Feminism is defined as a range of social, political ideology that serves its intended purpose to define and denote the political, economic, personal and social equality of the sexes. As we evolve as humanity, the idea of being a feminist is constantly questioned by society.
From the moment, we as women decided to fight for our rights, we have obtained various accomplishments for the entirety of womankind. But at the same time, when we look at the big picture, there is still a long way to go for us to claim our triumph for all the women around the world. The accomplishments that we have fought for are broken down into waves. In each wave, activists fought for different aspects for a woman’s freedom. Currently, there are 3 historically documented waves and today, we are all living in the fourth wave.
Before getting into the waves, it is vital to understand how gender roles influenced society.
1. Women did not require education
2. They were trained to be domestically perfect.
3. Marriage was to be a desire for women.
4. When it came to jobs, most worked in factories.
5. Men were the breadwinners of the family.
6. Only men had the ability to vote.
7. Men dominated the politics of their respective countries.
8. A woman’s opinion did not matter.
9. Women were associated with having fragile and submissive qualities.
Feminism really started documenting itself from the western part of the globe. With many countries facing gender inequality, there are a few sources that tell us what went on in the early days of feminism around the world; but that is not until feminism made its way to the modern world.
The First Wave
The first wave of feminism took place around the late 19th century and the early 20th century mainly in the western side of the globe. During this time, women were fighting for their basic rights. At this time, women were confined to their homes, forced to desire marriage and take care of their children. They were not given a choice to have ambitions of their own. Women did not have the ability to live their own life, but rather the one that society wanted them to.
The main goal of this movement was for women to have the ability to vote, and thus the formation of the American Equal Rights Association in 1886. After its collapse, the National Women Suffrage Association was formed together with the American Woman Suffrage Association. Both organization had different views on what they wanted to achieve with one fighting for the ability to vote while the other education for women. Later in 1869 they merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Alice Paul, a young feminist of that time, formed the National Woman’s Party in 1916 with the goal of achieving a constitutional amendment.
Through all of this came the first largest organized procession on Washington for political purposes. During this procession, many women were arrested, mocked and physically harassed by those who watched the event go down. But this effort did not go to waste as the Nineteenth Amendment declared that gender would not play a role in the voting process.
The Second Wave
The second wave of feminism began in the 1960s to the 1980s. During this time, women fought against discrimination and for equality. In this era, the concept of a nuclear family was very pressured upon which led to the increased exposure of the inequality in pay, legal rights, support services and job opportunities for women. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibited the discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, color, nationality and religion.
Most believe that the second wave started after author and feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, in 1963. This book opposed the idea of society’s expectations of women to be domestically perfect. This book made women realize that society had stripped them off their identities into someone they could not even recognize in the mirror.
The third wave of feminism started around the mid-1990s which was led by the Generation X. The goal of this wave was directed towards the need to end prostitution due to the increased violence directed towards women from men. There were other feminists who thought otherwise that sexual liberation was vital for women gaining their equality.
By the early 90s there were women representing the politics for women which led to improvements from the first wave. This third wave, had the scope of reproductive rights in which the fight was for women to make their own choices for their bodies with the point being that birth control and abortion was a basic right for them.
Compared to the first two waves, the third wave had its influence on pop culture and media which really brought out the voices of the younger generation. From this period, more tv shows, books, music and films started to reflect on the hardship and inequality that women were facing and this really gave the movement a push.
In India, protests against sexual harassment and violence were taking the streets by storm. By the late 90s, India had women in government that changed the way feminism was viewed there.
Though it has been debated, some say that the fourth wave of feminism really took of in 2012 while addressing issues of body rights, rape culture, sexual harassment etc. Today, in the age of technology, these issues have been brought to light through the use of social media and other media platforms. During this time, the #metoo movement started which encouraged women to come forth and tell their stories of various assaults and harassment that they have faced or have been facing.
Feminism has gained its speed and is spreading throughout the globe like wildfire. Society’s perception of gender roles is mainly influenced by the religion, culture and upbringing of an individual. Feminism is not a tool for women to use in the name of, to succeed in life by tearing each other down but rather a concept to pull each other to the top together.
Today more women are coming into the light to break boundaries that were set by society ages ago. This will not only define our future generations but rather humanity as a whole. Though not everybody agrees with feminism, those who believe are the ones who will push womankind to a whole new level that women back then never thought we would see. But what we achieve will never be enough as there will always be another problem arising and it is up to us to continue fighting for our rights.