Feminism as a belief is the idea of political, economic, social and cultural equality and autonomy for all women. Feminism has been a part of world history for a very long time and has been witnessed through history in three distinct waves.
Believe it or not, the first movements of feminism had begun in Ancient Rome where women staged massive protests against the Oppian law that prevented their access to property and gold. Marcus Porcius Cato even went on to say that the day women get the same status as a man, they will supress the men, however the law was repealed and that was considered to be one of the first victories for feminists. Plato too believed that women possessed natural talents to lead just like men and they would be more efficient. Other strong feminist ideas rose during the enlightenment era where duchesses and countesses wrote that the injustice suffered by women would end in a rebellion as mentioned in ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ and reiterated by Abigail Adams, first lady to founding father of USA John Adams whose threat to rebellion proved true in the 19th century when women supporting the abolitionists movement realised that they themselves didn’t have the rights they were asking for the enslaved people.
First Wave Feminists: The Women’s Suffrage at Seneca Falls
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal.” – The Declaration of Sentiments by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
In the historic Seneca Falls convention of 1848 a group of abolitionist women demanded an equal right to the Electoral Franchise as enjoyed by men. Though there was a huge protest by the attendees, the statement by Frederick Douglas that a person of colour can’t demand voting rights if a woman does not have those rights, swayed the public and a resolution was passed that jet set a motion that would affect the entire world. Slowly this feminist fervour spread across the world and by 1918 New Zealand, Australia, Finland and partially the UK had passed women’s voting franchises. By 1920 with the works of feminists like Susan B Anthony and Carrie Chapman the 19th Amendment was passed and so was the first Victory for Feminists achieved.
Second Wave Feminism: The working woman
With women being major contributors on field during the World Wars and the Great Depression that followed, a call for women in the work force was made by feminists around the world. Though women were not seen as equals on the battle field, their undying dedication to saving lives and capacity to with stand trauma made characters like ‘Rosy the Riveter’ feminist icons. However despite the tireless contribution by women worldwide in the work field, they were marginalised, paid less and expected to smile as they looked after their homes and children. This sparked the movement for the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by Betty Friedan that led to the women’s work union to be established globally. In the early and mid-1970s feminists such as Gloria Steinem published the first feminist magazine with articles demanding the passage of Equal Rights Amendment, which sought legal equality for women and banned discrimination on the basis of sex. This was achieved in the landmark judgement foe feminists around the world of Roe v. Wade. This led to many changes globally with women in the workforce being paid equally for equal work and the UK adopted women’s franchise that changed from women above 30 to all adult women to vote marking the second largest victory for feminism.
Third Wave Feminism: Unjust benefits of feminism and the #MeToo movement
The second wave feminists comprised majorly of straight white women with the exception of Shirley Chisholm. With the outcry of the stonewall riots that took place in 1969 the representation for queer women was barely present. Due to this, harkening the speech by Sojourner Turner saying “Ain’t I a Woman” was used to state the laws being made for college educated privileged women. The second wave feminists failed to address concerns of the indigenous and women of colour. This sparked a movement demanding women from marginalised communities to speak out for their rights as individuals and majorly this sparked feminist movements in parts of the world where this hadn’t happened before, mainly Islamic states and many third world countries.
The Third Wave of Feminism is still in momentum. With the 2017 #MeToo movement and fights for equal pay still persisting, a continuous struggle for women to be taken seriously at work places and be awarded with deserved promotions still exists. But with grit determination and movement, surely one day equality will be achieved.