Fourth Wave Feminism By Nurete Brenner

NureteMany of us have a growing sense that we are at a crucial inflection point in our civilization and at a crossroads for the future of our planet. I’m not sure if that point needs to be defended, explained or expounded upon. To me it seems completely transparent, glaringly and frighteningly obvious. I live with that knowledge constantly, which translates into grief for the biodiversity that has already been lost and is accelerating; fear for the turmoil and human-made ecological catastrophes that will cause more and more people to lose their land and homes, leading to increased acts of violence towards the vulnerable;  and anger towards the elites of the world who siphon up the resources of our planet for themselves and then barricade themselves behind their wealth. 

Grief, fear, and anger. These are the emotions of the shadow lands and these are the emotions that we usually try to deny and deflect.  These are the dark places of the soul. But, if we continue to reject these negative emotions rather than acknowledge and address them, they will return to confront us over and over again. We, as a society, have gone off course, have created a machine that is trampling all that is beautiful on our bountiful and giving, blue and green planet. 

Our western civilization has become a family in a speeding car, hurtling directly towards a cliff with our foot to the floor on the gas pedal while squabbling over who gets to ride shotgun. An ecological precipice is looming and no one seems to have the will or the wisdom to hit the brakes or grab the wheel. And those of us who would like to just jump out of the car altogether find that we cannot do so in our industrialized, over-populated society. Am I the only one to feel a sense of entrapment? No matter how “green” I go: driving a hybrid car, recycling, living as light a carbon footprint as I know how to do, s long as I live within the norms of our modern first-world civilization, I cannot escape. There is no opting out of that family car that I see. We’re all in this ride this together. 

The metaphor of the metal and plastic manmade machine of a car contrasted with the green and blue bounteous mother earth is not by chance. And the precipice we’re hurtling toward is nature’s surefire  response to protect herself from our excesses. Deep ecologists say that nature always wins in the long in the long run. Indeed she does. And we are nearing the final lap. 

Another way of understanding this is to say that the speeding vehicle represents masculine values – achievement, ambition, action and conquest –  which exist in us all regardless of gender – and have become so predominant in our society that they have overwhelmed the feminine. The feminine values we seek to elevate are those of nurturing, caregiving, receptivity, and stillness.  A millennium or two of exploitative patriarchy “progress” have disparaged and denigrated the feminine, causing women, minorities, and nature herself to be relegated to the margins, to be “othered.” 

Daraga elder, author and speaker Malidoma Some says something similar: “Our disconnection with earth is translated into a disregard of the feminine. How far can you go in violating the mother that gave you life? As long as the feminine is diminished, the connection between us and the earth is going to be compromised. We have abused the earth so much that we don’t know which direction to go. We must wonder what the connection between this increasing masculinity that is translated in terms of repeated violence [in war and in conflict] and the degradation of the earth. It is all connected.” (as quoted in the wonderful documentary Inn Sae) (link). 

So, considering the very urgent scenario outlined above, it is clearly time –  if we are to have any hope at all – for feminine values to be restored to their proper place of equal value alongside the equally valuable but overabundant masculine values. It is time for a new wave of feminism that respects and honors the earth. Feminism has been a powerful force for positive change. First-wave feminism actively fought for and won the right for women to vote (the suffragette movement); Second-wave feminism of the 1960s won the right for women to move into the male dominated workplace. Third-wave feminism began in the 1990s with Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Today, the #MeToo movement is the culmination of third-wave feminism, standing up to male sexual aggression, a long-overdue vindication of Ms. Hill and countless other victims. 

But what’s next? What is Fourth Wave Feminism?

My sense is that what’s missing and what needs to emerge is a feminist movement in service to the Feminine. We have fought for the right to move into the workplace; we have fought for the right to be treated as equals to men and to be free of oppression, discrimination and sexual aggression. It is time for women and men alike to elevate and respect the feminine energies that are present in all humans – those energies that respect and celebrate the interbeing of all life on the planet, the values that hold all life as sacred. Our disrespect of the Earth, of nature, translates into our disrespect for the Feminine. That is where the next wave of feminism and service to the feminine needs to go: towards cultivating a deep respect and love for the web of life. Fourth wave feminism is a lasing and harmonious blending and balancing of masculine with feminine. Those are the forces that will call forth the More Beautiful World (A term coined by Charles Eisenstein). 

When we think of the forces arrayed against us, it is intimidating. But when we think of what’s at stake if we fail to infuse the feminine back into the world, then we realize that we cannot shirk from trying. Failure means annihilation, doom. Quite literally. As Rabbi Tarphon enjoins us: “it is not your responsibility to finish the work of repairing the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” We are all in this together. Let’s heal the world by honoring and elevating the feminine.   Let’s avoid the precipice we’re speeding toward and take a more flourishing path by stopping the speeding vehicle, stepping out of the car, and embracing our relationship with our mother, the Earth.


Nurete Brenner, PhD,  is currently the Co-Executive Director and Director of EarthConscious Leadership and Consulting at Lake Erie Institute, in Cleveland, OH.  She received a PhD, in Organizational Behavior, from Case Western Reserve University, an MBA, from University of Derby, an MA, from Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and a BS, at Bar Ilan University, Israel. Dr. Brenner’s research interests include inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogue, management education for Millennials, the intersection of business and peace, and EarthConscious economics.

Categories: Feminism, Feminist Awakenings, General

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18 replies

  1. Welcome Nuerte. I agree with the general point you are making. We do need to elevate some of the values associated traditionally with the so-called “feminine” such as care and nurturing life.

    Many lesbian feminists, Goddess feminists, anti-war feminists, ecofeminists, and others were making similar points in the second wave. They were not all interested in becoming like men. These feminists were (shall I say violently or ungenerously?) attacked for being essentialist (some were, most were not) and their contributions have for the most part been ignored in the third wave. In your call for a fourth wave, you do not seem to be aware of this feminist history and the critiques of the term “feminine” by both second and third wave feminists. This may not be your fault, given that the works of those feminists who hold views similar to what you are espousing here are not being taught in most university classes. See for example, Woman and Nature by Susan Griffin.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Or the one that so influenced me, Elizabeth Dodson Gray, Green Paradise Lost.


    • You know Carol, I think there may be some real value to bringing traditionally “feminine” values to the fore, although I used to feel differently… We are in such a critical state that perhaps bringing both “traditional” feminine values and feminists to the forefront may be useful – anything to get us out of the place we are in now.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Of course we need to bring traditionally feminine values such as care, nurturing, and generosity to the forefront. No problem there! But we need to remember that the feminine is also associated with passivity, lack of rational capacity, and chaos, and that the masculine while associated with action and rational discernment is also associated with aggression and even with violence. So we need to be careful about the terms we are using. Otherwise, we seem to imply that only women should embody the so-called feminine values and that we should do so in the home but not in politics. We need to wed care, nurturing, and generosity with rational discernment and the power to act and then to assert that these are the highest values and should be embodied by everyone–male, female, or other–in the home and in the world!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree Carol… “feminine” values often lead to a frightening kind of passivity and we do have to be very very careful. What enrages me the most is the assumption that women can’t be rational when it is women who are more capable of thinking with both sides of their brain than men are, and therefore have, in my opinion, a greater capacity for rational thinking than men do!


    • Thank you Carol, you took the pen right out my
      If my hand! I’m currently writing my dissertation at Pacifica Graduate Institute currently working on my chapter on spiritual feminism. She would do well to read Starhawk, Budapest, Goldenberg, Stone, Spretnak, Woodman, Downing, YOU and many others!!! So glad she is catching the wave…..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on aunt polly's rants and commented:
    “Our disconnection with earth is translated into a disregard of the feminine. How far can you go in violating the mother that gave you life?”


  3. These words bear repeating… “Our disconnection with earth is translated into a disregard of the feminine. How far can you go in violating the mother that gave you life? As long as the feminine is diminished, the connection between us and the earth is going to be compromised. We have abused the earth so much that we don’t know which direction to go. We must wonder what the connection between this increasing masculinity that is translated in terms of repeated violence [in war and in conflict] and the degradation of the earth. It is all connected.”

    Grief rage and fear over what we are doing and how I can’t help be a part of this great mindless machine comprise my every day reality… I couldn’t agree with you more. Failure to restore feminine values WILL result in our annihilation… Thank you for this wonderful essay.


    • Yes! We cannot settle for avoiding the term feminine because of the way that patriarchy vilified it. The feminine needs empowerment but just as much in men as in women. When men raised in patriarchy begin to fall apart and see the emptiness of their lives, it is the feminine qualities that touch them which opens to door to their recognizing something they have been cut off by because of their own victimization to patriarchy. A feminine (r)evolution is not about women so much as it is about our planet, our severance and separation from deep meaning. We must be ready and willing to take this word up again – freshly and without shame or fear – on behalf not just of women, but of the future.


  4. I don’t know much about the history of Feminism, but I do know that if we don’t smarten up we will die. Die of stupidity and greed. Here we are (Canadian politicians) worrying about Trade while children and the planet are dying. All so that billionaires can profit and get more money – a very strange commodity. The trouble with that car is that even if you are not riding in it, you will get run over by it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for pointing out the problem and offering a workable solution. As a male I can certainly own the position as one of the drivers of this car, but as a feminist and son of the great mother i can’t wait for the revolution to happen. Get busy, my sisters! There are males out there to stand with you.


  6. The only way I can think of to turn things around is for liberal-minded women to run for office and win. We need to grab the wheel and turn the car around. And if we can’t run for office, at least vote for those who do.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The idea of femininity that the media favours – and that our children are constantly exposed to – is very much connected with appearance. The feminine images of Disney, Hollywood and celebrity culture teach young girls that they need to dress and look a certain way. That idea of femininity is clearly narrow, and also bad for the environment – cosmetics in plastic packets, cheap disposable clothes and accessories are marketed to kids as young as two or three.
    The word ‘feminine’ is burdened with conflicting associations. Perhaps you could give this ‘energy’ another name? Would it be simpler to talk about the human qualities that could enable us to rescue the planet? That would avoid the prickly problem of what ‘feminine’ could, or should, mean. (

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this blog entry. It speaks to the part of my soul that lives in a constant state of grief for a planet around me dying.


  9. I am moving in the same direction and I am in shortly launching a movement: “feminist” because men exclude, women include. It will be open to absolute everybody: independently from sex and race, whereby discussed will be topics usually forbidden because of sex non/discrimination which is discriminating as it doesn’t allow people to say in public what they think in private.The western civilisation started by breaking taboos – philosophy is a constant taboo-breaking activity – the West is committing suicide because of the forced taboo of non- taboo-breaking. Sex, politics, science, all domains will be sifted through to spot what is not allowed to be said and this will be discussed.
    Let’s keep in touch


  10. Wow amazing!! I love this topic…
    In fact I’m writing an article about it called “equality gender “.
    Feel free to check it out.


  11. And read Riane Eisler’s “The Chalice and the Blade,” which is about domination and partnership.


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