THE FOUR WAVES OF FEMINISM
Feminism is the movement for women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes. Every day we hear about feminist groups fighting for one right or the other but many of us may not know the whole historical path that feminism has gone through since the 1900. That is why, today, we will provide a little timeline of what are defined as the four waves of feminism!
The first wave of feminism took place in the nineteenth century and it revolved around the fight for universal suffrage. It formally began with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, where 300 man and women rallied for equality.
The second wave of feminism started in the 1960s and went on into the 90s. It raised during the anti-war and civil rights movement and it focused primarily on issues such as sexuality and reproductive rights of women. It was also a fight against the degrading images of women spread by the media and pop culture pageant such as Miss America. The ability of the feminist movement to speak out against patriarchy in the 1960s allowed other groups to claim their voice in the political discourse at the time. Feminist groups were able to create women-only organizations such as NOW and to spread their manifesto around the world.
An important difference between the first and second wave is that, during the first wave advocates were primarily white middle class women while the second wave accomplished to draw in women of many different class and ethnic backgrounds.
The third wave of feminism started during the 1990s and finds its roots in post-colonial thinking. It challenges the notions of universality and feminism in them-selves. During this wave women started to re-appropriate of sexual body images claiming the will to be “beautiful” or “sexually empowered” by choice and not forced by the patriarchy. Another important trait of the third wave is that it allowed for another important concept to raise, the concept of intersectionality. Finally the feminist movements started to realize that women of color, women of age, women of the LGBTI community, women with religious believes, women of lower economic class and women with disabilities didn’t suffer the same condition of inequality as middle class white women, but that their experience intersected with other levels of social marginalization. Intersectionality allowed the feminist movement to challenge the view of the previous waves, centered on certain issues that touched white women more than other groups, and to realize that there can be different shades of feminism within it self. Many new movements rose within this time-frame, one of which is that of Islamic Feminism ( more on the topic in future posts).
The fourth wave falls into the ara of social media and of the world wide net. It aims to reach equality through a cyber fight against the system and it builds on the concept of intersectionality developed by the previous wave. It battles for equality and against injustice in the workplace, it encourages women to speak out against harassment and body shaming, it encourages men to fight for paternal leave and to eradicate the wage gap. The fourth wave, through technological advancement, allows women to be connected with each other in order to share experiences, understand differences and spread the message.
Too often we hear people talk about feminism as either dead or useless. Many people tend to define the feminist movement as a group of narcissistic women going around with their nipples out to gain attention. Whenever I personally hear a stereotype of feminism I seriously wonder how a movement that fights for the rights of 50% of the world population can be reduced to something so meaningless by public opinion. There is not one form of feminism. It is not only the fight for women’s right to sexuality, it is not only about shaving our armpits or owning out body image. Feminism is about all the human rights in the book and their implementation when it comes to the female population. Different women, in different world contexts, in different religions and different economic conditions, may have different priorities when it comes to the feminist battle. As long as their voices are raised to improve their condition in a patriarchal society, to me, their fight is a feminist one.
There is not one image of feminism, not one illustration we can choose that would capture the whole meaning. Lets remind the world this battle is not a useless one and it surely is not just about showing our nipples.