Talking Waves: Structures of Feminist Moments and the Potential of a Wave Economy


  • Emily Hoeflinger Texas A&M University


feminist theory, Third Wave Feminism, Second Wave Feminism, Feminist Rhetoric


Inter-wave tensions are not a new phenomenon, so though this title is bold it seems to have already an established place in the dialogue. What is intriguing about this title is the way it calls out our preoccupation with the rhetoric of the wave structure as the potential point of contention by questioning its function within contemporary feminism. In thinking about this, two major questions seem to need to be addressed: what is problematic about the rhetoric of the wave paradigm and is there another way of conceptualizing this structure that has played a major rhetorical role in feminisms past? The wave system, as a rhetorical structure, tends to establish binaries, blind spots, and inaccurate definitions when reading feminist past and present, which risks the loss of histories not prominent enough to be readily factored into the common notion of ââ¬Åsecondââ¬Â or ââ¬Åthirdââ¬Â wave. Also true, however, is the way in which the wave system, not as a rhetorical device as much as an economy, carries a stock of information from one feminist moment to the next, so losing or rejecting this structure seemingly poses a threat to a collected collective history, or perhaps the better term would be arsenal. Thinking about the wave system as an entity of resources, an economic system, if you will, rather than specific cultural identities may offer the potential to relieve the ever-present, and ever necessary, intra-feminist debates of an unproductive tension. I turn to an essay outside of the feminist wave discourse to help conceptualize the wave structure as an economic resource and do so without intending to make comparisons or assumptions about or between the struggles of colonization and feminism. In his chapter, "From the plantation to the Plantation", Antonio Benitez-Rojo explores the concept of a unified Caribbean culture or identity and the difficulties presented by both national boundaries and differing imperialist histories. The subject matter, i.e. the Caribbean, is what Sidney W. Mintz refers to as a societal area, that contains ââ¬Åmore social-structural features than [it does] cultural features (qtd. in Benitez-Rojo 38). In this sense, the focus is not the similarities of culture across national boundaries, but the economic similarities and its subsequent influence on the development of a non-partisan structuring element. In a way, the plantation turning into a Plantation Economy provides an interesting model for feminism and the struggle to distinguish between the rhetoric of a wave structure and the individualization of a feminist moment. Keeping in mind how personalized the wave structure can be, we must recognize the depersonalized elements, which Benitez-Rojo calls ââ¬Ådynamic regularities. If we think about the wave structure as a series of individualized, freestanding occurrences of the same basic economy, perhaps, then, reading the chaos of feminist moments would render a soft unification of ââ¬Ådynamic regularitiesââ¬Â in lieu a rigid wave rhetoric that attempts to speaks about more than its own context. In separating our moments from the economy of a wave system, perhaps we can more efficiently address the personal issues of feminism without the presence of unproductive, if not faulty, conversations based on territorial disputes. As a system of economy, we could perhaps be able to contribute to the possible tools and rhetoric of feminism without having to privilege locality or nationality.

Author Biography

Emily Hoeflinger, Texas A&M University

Emily Hoeflinger Fourth Year Ph.D. Student 20th Century American Literature and Women's Studies Texas A&M University