Document Type



This article critically examines a growing body of non-legal writing by women who have proclaimed a third-wave of feminism and suggests the ways that legal theory might be enriched by this work. Scholars typically label the nineteenth-century woman suffrage movement as the first wave of feminism, and view the legal and social activism of the 1970s as the second wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism, with its intellectual origins in the response to the Clarence Thomas Senate confirmation hearings, is a reaction to the popular stereotype that feminists are humorless man-haters. Third-wave feminists proclaim their difference from second-wave feminists and celebrate girl power, the joys of make-up and femininity, the complexity of human desire and the importance of fun.

Using pornography as the central focus, this article explores the main themes and methods of third-wave feminism. Third-wave feminists view the making and consumption of pornography as a matter of personal preference and actively resist any role for law in the regulation of pornography. These third-wave writings about pornography and other issues express: (1) dissatisfaction with earlier feminists; (2) the multiple nature of personal identity; (3) the joy of embracing a traditionally feminine appearance and feminine attributes; (4) the centrality of sexual pleasure and sexual self-awareness; (5) the obstacles to economic empowerment; and (6) the social and cultural impact of media and technology. The principal methods of third-wave feminism are personal story-telling, coalition-building and harnessing and interpreting the media.

Substantively third-wave feminism is neo-legal in the sense that it does not imagine a full role for law in achieving equality between men and women. The article concludes by suggesting a possible third-wave feminist legal approach to internet regulation, domestic violence, prostitution, abortion, reproductive technology, child care, education and sexual harassment.