Feminism's Fourth Wave

A new activist movement is gathering women across faiths

ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, California psychotherapist Kathlyn Schaaf was overwhelmed by a powerful thought. Watching the violent images on television, she suddenly felt the time had come to "gather the women." She wasn't alone. Schaaf and 11 others who shared her response soon created Gather the Women, a Web site and communications hub that 5,000 women have used to chronicle their local events in support of world peace. As women assembled near the pyramids in Egypt and held potluck dinners in Alaska, staged candlelight vigils and other rituals in countries around the world, it confirmed Schaaf's gut instinct that an untapped reserve of energy "lies like oil beneath the common ground the women share."

Since then, the group has organized a series of congresses to connect women's groups. Their work is one example of a new kind feminism, slowly growing for a decade and now bursting out everywhere. At its heart lies a new kind of political activism that's guided and sustained by spirituality. Some are calling it the long-awaited "fourth wave" of feminism -- a fusion of spirituality and social justice reminiscent of the American civil rights movement and Gandhi's call for nonviolent change.

4/30/2009 7:00:17 PM

This seems very New Agey, in that it seems to support a generic, superficial interpretation of spirituality, which is never well-defined. Also, it tends to make broad assumptions about women as a whole, ie that women are inherently spiritually-minded and share a "feminine spirituality." For these two reasons, and because New Age women tend to be white and upper class, this seems like less of a 4th wave of feminism than a throw-back to 2nd wave feminism with a New Agey twist. It is completely unresponsive to 3rd wave criticism.

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