Among the many subjects that have gained global recognition, feminism tops the list. It has been a bone of rivalry and a debate around many circles of life with a vary of political movements, ideologies and social movements that seek to attain social, political, personal and also financial equality of sexes. These feminist movements have been on the forefront campaigning for women’s rights, promoting autonomy and integrity of the woman child and also safety of women from vices such as rape, sexual harassment and also home violence. It is these movements that have largely contributed to main historical societal changes mainly when it comes to women’s rights. However, some feminists such as Bell Hooks also advocate for the inclusion of men’s liberation because both genders male and female are affected by the stereotypes that exist and are harmed by the existing traditional gender roles. Nevertheless, the feminism phenomena has had three if not four waves in its development and thereby introducing several divides that are to be addressed.
Over the years, there have been numerous feminist movements (waves) and ideologies that represent different viewpoints and purposes. This could be well explained as the reason behind the different feminist waves that existed before. The first wave addressed the women suffrage movements of the 18th and early 20th centuries whose sole agenda was promoting the rights of women to vote. Additionally, this wave was focused on the promotion of equal rights and contracts in matters pertaining marriage parenting and importantly, the property rights for the women. The advocacy of these rights was the greatest thing that happened to women because they too got to participate in the demands of a country as dictated by the law without discrimination.
However, in the mid-20th century the propagation of women’s rights was not fully addressed since there were other European countries that still lacked some significant rights for instance the voting rights. In addition to that, the women were not exclusively independent since among the acts that were implemented, a woman had still to seek permission from the husband to go to work. Moreover, despite the efforts in trying to criminalize marital rape by women such as Elizabeth Clarke, their efforts were in vain (Hannam, 55). In Other referendums held also failed to secure the rights of women to participate in the voting process. Therefore, as a result, the first feminine wave did not fully capture the issue that was significantly affecting the women in the society and thus the emergence of the second wave of feminism.
The second wave of feminism was majorly concerned with the ideas of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. They campaigned to promote legal and social equality for women in the society. Just like suffrage in the first wave, the second wave also gave attention to issues such as domestic violence and marital problems. Their matters were broad in comparison to first wave feminists since their debate covered sexuality, workplace, the family as well as their legal and reproductive inequalities. To address these issues, the feminists would meet in feminist owned businesses to hold their meetings where they decided on their way forward. According to historians, they are the ones who set the stage to usher in the era of third wave feminism.
This wave of feminism was influenced mainly by the media. As Betty Friedan suggested in her book, women were wrongly portrayed by the media and she strongly objected women being stay at home mum’s which limited their possibilities and wasted their potential. Moreover, she also claimed that women who partook of both roles in the work place and also played a role at home were more satisfied as compared to women who stayed at home. Interestingly, her book was credited with being the instigator of the second wave feminism and consequently led to the formation of many local women groups and also feminist organizations. Consequently, this hindered women individual development owing to what the media portrayed.
However, just like the first wave, this wave too had its challenges that led to its divides. First and foremost her decision to push for equal employment opportunities was met with fierce opposition within the organization. Their reason was many male African-Americans needed these job opportunities more than the middle class women who could equally give required expertise in the work force (Nelson, 37). Intersectionality was also a contributing factor to its drawbacks. It was difficult to enforce some actors because they were not inclusive when it came to what their focus was on. This consequently led to the final wave of feminism- the third wave feminism.
The third wave as has been addressed above was a progress and continual of the second wave owing to its failures. The main aim of the third wave movement of feminism sought to redefine what feminism is and what it meant to be a feminist. Therefore, this wave sought to expand the meaning of feminism to include women with diverse set of identities and recognizing otherwise thought characteristics such as color and ethnicity which is simply an explanation and continuation of the second wave feminism (Howie and Munford, 75). The champion of this wave was Rebecca Walker who expressed her anger in acts that went unpunished especially pertaining the sexual harassment of women. Just like its predecessors, the third wave too had its challenges and majorly the aspect of ambiguity.
Their themes were divided especially in matters pertaining sexuality. Some thought sexual acts were degrading while others viewed it as women taking control over their own sexuality. This then was the main divide that existed among the third wave feminists. In conclusion, these waves of feminism gained popular audience among the women but did not fully address their matters. The trend is still on as the third wave feminists are still trying to make an impact in the 21st century generation.
Hannam, June. Feminism. London: Taylor and Francis, 2014. Document.
Howie, Stacy Gills: Gillian and Rebecca Munford. Third Wave Feminism: a critical exploration. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Document.
Nelson, Barbara Molony & Jennifer. Women’s Activism and Second Wave Feminism: Transnational histories. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2017. Document.