When second-wave feminism came to the front of the various protest movements of the 1960s it was seen by many of both sexes as a distinct set of issues, and although its broader goals and revolutionary implications applied to everyone, too often it was seen in the limited context of woman’s groups, the fight for access to safe abortions, and other such issues. The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism reflects the tremendous expansion of feminism over the past thirty years and presents a series of essays from a number of female organizers about the varied issues they address, giving an indication of how feminism has moved beyond on just “woman’s issues” to become an integral part of citizens’ movements around the world.
The topics addressed in The Fire this Time are varied–the emergence of the global Indymedia network and its addressing of gender issues, the effects of US foreign policy on women, transgendered people and the legal system, immigration, efforts to organize largely female domestic worker populations, efforts to unite women whether in the zine scene of the early 1990s or more recent attempts to form feminist foundations, and the consequences of the prison-industrial complex for women-and those are only a few of the topics covered. Among the most interesting of the essays is Robin Templeton’s look at how the prison-industrial complex is shaping minority families in the United States, how the role of women in these families has shifted, and how women are organizing in response to the incarceration of a significant portion of their races’ males. Ana Nogueria’s and Joshua Breitbart’s essay on how the Indymedia network and how the creation of participatory, user-centered networks for publishing news has created a feminist alternative to the corporate media (as well as raising some questions about how women’s perspectives and gender issues are addressed in the framework of a largely male population of tech people) provides a critical examination of how more egalitarian systems can function within, and as a response to, the existing structure of society. Other interesting essays include Ayana Byrd’s essay on female subjectivity in contemporary hip-hop and Syd Lindsley’s examination of the anti-immigrant stances of many environmental groups. Perhaps the most important lesson that can be learned from the book that feminism cannot be narrowly defined and that an analysis of gender and patriarchy must be a critical part of movements for social change, and indeed The Fire this Time presents a number of ways in which feminist views can be incorporated into a variety of organizing efforts.
Many of the authors in the book eschew the “Feminist” label, viewing the upper-case feminism as the narrowly defined province of upper-class white liberal women who want “an equal share of the wealthy”, and prove that as Rebecca Walker states in the introduction, feminism is far from dead and indeed has been revived in a variety of movements. The Fire this Time provides an engaging series of essays on the amazing work that woman are doing and the ways feminism has been embraced by a new generation of activists.
Vivien Labaton and Dawn Lundy Martin, eds., The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism, (Anchor Books, 2004).