second wave feminism. Somewhere along the way, it got stretched and pulled, poked and prodded by men (and women aiming to please men), finally becoming the mess we find ourselves in today. In its quest to absolutely avoid stepping on any toes and to please every single person on earth, third wave feminism has achieved absolutely nothing.

In fact, it has continually stepped on the very women it claims to be helping the most: lesbians, poor women, women of color, young girls. It has done this in order to please and prioritize men.

It proposes no solutions to the structural sexism we see in our society. It encourages women to do the very things men require of us. It demands women to throw our sisters under the bus so that men may have their way.

Third wave feminism is a neoliberalist, misogynistic, nonsensical, huge step backwards.

But there is hope, and it lies in the women who refuse to submit.

I see hope in women like Gail Dines and Rachel Moran, who use research, statistics, and their own stories to speak and write on women’s oppression.

I see it in women like Magdalen Berns, who challenges predators, homophobes, and misogynists through hilarious and informative videos.

I see it in women groups like The Untameable Shrews (whom I interviewed for this month’s issue!), who use their creativity and skill to create unforgettable radical street art.

I see it in every girl who shares, discusses, and promotes radical ideas on social media, despite  a deluge of death threats, doxxing, and dick pics.

By proposing a fourth wave of feminism, we can begin to put third wave in the past.

Because radical feminism is not the history of feminism. It’s the future.

II. We are

Anti-prostitution and porn because these are commodification and objectification of women. Because the facts show that they are enablers of abuse and rape. Because absolutely no part of a woman should be bought or sold.

Anti-beauty culture because the worth of a woman has no basis in her appearance. Because the tasks required of a woman to be “beautiful” are pointless and expensive at best and debilitating at worst. Because these tasks exist specifically to subordinate women.

Anti-gender because sex is a biological reality and gender is a social construct that exists to subordinate women. Because there is no such thing as a “female brain” or a “female personality” or a “female soul”. Because oppression is a system that cannot be opted in or out of.

Anti-capitalism because in a capitalist society, a woman is an exploited resource.

Anti-kink because kinks are, more often than not, harmful products of pedophile culture and rape culture.

Anti-TERF/TWERF/SWERF because these are simply used to silence any woman who disagrees with the mainstream feminist hivemind. Because there is no such thing as a TERF/TWERF/SWERF.

Anti-homophobia

Anti-racism

Anti-ableism

Pro-choice because no one owns a woman’s body but her.

Pro-liberation because we do not want to be empowered within a fundamentally oppressive society. Because we want total freedom from that society.

Pro-female

III. The Things We Will Do

De-center our lives around men.

Center our lives around women.

Remember, respect, and honor our feminist foremothers–while also recognizing their faults, their racism, homophobia, etc.

Name the problem of male violence.

Promote critical thinking. Analyze and question everything, no matter how small or how much you take it for granted.

Provide resources/content/news freely and through an open source whenever we can, to accommodate women from every location and social class.

Discuss, invent and utilize different activist strategies to affect change in the real world.

Debate thoughtfully and without malice, and teach our radfem sisters to do the same. Continual debate will make our movement stronger and more ideologically sound. We are not a cult. We allow for respectful disagreement and will always make time to listen to each other.

Make our own spaces, resources, and communities where there are none. Center our activism around creation, not destruction.

Support other radical feminists in their creative/personal/educational/political endeavors.

Consider which women will benefit when planning political action. Consider which barriers to liberation it will destroy. Consider how we can expand our activism to help women from every race, class, sexuality, and socioeconomic background.

Research and support female-owned industry and arts.

Do the hard work of being a feminist.

5 responses to “Calling For The Fourth Wave: A Manifesto

    • We are anti-“SWERF” because we don’t exclude prostituted women from our feminism–quite the opposite actually. We are fighting for them because the statistics and facts show that prostitution enables abuse, rape, and human trafficking. We are listening when ex-prostituted women share their stories and call for the end of the sex trade. So you can see how, by virtue of being anti-prostitution, we cannot possibly be “SWERFS”. Maybe somewhere there ARE “feminists” who deliberately exclude prostituted women from their feminism, but the fourth wave certainly does not include any of those “feminists”.

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  1. Rather than continuing to rely on the wave metaphor, why not go further and just call those 3rd-wavers anti-feminist? You’ve laid out the rationale beautifully above. Some of us identify much more with 60s and 70s radical feminism no matter what our current age might be.

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  2. Hi, Ella and Braat, and thank you for raising this important question and setting out your thoughts. I hope it’s ok to give a long response here, because so many big issues are raised.

    The specifics you discuss are all good for sure. To me, though, these specifics are TOO specific to inaugurate a Fourth Wave of Feminism. To me it is all a set of immediate positions without a coherent comprehensive theory behind it. I do agree with almost all of Braat’s positions and at present I know radical women don’t even have this much agreed on and out there as a joint statement. But after so many years, I’m still looking for an analysis that covers the real scope of feminism’s project.

    Why not lay out systematically how the male domination system works: how it affects human food (economics) systems, how it affects our sex (reproduction) systems, how it is a separate stratification system from the social stratification systems within the male sex, how it’s enforced with innumerable methods of persuasion, intimidation, and violence, how it forces women into economic dependence in innumerable ways such as inheritance laws, construction of the private sphere, preventing women from accumulating capital, preventing women from owning land, and treating our labor as non-wage labor; how marriage is the main funnel into that dependence; how justificatory ideologies and institutions like religion, law, and family for instance are all part of the protection racket that maintains women’s dependant status; how women are systematically excluded from “human” culture (political power, economic production, art, knowledge systems); what particular forms our exploitation takes (most importantly, subsystems of reproductive and sexual control, but also our emotional and domestic labor); and how women are exchanged as commodities worldwide via institutions such as dowry, bride price, family debt payment, concubinage, prostitution,and sex slavery?

    Then lay out how this imbalance between male and female power has put, not just women, not just humans, but the planet into jeopardy, with its mad wars, amoral technology, and insatiable greed, all symptoms of male power gone wild?

    And what about a simple four-pronged plan of action: 1) fight the exclusion of women from culture (including politics, economics, art, religion, and exclusion from the public sphere generally); 2) fight all systems depriving women of economic independence (expropriating the accumulation of surplus from women’s labor, including domestic unpaid “use” labor); 3) fight the exchange of women by men (marriage transactions, prostitution, objectification and commodification of all kinds); and 4) fight to strictly control violence, intimidation, and other methods of supporting the current imbalance?

    This is what I’d support including in a Fourth Wave Manifesto. The ending would say that women must unite in changing the moral idea of what constitutes the “good” in human society, moving from the destructive capitalist goal of insatiable accumulation of profit by individuals, to the goal of human welfare generally (the alleviation of suffering of humans caused by lack of basic survival needs, suffering of other species caused by humans, and destruction of the resources and systems of the planet caused by humans); otherwise, we’ll lose the world.

    All of the ad hoc positions Braat has laid out fit under one of the four “prongs” I’ve outlined. And this keeps their interrelationships clear to us and forces everyone to keep in mind the overall picture of the imbalance we are correcting.

    To be truly comprehensive and coherent, I’d also support our laying out an evidence-based theory of the origins of male domination, its impetus and motivations arising from biology and evolution, not just describing ending male domination’s current functioning and systems.

    So I see where Braat is coming from, and it’s important and true. But I keep wishing that the bigger picture could be laid out. Perhaps it just seems like too ambitious a project, I don’t know. And how to discuss this online in a constructive way leading to consensus point by point is certainly a difficult question. The problem is not to get to the details before we have agreed on the basics.

    As always, this is just one radfem’s opinion, and thanks very much for your posting.

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