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F.4.b. The Fourth Wave since 2010 and the Impact in UK

Volume Two -> F. Feminist Movements and Protests -> F.4. Feminism in the West: From Third to Fourth Wave -> F.4.b. The Fourth Wave since 2010 and the Impact in UK

By 2010 there was evidence of a feminist revival in many parts of the west. In the USA Jennifer Siebel Newsom made the documentary film ‘Miss Representation’ challenging the representation of women in the mainstream media, where very few women hold positions of power, and US students joined Campus Rising, protesting against the high levels of violence experienced by women on university campuses and demanding greater safety. In Italy women began to demonstrate in large numbers against the sexism epitomized by Silvio Berlusconi’s government and promoted by his mass media.

Another manifestation of this feminist consciousness is the SlutWalk Movement, which began in North America but rapidly spread to much of Europe and Australia, but also to Latin America, Asia (e.g. India and South Korea) and to Northern Africa and South Africa. The movement was sparked by a Canadian police officer telling university students that to avoid rape they should not dress like ‘sluts’. The first ‘Slut Walk’ in Toronto April 2011 attracted several thousand protesters, and was followed by Walks in many other cities in 2011 and continued into 2012 and 2013. The movement developed into a wider challenge not only to sexual violence and harassment but patriarchal attitudes and culture, and it has been supported by members of the LGBT community. But it has been criticized, for example by Black Women’s Blueprint in the US and by some feminists doubtful about the message conveyed.

A significant and succesful feminist campaign has taken place in Spain, where women have been priminent in challenging the worst effects of the recession (see A.8.b on Indignados) they faced in 2013 by the decision by the governement to amend in a pejortive way the Organic Law 2/2010  on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy. According to this law, abortion may be legally performed within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy at the woman’s request, provided that the woman has been fully informed of her rights and about public benefits and assistance for maternal support, and has waited for a three-day period to pass between the provision of this information and the abortion procedure.

Also, abortions may be legally performed up to 22 weeks for medical reasons, such as after a prior medical assessment issued by a physician other than the one performing the abortion that the pregnancy poses a serious risk to the life or health of the woman (the assessment requirement may be waived in urgent cases); a prior medical assessment issued by two specialist physicians other than the one performing the abortion that there is a serious risk of fetal abnormalities; or following the confirmation by a clinical committee of a report issued by a specialist physician other than the one performing the abortion that the fetus has abnormalities incompatible with life or an extremely serious or incurable illness. All abortion procedures must be performed by a specialist physician or under his or her direction in a public or accredited private hospital, with the written consent of the pregnant woman or her legal representative. Parental consent is required only for girls younger than 16 years of age.  Girls aged sixteen and seventeen have access to abortion but are required to notify at least one parent or legal guardian.  Notification is not required if the teen believes it would result in domestic violence, threats, coercion, abuse, or a situation of estrangement or helplessness.

In 2013, the right wing Partido Popular (or Popular Party), close to the Catholic Church, proposed to restrict radically the right to abortion that they had gained earlier. The practice would only be lawful in the case of rape or when there was a serious (but as yet undefined) health risk to the mother or the fetus. The likelihood of a child being born with disabilities would not be an acceptable justification for abortion. Moreover, women under 18 would require parental consent and parental accompaniment during relevant consultations. Those seeking abortion in Spain would need approval from two independent doctors who would not be permitted to participate in the actual procedure. 

Women protested vigorously, including queues to register symbolically their bodies as their own property, and gained support from some regional and municipal bodies. The Justice Minister initially insisted this manifesto commitment would be kept, but later In September 2014, PM Mariano Rajoy announced that the government would abandon the draft law due to lack of consensus, and that the only reform to the law 2/2010 would be that the government will seek is that 16 and 17-year-old women will require parental consent to have an abortion. In fact, political discussions on abortion law are still being discussed, particularly in regards to parental consent to under 18's, and so it may be subject to change in the future.

For more information on abortion in Spain, these links give a short but comprehensive illustration of the issue:;;

Alongside this revival of feminism, groups representing minorities within western countries, who began to assert their special interests and perspectives in the 1980s, are campaigning on a range of national and global issues, For example, London’s first young poet laureate, Warsan Shire, wrote a poem in February 2014 supporting the campaign against female genital mutilation.

Although this section focuses in particular on the UK, where a surprisingly vigorous array of campaigning groups has sprung up, this rebirth of feminist campaigning around the West is beginning to promote a new literature which has a global dimension and it will be made available whether and when it will be published.

Aune, Kristin ; Redfern, Catherine, Reclaiming the F Word: Feminism Today, [2010], A reprint with a new Preface of their 2010 book: Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement, London, Zed Books, 2013, pp. 244

Based on a survey of over 1000 feminists discusses revitalized movement, the areas in which change is necessary, and how to struggle for change. International perspective but especial focus on UK.

Barnard, Kat, The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today, London, Faber and Faber, 2011, pp. 320

In 2012 Barnard founded UK Feminista, which gives support and training to local activists, and together with Object began the campaign in 2013 Lose the Lads’ Mags. Her book argues that feminism is still very necessary in the light of continuing inequality at work, prevalence of sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence, and treatment of women’s bodies in magazines, lap dancing clubs and on the internet. UK Feminista offers workshops for schools:

Carr, Joetta L., The Slutwalk Movement: A Study in Transnational Activism, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, issue 4 (Spring), 2013, pp. 24-37

North American initiative, but taken up in Britain and transnationally.

Cochrane, Kira, All the Rebel Women: The Rise of the Fourth Wave of Feminism, London, Guardian Books, 2013, pp. 71

See also her article Cochrane, Kira , The fourth wave of feminism: meet the rebel women The Guardian, 10/12/2013

Describes wide range of feminist activities and groups (both established like the Fawcett Society, and new) and wider attitudes to feminism in mainstream organizations such as Girl Guides and Mumsnet.

Cunningham, Maura, Good girls revolt: the future of feminism in China, World Policy Journal, Vol. 33, issue 4, 2016, pp. 18-22

It considers past, present and future prospects of female activism in China and how it is thriving despite the current political leadership in the country, predominantly patriarchal and directed at maintaining social stability, thus suppressing all forms of activism.

Feminist Review, Special issue on ‘Black British Feminism’, Feminist Review, Vol. 108, issue 1, 2014, pp. 1-114

Looks back at pioneering issue 30 years earlier on black feminism (no. 17, 1984) and examines role of black feminists today and the mobilizing impact of cyber feminism.

Gupta, Rahila, From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters, London, Zed Press, 2003, pp. 301

Southall Black Sisters was founded by Asian women in 1982 to campaign about issues specific to women in racial minorities in Britain. Over the years it has become the focus for racial and ethnic minorities in Britain and gained an international profile. Issues tackled include: ‘honour’ killings, domestic violence, forced marriages and resistance to deportations. See also: SBS Collective, Against the Grain London, Southall Black Sisters, , 1990 ,: a collection of essays covering the first ten years, and available from SBS. For current activities:

Okolosie, Lola, Go Feminist: Feminism for all, Red Pepper, issue Apr/May, 2012, pp. 66-65

Account of first Go Feminist conference designed to link up and inspire activists.

Ziegler, Mary, After Roe. The Long History Of The Abortion Debate, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2015, pp. 400

Charts the cultural and political responses to Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental "right to privacy" that protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Drawing on archives and more than 100 interviews with key participants, Ziegler argues that abortion rights proponents were insensitive to larger questions of racial and class injustice. She also contests the idea that abortion opponents were inherently anti-feminist. She demonstrates that the grassroots activists who shaped the discussion after Roe were far more fluid and diverse than the partisans dominating the debate today.

For an overview on the status of abortion laws in the U.S.A. up to May 2019, see the following links:

Feminist campaigns in Britain in 2014 included the following:

  • Daughters of Eve works against female genital mutilation and supports victims:
  • Eaves focuses on trafficking, helping women leave prostitution and on domestic violence, offering practical support as well as engaging in research and campaigning:
  • The End Violence Against Women Coalition, created in 2005, brings together both organizations and individuals to campaign against violence against women in all its forms, lobbies local, regional and national government bodies in the UK and challenges cultural attitudes:
  • The Everyday Sexism Project runs a website encouraging women to add their experiences of sexism ; it aims to show that sexism exists and that it is important to discuss and expose it.

A new feminist magazine, Feminist Times, was launched online in October 2013, with the aim of becoming available in print, but had to close down in July 2014, when it ran its last weekly issue.