Rosemarie Tong

Since writing my first introduction to feminist thought nearly two decades ago, I have become increasingly convinced that feminist thought resists categorization into tidy schools of thought. Interdisciplinary, intersectional, and interlocking are the kind of adjectives that best describe the way we feminists think. There is a certain breathlessness in the way we move from one topic to the next, revising our thoughts in midstream. Yet despite the very real problems that come with trying to categorize the thought of an incredibly diverse and large array of feminist thinkers as “x” or “y” or “z,” feminist thought is old enough to have a history complete with a set of labels: liberal, radical, Marxist/socialist, psychoanalytic, care-focused, multicultural/global/colonial, ecofeminist, and postmodern/third wave. To be sure, this list of labels is incomplete and highly contestable. Indeed, it may ultimately prove to be entirely unreflective of feminism’s intellectual and political commitments to women. For now, however, feminist thought’s old labels still remain serviceable. They signal to the public that feminism is not a monolithic ideology and that all feminists do not think alike. The labels also help mark the range of different approaches, perspectives, and frameworks a variety of feminists have used to shape both their explanations for women’s oppression and their proposed solutions for its elimination.

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  1. shinichi Post author

    Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

    by Rosemarie Tong

    Introduction: The Diversity of Feminist Thinking

    Third-wave feminists, eager to shape a new-millennium feminism, push just as hard as postmodern feminists do to rethink the category “woman/women.” For third-wave feminists, difference is the way the world is. Conflict and even self-contradiction are the name of the game as women seek new identities for themselves and stir up what Judith Butler termed “gender trouble.”20 Yet for all their differences from first-wave and second-wave feminists, third-wave feminists have no intentions of thinking, speaking, or writing themselves and other women out of existence. Instead, they aim to answer the “woman question”— Who is she and what does she want?—in ways that it has never been answered

    Clearly, it is a major challenge to contemporary feminism to reconcile the pressures for diversity and difference with those for integration and commonality. Fortunately, contemporary feminists do not shrink from this challenge. It seems that each year, we better understand the reasons why women worldwide are the “second sex” and how to change this state of affairs. In this third edition of my book, I have tried to discuss the weaknesses as well as the strengths of each of the feminist perspectives presented here. In so doing, I have aimed not so much at neutrality as I have at respect, since each feminist perspective has made a rich and lasting contribution to feminist thought. At the end of this book, readers looking for one winning view, a champion left standing after an intellectual free-for-all, will be disappointed. Although all feminist perspectives cannot be equally correct, there is no need here for a definitive final say. Instead there is always room for growth, improvement, reconsideration, and expansion for true feminist thinkers. And this breathing space helps keep us free from the authoritarian trap of having to know it all.


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