Astrid Henry. Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational Conflict and Third Wave Feminism. Bloomington: U of Indiana P, 2004 [Book review]
journal contributionposted on 21.05.2017 by Anthea Taylor
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
In Not My Mother’s Sister, Astrid Henry critiques the excessive use of generational tropes and familial metaphors in American “third-wave” texts. Henry’s stated aim is to analyse how the mother-daughter trope has become the central means of figuring relationships between second-wave and third-wave feminists in the US (2). In so doing, Not My Mother’s Sister fills a significant critical gap within feminist textual studies, specifically in relation to the rhetoric of ‘popular’ feminist writing. Her study consists of close analyses of a number of US texts defined as products of third-wave feminism and which exemplify the “overmaternalization of feminism” (146). She trenchantly observes that such works repeatedly view feminism as a symbolic Mother necessitating repudiation to permit the individuation of her wayward daughter. The feminist publications she analyses, both ‘popular’ and academic (although most can be categorised as the former), are clustered in the 1990s, the point at which she argues the third-wave becomes most culturally visible. An Australian audience may be tempted to read the highly visible media debates over the meaning (and ‘ownership’) of feminism in the 1990s, precipitated by the publication of Helen Garner’s The First Stone, through Henry’s observations on the third-wave. However, the term’s application and currency in Australia has been comparatively limited, either in ‘mainstream’ or academic contexts. Nonetheless, her unpacking of generational tropes and maternal metaphors provides important insight into how relationships between different cohorts of feminists are being figured.