Measuring the feminist movement in waves has become tiresome and inexact. Perhaps it would be better described like software, with system updates containing patches for old problems.
The movement’s latest update addresses some of the problems embedded in 1960s second-wave feminism, which one might call v2.0, but not addressed by v2.1 in the ’90s. Feminism 2.0 focused on the struggles of better educated, higher-earning white women, with the assumption that all benefits accrued would then trickle down. Feminism 2.1 didn’t so much correct that belief as add a stipulation that all women could shave, wear heels, and embrace sex—whether as work or play—and still be empowered.
Women of color and less affluent women have long criticized feminism as it has been practiced as insufficient, even alienating, but their complaints did not seem to register with the appropriate force until now. Today, many accept that no movement purporting to be about the condition of women as a whole can leave everyone other than the most privileged only to infer they are included too. Instead, this latest iteration of feminism has explicitly adopted the struggles of these women as a focal point.
The voices of this movement range from pop divas to podcast hosts. Beyoncé has not merely raised the profile of feminism—she has, for large swaths of the population, defined it. She embodies the new, vital emphasis on “intersectionality” by, among other things, promoting the experiences of less high-profile women of color, such as the blisteringly smart writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast, which has become such a cultural phenomenon that it went from zero to hosting Hillary Clinton in only six months, frequently spotlights the work of lesser known activists such as the Native American scholar Adrienne Keene and the artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. The show’s hosts have made it clear, both on Twitter and on the air, that this intersectional feminism is the only kind that interests them.