Ever wondered why people, particularly females, hesitate to call themselves “feminists”? Why do women think to call themselves feminists will somehow mean that they are against men? Feminism, in its simplest meaning, stands for the equality of all the sexes, male or female and even transgender, in all the fields and phases of life. The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and legal protection for women. Feminism involves political and sociological theories and philosophies concerned with issues of gender difference, as well as a movement that advocates gender equality for women and campaigns for women’s rights and interests.
History of feminism
Simone de Beauvoir wrote that “the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex” was Christine de Pizan who wrote Epitre au Dieu d’Amour (Epistle to the God of Love) in the 15th century. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi worked in the 16th century. Marie Le Jars de Gournay, Anne Bradstreet, and Francois Poullain de la Barre wrote during the 17th century.
According to Maggie Humm and Rebecca Walker, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first feminist wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. The feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements. It is manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history, and feminist literary criticism.
First-Wave of Feminism
The first wave of feminism officially takes place between 1848’s Seneca Falls Convention and the 1920’s ratification of the 19th amendment. But, before the declaration of sentiments was written, the abolition movement was already underway and was publicly mobilizing women like never before. In 1830, abolitionist newspaper publisher political writer and educator Maria Stewart became the first woman to ever speak publicly in front of mixed-gender crowd. And her topics were the need of both racial and gender equality. And, the first man to ever speak publicly on behalf of women’s rights was Frederick Douglass.
Then in 1837 the Anti-Slavery community of American woman was the first time ladies collectively become agitating for the end of slavery as well as the beginning of woman’s rights, particularly for a black woman. The terms the first wave was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as political inequalities.
Second-Wave of Feminism
Second-wave feminism refers to the period of activity in the early 1960s and lasting through the late 1980s. The scholar Imelda Whelehan suggests that the second wave was a continuation of the earlier phase of feminism involving the suffragettes in the UK and USA. Second-wave feminism has continued to exist since that time and coexists with what is termed third-wave feminism. The scholar Estelle Freedman compares first and second-wave feminism saying that the first wave focused on rights such as suffrage, whereas the second wave was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as ending discrimination.
The feminist activist and author Carol Hanisch coined the slogan “The Personal is Political” which became synonymous with the second wave. Second-wave feminists saw women’s cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked and encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized and as reflecting sexist power structures.
Third-Wave of Feminism
Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s, arising as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and also as a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave’s existentialist definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasize the experiences of upper middle-class white women.
A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to much of the third wave’s ideology. Third-wave feminists often focus on “micro-politics” and challenge the second wave’s paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for females. The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivity.
Third-wave feminism also contains internal debates between difference feminists such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan (who believes that there are important differences between the sexes) and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.
Post-feminism describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism. While not being “anti-feminist,” post-feminists believe that women have achieved second wave goals while being critical of third-wave feminist goals. The term was first used in the 1980s to describe a backlash against second-wave feminism. It is now a label for a wide range of theories that take critical approaches to previous feminist discourses and includes challenges to the second wave’s ideas. Other post-feminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today’s society. Amelia Jones wrote that the post-feminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and criticized it using generalizations.