Date of Award

8-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Douglas Bristol, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

History

Abstract

This thesis examines the history of academic feminists and their changing debates over race, class, sexism, and sexual preference from the 1980s to the present. In the 1980s, white feminists tended to focus on sexism in the workplace and class discrimination, while black feminists focused instead on the racism and classism that black women faced both inside and outside of academia. More recently, millennial feminists, in both third- and fourth-wave feminism, have continued to focus on racial discrimination within feminism (and broader society) while also examining women’s sexual preferences. However, they have stopped focusing on sexism in the workplace and class discrimination. In this thesis, Alice Kessler-Harris and Rosalind Rosenberg represent the perspectives of 1980s white feminists, while Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis, bell hooks, and others represented the perspectives of 1980s black feminists. Ashanka Kumar, Jacqueline Warwick, Audra Gaugler, Joyce E. Marshall, and Janell Hobson represent the perspectives of millennial feminists. Recently, millennial feminists have analyzed the feminism of celebrities such as Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Diana Ross.

There are multiple purposes to this study. As described above, the first is to describe how white and black feminists from the 1980s to the present analyzed race, class, sexism, and sexual preference. The second is to show the methods in the public sphere through which feminists have raised and analyzed issues of concern. In the 1980s academic feminists wrote print books and magazines and newspaper articles; millennial feminists have written more on social media platforms and are more concerned with commenting on celebrities. This thesis emphasizes the growing importance of celebrity, alongside social media, in transmitting feminists’ messages. The final purpose of this thesis is to highlight that race is the only issue that both black feminists in the 1980s and millennial feminists have given equal consideration. However, this thesis also cautions millennial feminists not to lose sight of the continued importance of tackling class and workplace discrimination.

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