Feminism : The History of Origins ~ Guest Article by Alyssa Johnson

Feminism: The History of Origins 

Feminism, this world is used a lot these days. With many self-proclaimed feminist such as Beyoncé Knowles and Hillary Clinton, it is obvious why this world is becoming more popular. On the other hand, gender is an important part of society regardless of different views. For example, a study conducted in the UK showed that up to 64% of the population felt that gender equality is important. But what is the actual meaning of feminism and where did it come from?

 What is Feminism?

Feminism is not only a political movement but also a social, economic and cultural activity
movement whose sole purpose is to empower women and ensure gender equality in all spheres
of life. Moreover, the west has played a huge role in promoting women rights.
So, how did feminism come to be? Well, there have been many movements over the years that
supported women’s rights and advocated for equality between all sexes. However, many of
these movements have differed in several aspects such as goal and cause.
Because of this, it becomes a bit difficult to trace the actual origins of feminism. Some historians
believe that feminism should be only applied to modern feminist movements. Therefore, to get a
better understanding of the history of feminism, it is important to understand some of the earliest
events in history that lead to the need for movements empowering women.

Throughout history many societies considered women as second-class citizens, in fact, many
parts of the world still believe that women are not equal to men. Women were not allowed to do
the same activities as men. For example, they were not allowed to own property or work in
certain jobs. Over time women saw the need to address these issues and fight for equality:

1. 18th century

The 18th century also known as the period of enlightenment, saw the likes of Jeremy Bentham
and Marques Condorcet ask for equality between men and women. At the time women were not
allowed to vote or take part in public decision making. These men saw it necessary for women
to partake in these matters.

2. 19th Century

Feminist ideas became in trend during this century. Many female writers including Jane Austen
expressed the inequalities between men and women, with such books acting as a voice for the
need for equal treatment of women. Another area of focus for women’s rights in the 19th century
was the need for equal educational and working opportunities for women.

3. First-wave feminism

First-wave feminism was centered around getting women political power. Feminists in this
period thought that if women could get political power, it would give them the means to change
certain issues such as the right to vote.
Between the 19th and 20th century there were several accomplishments including electoral
reform, social reform, and reproductive rights. The great wars of the 20th century also
contributed to first-wave feminism in that women could go to front lines.
Because most men were on the front line, it left a vacancy in industries which was filled by

women. It is during this period that the icon of Rosie the Riveter came to life.

4. Second-wave feminism

Identified as the period between 1960 to 1980, the second wave sought to link political and
cultural inequalities. The main issues that were addressed in this period include:
● Sexuality,
● Family life,
● Reproductive rights,
● Work-related issues.

During the second-wave, there were other movements for equality such as the Civil right and
Gay and Lesbian movements. One interesting fact is that many women participated in all these
movements. Female writers expressed more political and sexual issues. Prominent women
during this period included Gloria Steinem.
The 1975 United Nations conference on International Women’s Year set the foundation of the
International Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th of March every year. The main aim of this
conference was to promote women’s rights worldwide.

5. Third-wave feminism

The third-wave feminism is considered to have started from the 1990s till today. Today there are
many groups of feminists with others being considered as radical feminists. Even though the
term feminism is more acceptable now, some people still feel threatened by this notion. Today
women are aiming for equal pay, gender-based violence, and women’s reproductive rights. If
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Although feminism has been around for more than 200 years, there are still many

misconceptions to be addressed. While most of the trigger for this movement is equality
between men and women, the presence of radical feminists is seen by some women as taking
women backward and not reflecting the true meaning of feminism. Even though so much
progress has been accomplished by women’s movement, there are still many cases of
inequality between men and women in all parts of the world.

Alyssa Johnson is a dedicated freelance writer and editor. She is also an avid blogger and yoga-lover. Her favorite quote is: “Do what you love, love what you do”.  

Disclaimer - The photographs used in this post are not owned by The Perspectives Blog.

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