What Makes a Third-Wave Feminist Superstar?

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  Tomorrow’s New York Times Style section  has this profile of  Rebecca Walker, daughter of novelist Alice Walker.   In “Evolution of  a Feminist Daughter,”  Stephanie Rosenbloom describes Rebecca Walker’s transformation from third-wave feminist talking head and bisexual, radical adventurer to what Walker herself calls “the new Rebecca,”  the mother of a small child who finds fulfillment in her male partner and in motherhood.   Walker describes motherhood is”the first club I’ve unequivocally belonged to,”and extolls its virtues to young women.  

“I keep telling these women in college, ‘You need to plan having a baby like you plan your career if it’s something that you want,’ “she said.”Because we haven’t been told that, this generation. And they’re shocked when I say that. I’m supposed to be like this feminist telling them, ‘Go achieve, go achieve.’ And I’m sitting there saying, ‘For me, having a baby has been the most transformational experience of my life.’ “

 The same article quotes third-wave writer Jennifer Baumgardner describing Rebecca Walker as “extremely significant for younger feminists”and “a superstar.”   What makes Walker a superstar is not entirely clear, however.   Perhaps it is Walker’s ability to attact this kind of media attention for what  is “a solipsistic open diary of gestation,” according to this book review by  Alexandra Jacobs.   In that review, Jacobs describes Walker’s book as a “paean to pampering.”   Walker shops to soothe herself while pregnant and is attended at her birth by a Tibetan doctor, an osteopath, doula, pedicurist and masseuse.  

Walker no doubt will attract some ire for her claim of the primacy of biological ties between mother and child:  

“I mean, it’s an awful thing to say,”said Ms. Walker, who in a previous relationship helped rear a female partner’s biological son, now 14.”The good thing is he has a biological mom who would die for him.”

Ms. Walker acknowledged that her idea of blood being thicker than water runs contrary to her own philosophy in”Black, White and Jewish,”in which she writes that”all blood is basically the same.”

In a 2001 Curve magazine article she said,”the bonds you create are just as important and just as powerful as the bonds that you are born into.”

When asked about this incongruity, she explained:”To grapple with how my parents raised me I had to come up with a philosophy that could sustain me. Having my own child gave me the opportunity to have a completely different experience. So hence a different view.”

That she is altering a belief or two is something that Ms. Baumgardner said is part of Ms. Walker’s contribution to the Third Wave sensibility, not a betrayal of it.

“She reserves the right to evolve, and that’s a good model for us,”Ms. Baumgardner said.

Certainly everyone has the right to change her or his mind.   That’s what maturation is all about.   Self-evolution comes from an openness to new ideas and experiences.   But let’s not  claim it is a characteristic of third-wave feminism.   If anything, that runs the risk of reinforcing the old saw that “it is a woman’s perogative to change her mind.”  

Hat tip to Serena Mayeri.  

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to What Makes a Third-Wave Feminist Superstar?

  1. TheLawFairy says:

    I’m troubled whenever people try to claim the primacy of biological attachment. This seems terrifically unfair to gay couples and other adoptive parents. Somehow you love your kid less because of a few strands of DNA??? This is a disturbing and offensive thing for Walker say.

  2. Diane says:

    It blows me away that anyone raised by Alice Walker and–to a great extent–Gloria Steinem, could say this type of thing. Only a week or so ago, I said to someone “Whatever happened to Rebecca Walker? Isn’t she supposed to be the new big feminist leader?