By Danelle Granger, B.A. in Women & Gender Studies
Feminism can be an intimidating word, especially since it’s sometimes referred to by some as the other ‘F’ word. In reality, feminism is something most people contribute to on a daily basis without even knowing it.
For instance, believing in basic human rights and equality among people is part of feminism. Sharing posts on social media platforms that promote body positivity is feminism. Recognizing that society puts intense pressure on men and women to look and act a certain way is feminism.
Based on these examples, you can see that feminism is a big concept, which can make it challenging to understand.
In my opinion, everyone has their own version of feminism. My feminism may be different from yours, because we might focus on issues important to our hearts, and those issues are different for everyone.
To understand the basics of feminism, it’s important to know where it began and how it changed over the years.
First-wave feminism dates back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. During this time period, predominantly white women from the middle-class were fighting for their property rights, including not being the property of their husbands. The first-wave is mostly known as the suffragettes’ movement because women fought for their right to vote.
Second-wave feminism took place during the early 1960’s to the 1980’s and had a main focus on equality and ending discrimination for white middle-class women. Women during this time started to realize and question their cultural and political inequalities, and they encouraged other women to see how sexist power structures influenced their lives.
Third-wave feminism came about in the 1990’s after women of different cultures, races, and classes had enough with the exclusivity of the first and second-wave movements. These women challenged the messages that the women in the second-wave tried to get across, which were to central to queer theory.
Queer theory is a reaction to some of the ways first and second-wave feminists conducted themselves. Feminists then, and even now, were focused on being equal to men, and by doing that, they made the relationships between sex, gender, and societal roles intertwine.
Instead of always hearing about what defined men, women started defining traits about themselves as a way to be equal to men. By doing this, these feminists brought the stereotypes, gender binary, and societal expectations of the sexes into the open, but not in a positive way.
Queer theory challenges feminism by saying humans are more complex than just sex and gender. Every gender and sex has different traits, but they also share a lot of the same traits. Queer theory exposes and questions these societal norms.
Where is feminism today?
There are some feminists who believe that we are in a post-feminist society now, and there are some who think the fourth-wave of feminism is coming. I think feminism is at a really pivotal point because the more it’s talked about, disputed, and engaged in, the more people begin to see societal issues.
Feminism is still a developing movement, and more than anything, it empowers people of all genders and creates intersectional relationships between many people. Don’t be afraid to explore this ‘F’ word or question society and the world around you.