The Future Is Female

What is Feminism and What does it Stand For Today? (Source: Istockimages.com)

Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, oftentimes, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A lot of women today bear the cultural whiplash surrounding feminism, trying to make sense of what it means, navigate people through the same and fight for their rights to make choices that empower them without them constantly being pinned down on being disrespectful towards old societal norms.

Before you scroll down further, let us give you a disclaimer- We are not going to tiptoe around the tulips while putting this down. Call us textbook feminists if you may — The ones that truly believe in uprooting the patriarchal dispositions of society and ironically, there seem to be quite a few of us on this planet (troublesome, eh?).

Throughout their lives, women are subject to countless stereotypical remarks. Some of us practically eat ‘NO’ for breakfast. Despite a plethora of data proving that women are treated unequal to men, many continue to analogize feminism to being anti-men, arguing that women are just playing victim, or that men and women are inherently and biologically different and thus, cannot be compared.

If you’re someone who agrees with what we stated above, we’d ask you to read on and consider that the truth about feminism might be more complicated. The purpose of this piece is to not only highlight the contribution of women to history and contemporary society but to also remind ourselves of the inherent need to keep women deeply entrenched in the socio-economic fabric of the world.

There’s a big difference between the perception of what feminism is and the truth of what it means

Do you often wonder what feminism actually is and where its roots lie? Especially during the present times when the negative connotations around ‘Being a Feminist’ are scoring high, it becomes crucial for us to understand what feminism stands for. There are many followers as there are detractors of this movement, but for being either meaningfully — one needs to know the basics of where feminism began and where we stand today.

What gave birth to Feminism?

The term “feminism” originated from the French word “feminisme”. It was coined by the utopian socialist Charles Fourier in the 1980s in association with the movement for equal political and legal rights for women. It referred to “feminine qualities or character,” even though the word isn’t used in that sense anymore.

Feminism is now described as a political, cultural, or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and legal protection for women. The goal of feminism is to challenge the systemic prejudices women face on a daily basis and to advocate gender equality for women.

However, there seems to be a lot of disagreement over its meaning and its purpose.

What is the meaning and purpose of Feminism?

A broad definition of feminism is adopted in gender studies where feminism is concerned not just with formal equality between men and women but also with everyone’s equal access to power and resources. History witnessed struggles that aimed to eliminate discrimination and exploitation based on sex and gender which are usually understood as part of a broader complex of multiple systems.

Feminism as a political movement is frequently described in waves. When viewing feminism through the metaphor of a wave, it is important to understand that this idea is reductive and ignores multiple and often simultaneous movements within the race, ethnicity and class by choosing to focus solely on a few famous figures and events. As such, it disregards the bravery of women around the globe before the nineteenth century.

THE FIRST WAVE OF FEMINISM; THE SENECA FALLS CONVENTION

The first wave of feminism is often linked to the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. It officially marked the beginning of the American Women’s Suffrage movement which advertised itself as a period of protests against stereotyping of women in domestic roles. It was during the eighteenth century when Lucy Gage, born as a slave, gave her infamous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech.

“And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Feminism in its first stage had a fairly simple goal: To have society recognize that women are humans, not property. While initially, the leaders of 1st-wave feminism were abolitionists (including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth), their focus was primarily on white women’s rights. In the United States, first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, granting women the right to vote.

The Fact that we Exist (Source: gettyimages.com)

THE SECOND WAVE OF FEMINISM; WOMEN’S LIBERATION

The second wave (better known as the Women’s Movement or Women’s Liberation) subsequently occurred in the early 1960s and lasted through the late 1980s. It was a movement for greater social equality for women in education and the workplace. While the first wave of feminism was set off by western, cisgender, white women, the second phase drew in women of colour seeking righteousness and solidarity.

Women of the World, Unite! Source: NYtimes.com

They used language to further their social objectives for example using the gnomic Ms., rather than Miss or Mrs., to hide their marital status (the way Mr. already did for men). Inspired by the Civil Rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War, the second wave of feminism challenged what women’s role in society should be.

THIRD-WAVE FEMINISM; GRRRL STYLE

The third wave of feminism originated in the early 1990s as a response to the perceived failures of the second wave by questioning “essentialist” definitions of femininity. The third wave of feminism claimed to have focused on the advancement of upper-middle-class white women and not on the specific needs of lower-class women living in other cultures with less power.

With the provenance of punk-powered feminism, The Riot Grrrl movement, and Anita Hill’s sexual harassment case against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, this era continued to work on the foundation laid by Women’s Liberation while also setting the stage for future generations.

Third Wave Feminism: Getting Comfortable with Feeling Uncomfortable. (Source: NYTimes)

FOURTH WAVE FEMINISM; #METOO AND WOMEN’S MARCH

Characterized by the MeToo movement and a resurgence of attacks on women’s rights, Fourth-wave feminism continues to reckon with intersectionality (“the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual”). Although debated by some, this movement has grown rapidly with social media activism as its key component.

From Hillary Clinton winning against Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016 to the largest single-day demonstration, the Women’s March held throughout the world on January 21, 2017 and the proliferation of inclusive social media tags such as #TimesUp and #MeToo, feminism has made quite a mark in the twentieth century.

While feminism is still associated with negative shifts in power and authority dynamics, social media certainly advocates a more level playing field, allowing for the voices of women from different backgrounds and identities to be heard.

However, feminism on social media isn’t the only kind there is, as well-known professor and author Madhavi Menon puts it. The very fact that widespread social media movements are still needed indicates the intensity of the issues faced by women.

Today’s iteration of feminism needs men and women who recognize and understand the core aspect of this ideology, and in doing so, make fields and practices more inclusive.

We must remember that the fight for gender equality is everyone’s responsibility and this means that feminism, too, is for all — you, me, our children and even that section of -so-called adults who missed an important lesson as they were being raised.

The Writing is on the Wall — We belong here and for anyone who thinks otherwise? Well, your Time’s up!

We can be reached at assist@dais.world for thoughts, feedback, and suggestions.

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