The belief of equality in social, economic, and other political aspects of the sexes is actually the most simple definition of feminism. Feminism believes that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. According to Bell Hooks, one of the famous feminist activists, “feminism refers to the movement to end sexism sexist exploitation and oppression”.
Women are always regarded as the ‘second sex’. The oppression against women has historically been rationalized in our society. Even the decision-making power is always granted to the men, and the women are regarded as secondary. Due to these types of inequalities, the concept of feminism was bound to develop. The evolution of this concept can be divided into three waves, each with slightly different aims based on various priorities:
1. The first wave of feminism: This wave of feminism basically started during the late 1700s and ends in the 1900s. This wave believes in confronting the inequalities prevailing among the womenfolk. The addressing of women’s suffrage was also the main aim of this wave. This wave also criticizes the way of portraying the images of women in various literary works like famous novels and other books. They also questioned how the novelists depicted vulgar images of women in their works.
This wave also focused on political rights that were granted to women. Women’s right to vote was one of their primary concerns. The first wave was connected with the abolitionist movement in the US at that time. It was believed that this wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when three hundred men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women.
After this convention, the scenario gradually started to change, and women began to enter the workplace in greater number. During World War II, many women actively participated in the military or worked in industries previously reserved for men. Later on, the successful end of the first wave of feminism was seen regarding the rights of women in various parts of their life.
2. The Second wave of feminism: This wave of feminism starts in the period of the early 1960s and ends in the late 1970s. The slogan of the second-wave “The personal is political” identifies women’s cultural and political inequalities. This movement was initially concentrated in the United States of America and then spread to other western countries.
The second wave of feminism focused more on both public and private injustices. Issues like rape, reproductive rights, domestic violence, and workplace safety were some of the issues at the forefronts of this movement. There were widespread efforts to reform all the negative and inferior images that were presented in their own popular culture to more positive and realistic ones.
The feminist films, music, books and even restaurants became the source of spreading this popular culture. Second-wave feminism also affected other movements, such as the “civil rights movement” and the “students right movement”, as women sought equality within them. The second wave was thus pivotal to the feminist movement and brought women into the mainstream in many spheres.
3. The third wave of feminism: This wave of feminism starts in the early 1990s and is ongoing. Third-wave feminists emphasize individual rights as well as the acceptance of diversity. This wave began with the generation that had grown up surrounded by the web concept of feminism. This theory basically tries to bring in communities that were previously left out of feminist goals.
The feminist advocated for the women’s right to make her own choices regarding her body, and they also started preaching that it was a basic right to have access to birth control and abortions. They also believe that women need to rise above concerns about equality merely in jobs, education, or family settings.
Their main motto was to create awareness among the womenfolk and make them realize the importance of raising their voice against all odds. The third wave feminists also made it visible that the concept of feminism that exists in society is somewhat different. Concepts like intersectionality, sex positivity, ecofeminism, transfeminism were newly launched post the third wave of feminism.
We can conceptualize that the need for feminist theory was present in our society since the beginning of time. And accordingly, when the times changed, the meaning of this word “feminism” changed too. The evolution was drastic, and we can definitely observe this in the three waves of feminism. But sometimes the question arises regarding the major concept of feminism, is it applicable in our lives as well?
Does the feminist perspective formally steer all the women into a positive direction of equality? Does the feminist approach and the ideas it preaches are really making any sense in the real world? All these questions arise for us to analyze more about this concept. No doubt feminism is a positive approach in the context of equality, including both men and women, but somewhere even today we come across various incidents around us that make us think about the impact of this concept of feminism.
The incidents like molesting, rape, sexual violence against women are not eradicated in today’s time. This reminds us that men and women’s roles in society are often unequal and reflective of a patriarchal ideology. The concept of feminism is seen as hurting male ideologies and perspectives. In the name of feminism, in this narrow-minded society, some people misuse it, and this may harm someone else’s existence.
On online social media platforms, we came across various incidents that could potentially ruin someone’s life. And this somehow makes us believe that the concept of feminism has some kind of barriers too. Similarly, in the overall conceptualization of feminism, there is more focus on female rights, and on the other hand, it talks about equality.
The concept of feminism should be more focused on providing equality to both men and women, and this would be an important topic of discussion. Thus, the whole matter of feminism is not left without the drawbacks and negativity; rather, it deals with both the dimension.