Jennifer Wilber is a writer, teacher, and bisexual rights activist from Ohio.
What Is Feminism?
Feminism is a collection of different social and political movements aimed at creating equality for women in society. Modern feminism began with women fighting for the right to vote and continues today with women fighting for true equality between women and men. Feminism is generally thought to include three distinct “waves,” each with a slightly different goal.
The Three Waves of Feminism
- The First Wave: 19th and early 20th century
- The Second Wave: 1960s to late 1980s
- The Third Wave: 1990s to 2010s
First-wave feminism began in the 1830s and focused mainly on women’s suffrage. During this time, women were still regarded by society as the property of their father or husband. Women recognized that to gain equal status in society, they first must gain some level of political power.
This movement mainly consisted of well-educated middle-class white women, though in the early stages it was “interwoven with other reform movements, such as abolition and temperance, and initially closely involved women of the working classes (Kroløkke, 2006).”
Second-wave feminism began right after World War II and focused mainly on sexuality, the workplace, and reproductive rights. Many women involved with this movement were already involved in other civil rights movements but felt that their voices weren’t being heard because of their gender and felt gender equality issues needed to be addressed before any real progress could be made.
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The feminist movement of this era was widely criticized for focusing primarily on the problems of middle-class white women and ignoring concerns of other marginalized groups, though many women involved in feminist causes were also involved in other civil rights movements (Dorey-Stein, 2015).
Third-wave feminism began with women who were born with the privileges that first and second-wave feminists fought for. Third-wave feminists continue fighting for equality for women. Primary issues that third-wave feminists are concerned with include closing the pay gap between male and female workers, reproductive rights, and ending violence against women in the United States and abroad (Dorey-Stein, 2015).
The Future of Feminism: The Fourth Wave
While feminism throughout history has gone a long way in the fight for equality, we still have a long way to go. The pay gap between men and women still needs to be addressed, as does fighting to make sure women continue to have access to necessary health care services.
Feminism needs to focus on the dialogue between men and women since many men today misunderstand feminism as being an “anti-men” movement and try to fight against feminism. Feminist organizations also need to be more inclusive of all races, social classes, and sexual orientations to avoid the pitfalls of earlier feminist movements that became mostly “white middle class” movements.
Dorey-Stein, C. (2015, September 22). A Brief History: The Three Waves of Feminism. Retrieved from https://www.progressivewomensleadership.com/a-brief-history-the-three-waves-of-feminism/
Kroløkke, C., & Sørensen, A. S. (2006). Chapter 1: Three Waves of Feminism: From Suffragettes to Grrls. In Gender communication theories & analyses: From silence to performance (pp. 1-23). Retrieved from https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/6236_Chapter_1_Krolokke_2nd_Rev_Final_Pdf.pdf
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Jennifer Wilber