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How 8 Songs from the '90s Define Third-Wave Feminism

Editor's Note: See part I here in Amelia Hamilton's series exploring the transformations in feminist history and ideology: The Relevant and the Ridiculous: A Guide Through Feminist History

The third wave of feminism got started in the 1990s as a reaction against the second wave fought by their mothers (both figuratively and, sometimes, literally). There were some central tenets at the heart of third-wave feminism, and they can be illustrated in contemporary music. Join me on a walk through '90s music, and the ways in which these songs illustrate third-wave feminist ideals.

1. Third-wave feminism went beyond legal equality for women, but empowered women to fight for other social issues as well.

One key way in which third-wave feminism differed from earlier waves was that it wasn’t just about women. Take, for example, the Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, founded in 1992. One of the founders was Rebecca Walker, daughter of second-wave feminist Alice Walker. In 1997, the group became the Third Wave Foundation, and was not only dedicated to traditional women’s rights issues, but worked to “explicitly connect women’s issues to issues of race, sexuality, class, and ability.” This was bigger than simply legal equality for women.

Arrested Development’s "Mama’s Always on Stage" (1992)

Key lyrics:

Mama's always on stage

Can't be a revolution without women

Can't be a revolution without children