margaretta jolly

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Margaretta Jolly lectures in Twentieth Century Literature and Culture at the University of Exeter. She is the editor of Dear Laughing Motorbyke: Letters from Women Welders of the Second World War (1997) and The Encyclopedia of Life Writing (2001). She is currently writing a book on feminist letter writing in the second wave.


Between seventies feminism and the third wave:
a view from the eighties


By chance, within a few months of the Feminist Seventies conference, there was another conference at the University of Exeter on Third Wave Feminisms. It is instructive to compare their topics.


Politics, Pain, Pleasure and Socialist Feminism

Women's Silence

Political Subjectivity

Women Against Male Violence

Confessional Novels


Representations of Lesbian Motherhood

Popular Feminism

Spare Rib


Critiques of Monogamy



Women's Reproductive Rights

Feminism in Northern Ireland

Active Then and Active Now

Women's Liberation and the Seven Demands


Revising the Canon

Essentialism and Difference

Queer Politics

Cinematic Representation




Sex in the City

African Feminisms

Girl/Grrrl Power

(Un)Popular Feminisms

Muslim Feminisms

Human Rights


Cosmetic Surgery





We could worry about decline of activism (has it really?), the rise of posh theory (well that definitely has), women-only versus queer (can't we have both??), homegrown versus media stars (a really tricky one), increasing diversity (looks like this is a good thing!).

But what I really want to know is: what about 'The Feminist Eighties'?

Would such a conference explain the jump from seventies to third wave?

Would it be a fist fight? Or a weeping wall? (Somebody told me a conference simply wouldn't be possible. Why, after all, did the national Women's Liberation conferences stop in 1979? Because the 80s were the age of DIFFERENCE)

If the seventies are 'second wave', and the nineties are the 'third', then what are the eighties? The second second wave? The growing middle-aged of the seventies, or the birth pangs of the nineties? Or the adolescence of a movement, agonising over its identity?

Of course, decades are artifices. The eighties were often the seventies, percolating through and writing back. Now we dialogue with the eighties. History is plural, is generational, is memory.

But that's just why I want the eighties as the memory of my own coming of age. I'm not up to the seventies (I'm an inheritor, I was never at the barricades, I didn't make it as a lesbian-feminist, I was born in 1965, I marvel at early Spare Ribs and the Seven Demands and Woman on the Edge of Time).


And yet I'm too old for the nineties, let alone the noughties. (I'm 37, I went to Greenham and bought Everywoman, I was a lesbian-feminist, I believe in separatism sometimes, I worry about socialist feminism versus radical feminism, and unity, and sometimes sign off 'in sisterhood'.)

The GLC, the sex wars, the race wars, The Handmaid's Tale, the disability movement, Scrap Clause 28, ecofeminism, deconstruction, Greenham, the Poll Tax, Incest Survivors, Anti-Apartheid, spiky hair and dangly earrings and butch/femme, Women's Studies, Tracy Chapman, women's presses, Silvermoon, Iron ladies, awareness training, women not woman difference coalition

if I've remembered wrong, let's get together!
In sisterhood,

email Margaretta at The Feminist Seventies