The Origins Of Feminism And How It’s Evolved Over The Past 100 Years

The rise of feminism started in the early 19th Century, when women decided it was time to fight for rights like women’s suffrage. These women took a risk in creating a political agenda that exhibited their fight for equal rights.

By the time the “Second Wave” of feminism came around the mid-20th Century, women were still fighting for the right to vote, even in European countries.

However, the second wave was even more influential than the first. The second wave of feminism focused on a woman’s everyday life and role, not just her political rights.

In the second wave, colored women joined the battle, this time focusing on female sexuality, as well as oppression.

Women at this time were subjected to very limiting roles in the workplace and at home, only being able to take on roles like stay-at-home-mother, teacher, or office secretary.

By the 1990s, a third wave of feminism had risen and continues to go on even today. The third wave holds a more intimate, individualistic approach to the feminist movement.

The third wave revisits the idea of inequality between the sexes, and what this means as a woman living in present-day society.

Roles in society have always been set in place, not just for women, but all genders, races, and classes alike. In 2016, we understand that just because we have these templates fixed for us, that does not mean we need to follow societal agendas.

Yet, the feminist campaign still goes on today, because although equal political rights haven’t been an issue for a few decades, feminism strongly enforces the belief that women are not treated equally among men, and this causes a rift between the sexes.

Women have been sexualized from the beginning of time. Everything from the shape of our bodies, our ability to nurture and care for our relationships, to the essence of being a woman, is sought after universally, and even used for personal gain.

When it comes to sexualization of genders, a more complex enigma arises in present-day society. Women today have certainly proven that by detaching themselves from the “typical role of a woman”, we find that women are not only capable of doing what was originally considered “male-appointed positions,” but that they are able to excel in these fields, just as any man would.

Still, the reality of women being subjected to sexualization and oppression persists today, even by their own gender.

As Brittany Anderson, author of The F-Word: Do We Still Need Feminism in 2016, writes,

“The third wave of feminism (present-day) faces something that its ancestors never did; the role of mainstream media within feminism.”

With media ruling being so important, what we see through this media prism becomes the reality of our world. Female roles on television, on the news, in advertisements, in film, and in magazines shape the image of women in society, which is why feminism is intersectional, or no longer limited to one ideology.

Feminism appears to have its own definition for every individual.

Seemingly every beauty, fashion, fitness, or health trend has set an objectified standard of females in today’s world: How we should look, how we should eat, how we should dress, how we should act, and how to attract men.

We are pressured to meet a certain standard that society has created for us, all the while pressed to maintain our individualism, because, otherwise, how will anyone in this world get noticed?

Admittedly there has been a strong backlash of extreme feminism in the world today.

Extremism has historically risen from every advocacy of any rightful movement, and the original definition can often get lost in the excess.

Where there is passion, there is fire. “Feminism” has long held onto its roots, but the detachment of the word has been prevalent to the visage of the word. Titles such as “Man-Haters” or “Feminazis” have become a casually affiliated with the term “Feminism.”

Feminism has not only been associated with this form of radicalism, but has even become the face of these beliefs. Feminism is not a movement that hates men, but rather, a push for the equality of sexes, for the personalization of a woman’s life, and the recognition of a woman’s aptitude in any role or function taken.

Rather than pushing a conflicted philosophy out into the world, feminism’s third wave should focus on the clarity of the message, as feminism has long lost its definition to the masses. Defining the goal will ultimately lead to the development and success of the feminism, which is as important now as it was 100 years ago.

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Julia Ismail

Julia likes Nickelback & is unapologetic about it.