By: Shereen Pandit
Feminism is a social movement and ideology that strives for the political, cultural and economic rights and lawful protection for women. It concerns with the issues of gender inequality advocating equal opportunity for women. According to Maggie Humm and Rebecca Walker, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves; the first feminist wave in the 19th C and early 20th C, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present.
Modern feminism can be traced back to Mary Wollstonecraft who, stimulated by the principles of French Revolution and Liberalism, argued in her book “A Vindication for the Rights of Women “(1798) for the need to make women rationally educated. She never advocated their leaving the domestic sphere but she demanded girl’s education so as to open them to the possibility of economic independence, freedom and dignity. Similarly, J.S. Mill in his book “The Subjection of Women” (1869) tackled the problem of women’s oppression and blamed the legal subordination of women to men and suggested the equality of rights to women for the general good of the society.
The demand for giving women the right to vote, from 1830s onwards, was ultimately met by 1920s in most of the western European countries and North America. In the history of feminism this first wave is best remembered for the suffrage movement though campaign by women for many more specific reforms related to matrimonial law, property ownership, child custody rights, work and educational opportunities and government regulation of morality.
In America, the political struggle for women’s rights started with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. After that a number of pro-suffrage groups consolidated and renewed their efforts towards achieving the right to vote. In 1923, the Woman’s Party demanded the Equal Rights Amendment to remove all legal distinctions between the sexes but it proved to be a long battle as this demand was not granted till the second wave of feminism from 1960s onwards in America. In the short-term between these two waves of feminism, two famous works, “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) by Virginia Woolf and “The Second Sex” (1949) by Simone de Beauvoir again raised the issue of women’s rights and freedom from male domination and patriarchy in social, economic and literary context.
These seminal works had a lasting influence on the feminist movement. Virginia Woolf, regarded as a pioneer of feminist literary criticism, in her landmark publication “A Room of one’s own” interrogates the inevitability of seeing the world from the patriarchal view point; economic politics in a male-dominated world where women are often financially dependent on males; absence of women from the history of mankind; and also the failure of ‘male’ language in expressing the essentially female experiences of women writers. Simon de Beauvoir put forth the tenor for contemporary feminism with her illustrious assertion, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”, and she procured a step forward and beyond the women’s restricted demand for civil rights and educational opportunities. Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”, a bold treatise on woman’s inferior position in society, inspired much of the theoretical work of the 1970s, and also became central to subsequent inquiries into feminist politics. This seminal work also became fundamental to a number of societal and political examinations into the sexual division of labour, women’s health, familial relations and other relations.
Feminism is demonstrated worldwide and is existing by numerous organizations perpetrate to persuit on behalf of women’s rights and interests. Someone who follows feminism is called “feminist”. The feminist agenda is about delegation, fairness and liberty. It aims women to gain superiority over men, It challenge the systemic inequalities women face on a daily basis.
The author is student of journalism from Kashmir University and can be reached email@example.com