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Third-Wave Feminism

Third-Wave Feminism


Third-wave feminism

 "Third-wave feminism" is a term referring feminist ideas and issues which have been discussed since approximately the beginning of the 1990s. The primary focus of third-wave feminism is arguably the decision to consciously expand the definition of feminism's goals, associated up to that time with white American women, and to be more inclusive and fluid in defining who can be a feminist. Since not everyone can agree on what third-wave feminism exactly is, its interaction with the law has taken a variety of diffuse forms that have not always been enacted with that explicit theory in mind.


Part of the trouble confronting third-wave feminism is this very lack of legal action to take. Previous feminist movements were greatly concerned with enacting legislation barring discrimination and harassment. However, third-wave feminism does not necessarily require the enactment of American legislation, since many laws to prohibit discrimination already exist. For example, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was enacted to specifically allow lawsuits about ongoing financial discrimination in the workplace to be filed more than 180 days after the first such incident. This legislation was effected with the concrete goal of offering women more legal protections but is not necessarily an example of third-wave feminism.


One of the concerns of third-wave feminism has to do with acts of sexual violence committed against woman. One prominent exponent of such third-wave feminism ideas is Layli Miller-Muro. As a student attorney in 1996, Layli Miller-Muro had served as the counsel of Fauziya Kasinga, a citizen of the African nation of Togo. Fauziya Kasinga sought political asylum on the grounds that if she remained in her country, she would be forced to undergo a custom alternately referred to as "female circumcision" or "female genital mutilation." This process involves cutting off the clitoris.


This kind of action, a violent act perpetrated against women, is the kind of issue that third-wave feminism is determined to confront and rectify. Layli Miller-Muro was successful in arguing before the US Board of Immigration Appeals that Fauziya Kasinga should be granted asylum. The importance of this case rested in its establishment of a precedent for granting asylum to those who are victims of violence derived from gender discrimination. Previously, the only widely accepted standards for granting asylum derived from fears of religious or political persecution.


Continuing to concern herself with how to incorporate third-wave feminism's principles into the law, Layli Miller-Muro subsequently founded the Tahrirh Justice Center, a non-profit organization which provides free legal, social and medical services to female immigrants seeking to become residents of the United States in order to avoid practices such as genital mutilation. The Tahrirh Justice Center also works to lobby on behalf of legislation in accordance with third-wave feminism's principles. For example, the Tahrirh Justice Center was instrumental in passage of a 2006 law providing more background information for immigrant women who wish to marry an American citizen.