Talking With Feminism's "Sandwich Generation"

Second Wave, Third Wave and . . . ?

By Katherine Lanpher
Amy Richards (left) and Jennifer Baumgardner, authors of "Manifesta."
Photograph: Photo by Ali Price.

Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner (both 40) have been comrades-in-arms for nearly two decades, starting when they both worked at Ms. Magazine. This spring saw the 10-year anniversary of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, the book that cemented them as leaders of the Third Wave; they also run Soapbox Inc., a feminist speakers bureau. Too accomplished to be called up-and-coming feminists—but not around long enough yet to have achieved Steinem-level stature—the icons-in-the-making are at a perfect vantage point to comment on the generations that came before them and after. here, a coupla sandwich generations feminists speak with More about their view from the middle.

More There are women in their twenties who refuse to call themselves feminists. Why?

Richards
Because of the mythology of how activist and protest-oriented feminism was. We hear a lot of women say, "It’s not that I don’t believe in the goals, but I kind of love when my boyfriend treats me on Valentine’s Day and I did love being a cheerleader."

More You set a new tone for the Third Wave by talking about how feminists could dress in heels and wear makeup if they wanted. But sexuality and the expression of sexuality—how you dress, for example—seems to divide Second Wavers from their younger counterparts.

Baumgardner Feminism is about having access to enough information and resources to make authentic choices about your life. There isn’t a hairy armpit, hemp outfit, vegan [prototype]. Presentation decisions are becoming more meaningless . . . For us growing up, there was a big moment with Madonna; she demonstrated that you don’t have to get rid of your sexuality—you just have to be in charge of it.

Richards What’s upsetting is that older women care about what they look like, too. They might want to look a different way than the younger generation, but the women I see at most of the women’s studies receptions [I attend] put on earrings or a nice vest and certain shoes. They care; it’s just that they have a different aesthetic.

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