CNN Needs A History Lesson On The Third Wave Of Feminism

by Julia Zdrojewski

Recently CNN published a video where three women who have all accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault met for the first time. If you haven’t yet seen the footage or watched the clips, I suggest you do- the women discuss in detail how fear and the social expectation of women keeping quiet prevented them from sharing their personal stories earlier

The video was published alongside a corresponding article, written by investigative journalist Nina Burleigh titled “Rape rage driving feminism’s ‘third wave’” which began, “Ebola, ISIS and Ferguson grabbed the headlines in 2014, but there is another huge story that should not be overlooked. Historians could look back on this year as the beginning of feminism’s third wave.”

Hold up. Is it the early 90s? Is Bill Clinton discussed more than Hillary? Is the most popular prince the Fresh Prince? Hey, Nina Burleigh, no disrespect, but you can’t just DeLorean-time-machine people back in time and not tell them!

While it does seem that everything old from the 90’s is new again – a Clinton as a potential president, our obsession with the newest Fresh Prince (this time a white, English baby) and our love affair with flannel, we should all be clear that the third wave of feminism is not just beginning now… it already began… a long, long time ago… during the reign of Amy Grant and Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg (you know, back when he was funky and could never find a shirt).

Third Wave Agenda, Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake (1997)

The history of feminism may not be a perfect one, but it’s an important history to know while trying to move forward with the movement. And to overlook that the third wave of feminism already happened is to overlook a lot of important cultural icons, movements, and moments in history, such as the premiere of The Vagina Monologues, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Riot Grrrls in music and the DIY zine scene, reclaiming queerness, protesting for reproductive rights, Anita Hill speaking her truth, Clarissa Darling explaining it all, Murphy Brown, TLC  and Salt-n-Pepa, and the beginning of a kick-ass magazine that I like to call BUST (among other things).

So much has changed since then. Think about everything that has blown up since 2000: social media, skinny jeans, Beyoncé! Feminism looks different in 2014. It’s arguably more inclusive and intersectional than ever before. There are even those who argue that thanks to Twitter’s ability to create an internet meritocracy, we may have even entered a Fourth Wave of Feminism. This is important to us because this is our generation’s wave of feminism to mold and grow and change with. There is a reason feminism has evolved to where it is now in our culture. 

There’s give and take and a natural overlap with the beginning and end of different periods of feminism, they are called waves after all, but we need to have knowledge of what our past is, if only so we can be better in the future.


Images via CHY4U1, Giphy & Bust, Amazon


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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