Four waves of feminism

Feminism: A fourth wave?

The internet has emerged as an increasingly important space for feminist activists. Are we witnessing a shift from third- to fourth-wave feminism? Ealasaid Munro examines the history of feminism and looks at what contemporary developments might mean for feminist politics.

Earlier this year, commentator Suzanne Moore found herself at the centre of a media storm. The reason: she had written a piece in the New Statesman arguing that women feel guilty if they do not conform to a socially sanctioned, ideal body shape. So far, so uncontroversial, but unfortunately, Moore’s choice of imagery was, at best, careless: she likened this perfect body to that of a ‘Brazilian transsexual’. The remark was considered offensive for a number of reasons: it suggested that trans-women could not be considered women, whilst callously mocking the trans community as a whole. (In this article, I use the term ‘trans’ to refer to those who feel excluded by traditional, binary understandings of gender.) Even the reference to Brazil was misguided – Brazil has one of the worst records on transphobic hate crime in the world. A few days later, her friend Julie Burchill penned a piece in The Observer in which she claimed that Moore had been forced to quit the social networking site Twitter by a ‘gaggle of transsexuals’. Burchill’s piece was deeply offensive and transphobic – in one particularly callous aside, she says ‘they’re lucky I’m not calling them shemales. Or shims’. Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, called publicly for her to be sacked. The Guardian, sister paper of the Observer, quickly removed Burchill’s article from their website.

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