Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 25, 2008

Philosophy and Gender

Bettina Schmitz
Pages 95-108

Balancing Feminism
Third Wave as a Lesson On How to Be Different

Coming from Germany in Europe I am starting with Feminism from a Western point of view but with a perspective of dialogue with Feminisms in other parts of the World. My inquiry deals with problems of the present time, especially how to make Feminism interesting not only to a philosophical or academic public, but to people from all professional fields and disciplines. The political perspective of feminist philosophy can be underlined with the central definition the Austrian philosopher Herta Nagl Docekal gives. According to this definition freedom of women is the main issue of each feminist interrogation. With regard to the development of women’s liberation in Europe and the USA three different movements of feminism can be distinguished: the main issue of the first is the notion of equality, it is also called humanist feminism according to Iris Marion Young; secondly we have the feminism of difference or gynocentrism; the third wave can not so easily be defined, a wide range of variety exists, which may lead to the impression that no more general aim is left. Sometimes it is also called postmodern feminism. But what does this mean: postmodern feminism? Far from an arbitrary attitude, which does not accept any order, postmodern feminism – as postmodern and poststructural philosophy – may be understood as a lesson on how to be different and not to loose the aims women share all over the world. The most important challenge is to find a new balance between the different aims and groups of feminism as well as between feminism in different societies and cultures. Feminisms from the beginnings wanted to overcome step by step the prejudices about men and women, about sex and gender, one of the heritages of our Western tradition. My interpretation of Third Wave may be seen as another step on this way.