History of Feminism

Feminism has gone through many waves, each focusing on a different element of equality for women.
OpinionFront Staff
Last Updated: Aug 1, 2018
Feminism at its most basic definition is simply a movement fighting for equal rights for women. Over the years, the term 'feminism' has earned itself some terrible connotations. Feminists are often seen as bra-burning man haters who reject anything that falls under the term of feminine. However, this is simply untrue.
In fact, feminists never burned their bras, and don't hate men. On the contrary, many feminists are married and have children themselves.
Now, feminists fight for women to have the choice to do what they want to do. If they want to quit their jobs and stay home with their children, that's fine. If they would rather focus on a career, that's fine, too. The idea behind feminism is that all women have the choice to do what they want to do, like men do.
First-Wave Feminism
During the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, feminism saw its first wave. First-wave feminists were in existence primarily in the United States and United Kingdom, and wanted equality for women in the areas of marriage, property rights, parenting, and contracts. Women's suffrage was a part of this movement toward the end of the first wave.
This shifted the focus from equal rights to women's political power. The Nineteenth Amendment in the United States granted women equal voting rights in 1919. In the United Kingdom, women gained the right to vote one year prior, in 1918, although this was just for women who owned property and were over 30 years old.
All women over 21 were given the right to vote in 1928. Famous feminists in this wave include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.
Second-Wave Feminism
Second-wave feminism came about in the early 1960s'. Second-wave feminists still exist and are active today. Most feminists in this category are interested in ending discrimination. While we have rights guaranteed by our constitution, women still experience discrimination in the workplace. This is what second-wave feminists fight against.
The famous slogan, "The Personal is Political" became a campaign cry of second-wave feminists, specifically because these women were focused on how women's personal lives are; actually, deeply political.
For example, if a woman makes a personal choice not to change her name when she gets married, that is also a political choice that expresses women's autonomy over their name. Second-wave feminists were focused on sexist power structures and a hierarchy that had men at the top of the pyramid.
Third-Wave Feminism
Third-wave feminism is sometimes referred to as post-feminism by those who believe feminism is no longer necessary in our society. Post-feminist theorists think that we have achieved equal rights and, therefore, no longer need to fight. This makes them critical of third-wave feminists.
Those who still refer to themselves as feminists, however, believe that the second-wave feminists focused too much on white women and are working to break down racial barriers, as well as fighting for marriage equality for same-sex partnerships.
Famous third-wave feminists include Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, and Maxine Hong Kingston. The third wave of feminism began in the 1990s' as a direct response to second-wave feminism.
Fourth-Wave Feminism
Some believe there is now a fourth wave of feminism that includes online activism rather than activism within a particular geographical community. Feminists have a huge presence online, with blogging and other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and more.
The most famous, and first, of these websites was Feministing.com and is still in existence today. Now, feminists can go online and find like-minded people rather than trying to find them in their communities.