In recent years there has been a push to highlight issues that females face on a daily basis. This has allowed the feminist movement to start pushing for real change throughout society to make it a more fair and inclusive environment for all. Many people still misunderstand what feminism is and the goals it wishes to achieve. Therefore, we decided to dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding feminism and give context to its history. To truly understand something you have to go back to the beginning and with feminism this is no different, the feminist movement has evolved over the decades but its goals remain largely the same.
The actual origins of feminism are pretty complex as the idea and argument for women’s equality have existed since the times of the ancient Greeks. However, the first female philosopher is considered to be Mary Wollstonecraft and was the first female to argue that men and women should be equal and have the same rights afforded, especially in regards to education. Her book “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” written in 1792 is considered one of the cornerstones of the early feminist philosophy. Eventually, the feminist movement has been segmented into different “waves” each with its own goals and objectives. The first wave sought to address the restrictions in place to stop women from voting. This fight for women’s suffrage was widespread and as we know led to the formation of groups such as the suffragettes and suffragists. Each group had the same goal in mind of enabling women the right to vote in elections. Figures instrumental to achieving this were women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Sojourner Truth who fought for British and American women’s rights respectively. Thankfully women did achieve the right to vote, however, the subsequent waves of feminism were used to challenge other difficulties that women had to face daily.
From the 1960s until the 1990s the Second wave of feminism took place. While the first wave addressed universal issues women faced such as suffrage, the second wave instead raised awareness and concerns of issues of discrimination. Key figures in this wave were females writers such as Betty Friedan who wrote the book “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963. The book drastically helped dispel the myth that women were happy and content in their roles as housewives and instead prompted the idea that women should not be bound to a specific role in society. While she has been criticised for focusing on only certain groups of women, notably white middle-class women it is still considered the spark of the second wave of feminism. Furthermore, one of the other objectives of this period was the reproductive rights of women and to allow them more autonomy over themselves. While the second wave was more fragmented compared to the first, it still managed to achieve its aim of highlighting a woman’s right to achieve whatever she desired and to not be forced into the stereotypical role of housewife and mother, instead it promoted the idea of independence for women.
This led to the development of third-wave feminism which existed from the 1990s until the 2010s. Third-wave feminism sought to fix the issues created by criticisms of second-wave feminism, primarily those involving the predominant focus being on white middle-class females. Instead, there was an emphasis placed on the dual issues and intersections of race and gender/sex and how these issues could be tackled. Key thinkers in this wave were women such as Bell Hooks who has written many influential books including one of her most famous books “Ain’t I a Woman? Black women and feminism” (1982), and Chela Sandoval. Each of these writers has changed the global understanding of femininity and females as a whole. While the apparent fourth wave is still in motion it proves that change can still be enacted as equality between men and women has still not been achieved. There are still many milestones that need to be accomplished but these will be addressed in due course.
The importance of understanding all of this is the ability to fully appreciate the history and complexity of the feminist ideology. It has proven more than just the mental fortitude of women but their ability to transcend their gender norms as women should not be constricted to a stereotypical manner. Instead, women should become the fair and equal counterparts to their male gender.