At times this past week, both the Third Wave conference room and I looked like a mess. I have to admit, with such a variety and volume of physical documents to sort through, I found myself feeling a little bit overwhelmed at some points. However, when I was able to actually read, absorb, and appreciate some of the fantastic historical documents I had in front of me, I found moments of peace as I worked through my piles of archives.
I loved reading through the original articles I found that ranged in topic, from “do-me” feminists (a term that was definitely new to me) to interviews with people who I’m starting to feel very familiar with, even though I’ve never actually met them. Some of the same faces appear as participants in ROAMS (Third Wave’s initiative to connect young feminist leaders to grassroots organizations across the US), attendees of Third Wave’s 10th anniversary benefit, or participants in a Third Wave grant recipient convening. To me, all of this simply underscores how passionate and engaged the Third Wave community is.
One of my favorite archives that I stopped to take a deeper look at is Rebecca Walker’s essay, “Becoming the Third Wave.” I mostly knew of Walker as one of Third Wave’s founders, so reading her piece in Ms. Magazine added a new dimension to my knowledge of this integral figure in Third Wave’s history. While I was familiar with the essay’s closing words, “I am not a postfeminism feminist. I am the Third Wave,” reading the essay in its entirety was even more powerful than I had expected. Walker shows the reader how her reactions to the Clarence Thomas hearings and her everyday experiences with sexism inspired her to take her feminism a step further and “integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of [her] life.”
A line from the essay that especially stood out to me is the message Rebecca gained from the Clarence Thomas hearings, that “Women were admonished to keep their experiences to themselves.” Even though I’d like to think that the women’s movement has made a lot of progress, even since the 1990’s, this quotation reminds me of the many ways we are all still silenced — whether it’s fearing to speak up about being sexually assaulted, experiencing stigma for having an abortion, or simply fearing judgment for identifying as a feminist. However, after thinking about the “What it Really Takes” infographic that Third Wave recently produced and how so many people were inspired by it to tell their stories relating to obtaining abortions, I’ve come to believe in the importance of remembering that our experiences are not just our own and we can find solidarity in each other so that we can slowly overcome the pressure to be silent about vital issues in our lives.