In the spring of 1995, I taught an undergraduate class in women’s studies at Rutgers University, a large public university. All of the students, even the “nontraditional” ones, were younger than I. I felt a fine affection for my students: the political science major who wanted to become a record producer; the white woman who galvanized the class with her descriptions of being on welfare as a single mom; the African-American student, the first in her family to attend college, whose mother and aunt had protected her while she was growing up in a tough urban neighborhood; the out lesbian who drove a Jeep and insisted on spelling women “womyn.”
The class taught me about the current stage of women’s studies, a field that is constantly evolving. This provoked me to think about women’s studies at large: its achievements; the discontents it has caused and suffered; its place in the larger story about women and education, particularly in the United States. I see this story as consisting of three waves, although the formulaic and Toffleresque qualities of the metaphor abash me. So does its static quality. For the waves wash over each other. Shannon Faulkner, for example, is chronologically a Third Waver using Second Wave legal theory to achieve a First Wave goal.