For as long as I have known what feminism was, I have identified as a feminist.
It seems like a simple enough term that everyone should consider themselves to be a feminist, really. Everyone should want and advocate for equal rights between men and women.
But as I did my own research and digging, I saw that many layers of feminism have been twisted from the true definition and turned into something that screams revolution.
Feminism, as defined by dictionary.com, is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”
Again, it seems undoubtedly simple. Feminists believe that women should be equal to men, because, frankly, they have not been equal in the past.
To understand the true meaning of feminism, it is important to look at the different waves that have existed throughout the movement, and what the goals of each movement were.
First-wave feminism is a time period where feminist activity and advocacy first spread through the western populations, lasting between 1850 and 1940. First-wave feminism focused on womens’ rights to vote, calling upon the president and government to give women this right and take away the privilege that men held over women.
Second-wave feminism lasted between 1960 and 1980, attacking the rampant workplace discrimination women faced. This wave brought about the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Equal Rights Act of 1964, making discrimination against women in the workplace illegal.
Feminism experienced mass globalization during this second-wave, with movements gaining traction in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Western feminists began to see the violent acts against women in third world countries, inspiring the 1980 World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women.
Third-wave feminism appeared in the mid-1990s, led by Generation X, a lot of whom were literally the daughters of second-wave feminism. Third-wave feminism challenged the typical beauty standards of feminism that even second-wave feminism promoted.
The fourth wave of feminism is theorized to have begun around 2012, with a strong focus on sexual harassment, rape culture and body shaming. Social media was integral to this wave; hashtags like MeToo and IStandWithHer were often used to discuss situations and experiences with sexual harassment, often to point out the commonality of these experiences.
Fourth-wave feminism was a strong opponent to President Trump’s campaign for presidency, slamming his many misogynistic and offensive remarks he has made towards women. After the 2016 election, people on Facebook called for a march on Washington, which has led to the now annual Women’s March that has taken place nationwide.
As pro-women social media movements gained traction, other trends supporting “meninism” and men’s rights appeared as well, often claiming that feminists were “taking over.” Though these were often just laughed at, it kind of proved the importance of feminism.
Sexism is very apparent within our society and has been ingrained in most everyone from a young age. Because of this, a large part of the feminist movement is educating others as to why society has long encouraged systemic beliefs and promotions of sexism and patriarchal ideals.
“No, I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist. I mean, that would be, maybe, going too far,” said President Trump in an interview with Piers Morgan.
For men to look at feminism and call it “taking over” or “going too far” is simply laughable. Modern-day feminists still continue their fight against the common struggles of women.
For a long time, women have been significantly underrepresented in the media. As calls for this to change have recently become louder, underrepresentation often turns into misrepresentation.
Stereotypes are continuously apparent in film and television. Whether its a femme fatale or a ‘damsel in distress’, these stereotypes are disgustingly outdated and harmful, especially to younger children watching.
Another struggle with sexism that I see still is rape culture.
Too often, education revolving around rape is to teach the victim how to not be a target: do not wear revealing clothes, do not go out at night alone, carry some type of defense with you. It is an ongoing list I have had to hear many times.
Instead of putting the blame of sexual assault and harassment on the victims, our society needs to focus education efforts towards potential perpetrators. Instead of teaching women how to be undesirable to men, we should be teaching the importance of respect and consent, and why it is a necessity.
For a majority of western history, women have been valued secondary to men. However, these waves of feminism have pushed back, insisting that a woman’s rightful place is wherever she wants to be.