Feminism: A Primer

Though built on a base of ideologies and movements that have occurred internationally, feminism presents a unified front: a belief in the unadulterated equality of women across all spectrums, be it politics, economics, sports, or cultural rights. One of the most powerful movements in the history of man, feminism has fought a battle that has raged on for centuries, and continues to fight to expose the truth: that women are treated as less than men. How a movement such as this, defined by its unrelenting vigor and unwavering moral compass, comes to be is a story of bravery through innumerable struggles, a story that will be retold in this essay.

Ironically enough, the coining of the word “feminist” is attributed to French philosopher Charles Fourier. The theory, however, is dominated by the works of women, dating back to such authors as Christine de Pizan, whose work was credited by Simone de Beauvoir as some of the first to express feminist tendencies. As the theory spread through the 18th century, the works of male authors and philosophers such as Bentham and de Condorcet mingled with the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is considered the first truly feminist work.

In practice, feminism is most commonly divided into three waves. The first wave was focused on political aspects, including the iconic women’s suffrage battle of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Across Europe and the United States, such figures as the English Emmeline Pankhurst, the Dutch Wilhelmina Drucker, and the Americans Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought and won women the right to vote. Second-wave feminism was a movement of the mid-20th century and was mainly concerned with enlightening women, educating them on the political structures they believed had subjugated them for centuries. This wave brought about closer examination of discrimination of women. As a response, third-wave feminism arose to combat the perceived failures of second-wave feminism and looked to emphasize the reclamation of sexuality to empower women. Both second- and third-wave feminism continue today, and have, in some forms, mutated into a movement referred to as post-feminism.

Feminism represents an ongoing struggle. As people work towards true equality, there will always be detractors and opponents. But feminism’s rich history of determination and dedication will always serve as a reminder that, with enough hard work, change can, and will, be brought about.

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