The Three Waves Of Feminism

6 years ago

By Atiya Samreen


The Fair sex has been subjected to tyranny and bigotry since the very establishment of society. Women all around the world have suffered on the account of discriminated political, social and economic rights. The crux of the Waves Of Feminism comprises of ideologies that promote equal rights for women in every facet of life. History has been a witness of innumerable political, cultural and social movements that aimed at eradicating this discrimination permeating society at every level. Feminism is a preeminent term that has empowered women theoretically and practically. A brief account of the history of feminism has been described in the passage.

The constricted interpretation of the term ‘feminism’ is the idea of allocating an equal distribution of social, cultural and political rights in the society. On a broader level, it is a revolutionary concept that inspired women all over the globe to stand for their own freedom from the gender-based constraints plaguing society since ages. It is a movement, an ideology and moreover a reality that took the world by storm in its progressive waves.

The First Wave of Feminism

The early 19th century marked the beginning of a movement that would allow progressive opportunities for women who otherwise were not considered adept to flourish in the industrial and political panorama. The aim of the movement was to focus on Suffrage. Waves of feminism meant establishing equal legislative rights for women. The right to vote would ensure that the softer sex would no longer be the second citizens and could participate fervently in the legislative demesne.

In 1848, three hundred women and men took part in a rally in Seneca Fall convention. The political strategy of the movement was governed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton was an activist who proved to be the prominent figure during the early Women Right’s Movement. For 80 years she remained president of the ‘National Woman Suffrage Association’. She, along with Lucretia Mott came up with the idea of ‘Women’s Convention on Women’s Rights’. Both these women belonged to Quakers, an anti-slavery religion. They met and discussed their plan of the Convention in the following years. The Seneca Falls Convention was the result of their vision and efforts.

The first wave, though only confined to westerners, white people, and the middle class, laid a strong foundation for upcoming years which were going to witness even stronger force of feminists.

The Second Wave Feminism

The second wave started with the protest against the beauty pageant, ‘Miss America’ accusing it of objectifying women. In 1968, the beauty pageant was held in the Atlantic City. ‘Redstockings’, a group of radical feminists organized a counter pageant to mock the original one. They crowned a sheep as the Miss America and threw all the tyrannical objects, as per their views, such as makeup, heels, and bras into the trash can. The other issues pertaining to this wave were the reproductive rights and sexuality.

The wave was also fueled by a political landscape stirred due to ongoing civil rights and anti-war movements. All this contributed to the emergence of a New Left. Women from the developing countries and of color joined hands together and formed groups and organizations to raise consciousness. The concepts such as capitalism, patriarchy, normative sexuality and women’s role as mere home caretakers were the main subjects of criticism. Carol Hanisch, a ‘radical feminist’ and an eminent member of Redstockings contrived the political argument ‘The personal is political’. The crux of the slogan was to understand the connections between social structures and personal experience.

The wave had its own complexities. The concept of developing ‘women only’ spaces was considered radical. The idea that women only environment leads to a better productivity was not received favorably by all. However, it does not mean that it failed completely. The activists had fragmented but by the end of the wave, but they had contrived services such as health clinics, rape crisis centers and shelters for women. These facilities were integrated with the mainstream civic system. The religious and political organizations came forward to provide adequate funds.

The Third Wave of Feminism

The third wave of the mid-90s was a modernistic approach to secure equal rights for women and eradicate social and political inequality. The notions revolving around the radical waves of feminism were decimated along with the concepts of ‘gender roles’, sexuality and body. The young feminists were wearing the same objects with pride which got bigoted by their predecessors. The heels, the lipsticks, and the cleavage were now associated with a woman’s identity and her sexual liberation. The derogatory terms which were earlier used to insult women were now worn by them for weakening the sexist culture. The feminine beauty had become the main propaganda. Pinkfloor’s statement “it's possible to have a push-up bra and a brain at the same time” defines the meat and potatoes of this wave. During this wave, women were no longer represented as the victims who needed a fix. It was more focused on equal rights both for women as well as for men. It aimed at crushing gender-boundaries where both the sexes would flourish in a creative and liberal environment. It was more independent, more advanced and more modern.

The cumulative impact of the three waves has resulted in major social and cultural progress in the society. The preeminence of these movements is not only restricted to academic success and generating theorists. The practicality of feminism waves cannot be refuted as it has changed the world for better. The basic rights such as the right to education, to participate in politics, have control over their own bodies, the access to birth control, aid for rape victims, most of these taken for granted are the results of the cumulative efforts of feminists in the human history. The concept is still mutating and who knows what to expect from the fourth wave. Although society is still afflicted by the gender biases and sexism, women have come a long way from demanding the legislative rights to becoming global leaders, excelling in every field. They still have a very long way to go. 



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