Feminism is a broad and complex topic that has sparked controversy since the day it was introduced. Defined simply as “the economic, political, and social equality of the sexes,” the feminist movement has been geared mostly toward promoting equal rights and opportunities for women in order to counter the mistreatment and injustice women have faced all throughout history, according to Britannica.
Through unrelenting activism, fierce determination, and consistent support, feminism has progressed over the years to bring upon the evolution we see today.
The first wave of feminism, which lasted from 1848 to 1920, was the initial uproar among women driven by a demand for equal rights, which led to the ratification of the 19th amendment granting women’s suffrage, according to Daily History.
While the second wave of feminism in 1963 was not as singularly focused, it also had immense success in various fields including divorce laws, abortion, education, and job opportunities for women, addressing more the systematic sexism ingrained into society, according to Britannica.
Led by powerful figures such as Sojourner Truth, Martha Stewart, Frederick Douglass, the first and second waves of feminism marked a point in history where a semblance of political, legal, and professional equality emerged.
In the late 1990s, the third wave of feminism arose, targeting social equality by aiming to address the inherent biases against women in our patriarchal society, according to Britannica. Whereas the first two waves operated with clear, measurable goals, the third wave was a more ambiguous attempt at enforcing gender equality. Focused on empowering women and redefining what it means to be a girl, key milestones of the third wave have been a record number of women in positions of power and the fight against sexual harassment.
However, the ambiguity in the goals of the third wave, as well as the rising question of a fourth wave, has launched the feminist movement into different directions that no longer remain concise and definable.
With the confusion of the third and fourth waves, the surge of feminism in more recent years has evolved around the spread of the movement via online platforms and media. The #MeToo movement that began in 2017 was one of the most pivotal moments in history, with women from all across the globe standing up to share their experiences of sexual harassment.
The movement prompted a sweep through the online world, bringing awareness to the magnitude of such problems and the pressing need to address them. Further controversies regarding current abortion laws have also sparked uprisings in media with pushbacks calling for freedom in choosing what women do with their bodies. Such recent movements for women’s rights reflect the struggle and headway across all fields, including politics, athletics, education, entertainment, and the workforce.
Each wave of feminism has represented another victory for feminists, another step closer to an equitable world. But that kind of world can only be obtained when everyone is willing to take action and change themselves for the better. Although feminism has been centralized to women, unprecedented times call for a wider encompassment of genders all across the spectrum.
Consequently, matters regarding discrimination and injustice based on sex have a profound and urgent impact on everyone. That means that everyone has a part to play in the movement to counter and battle the greatest challenges feminism faces: patriarchy, unequal opportunities, misrepresentation, and misogyny. As the waves of feminism continue on, so must our demands for a just and equal society.