The First Wave Of Feminism
The three waves of feminism have helped women across the generations in more ways than one. Although there are a lot of individuals who still feel that women are not getting equal rights, the status of women in society has definitely improved. My personal journey in education and as a member of today’s society cannot be as it is today without these three waves. How I see myself and how I want to project myself is empowered because of the awareness I have of my rights, thanks to the leaders before me who stood up for women across the nation (Gills and Munford 3).
The first wave of feminism focused on women’s voting rights and women’s suffrage according to the 19th Amendment (Freeman). This particular wave dealt with the official or legal views on feminism. During this time, women were considered second-rate citizens. They were not allowed to vote, and they had very limited rights at home and in the workplace. Although this wave focused on the passing of the 19th Amendment in the US Constitution, there are so much more aspects of feminism and women’s rights that were tackled during this wave.
Without the first wave, I would not have been able to travel from Peru to the United States to study. As a woman, I would be considered a second-rate citizen, and I would not have as much right to study as compared to the men in society. There would really be no point in my studying, because of oppression that women experience in the workplace (Gills and Munford 6). It would not be right for women to want to achieve anything more than what men would have them to do. Those who had the desire to get an education were questioned. I owe it to the first wave of feminism, who fought for the rights of women across the nation, for my ability to study here in this country. Although this issue was not totally resolved in the first wave, the second wave was the one responsible for education on women’s health, women’s studies and other subjects related to women’s rights.
As a child, growing up in a different country, the United States seemed like a promising place for everyone to be able to find a better life. Although the first wave of feminism did have its impact in my home country, where the universities in Peru opened up for women, the extent of equality was not seen as much as in America. This wave of feminism directly impacted the way people see the country from the outside, as a foreigner. People who are from the United States and who have lived there their entire lives do not know the state of feminism in other countries, especially those in developing ones. Although women have equal rights on paper, it is not always practiced within institutions. Peru is a predominantly Catholic country with very patriarchal beliefs. The gap between genders is still seen. Therefore, the first wave of feminism had an impact on me as a child because it clearly showed the distinction between America and other countries where women did not have the same rights (Freeman).
The Second Wave Of Feminism
The Second Wave of Feminism is dependent on the first wave. Actually, all three waves are interconnected and are embedded in each other. Although education was an issue which was tackled during the first wave, it is also seen as a predominant theme during the second. The issues during this period were birth control pills and contraceptives, information on women’s health, women in the workforce and other problems plaguing society. Another big impact that this wave created was on the ubiquity of rape. This was a real problem that not many people spoke about in previous times; this wave of feminism addressed this issue as a way to empower women (Freeman).
This particular wave of feminism not only affects my life, but that of my whole family. My mother stayed at home to raise and take care of us, she was a homemaker. During the earlier times, women were always seen as housewives, and this role was expected. Although my mother chose to stay home and raise her family, it is not because of the oppression of women in society. This means that there will always be a choice for her, or any other woman to enter the workforce. Of course, this is why I want to pursue my dreams of getting an education and eventually working in a bank. This second wave of feminism has allowed women to envision themselves well beyond the house, and as something that they want to be.
This second wave of feminism has also opened up doors for women in different sectors. The view of the working women is not limited to certain roles. Along with this view, women who do choose to stay at home are not oppressed in a way where they are degraded by others’ view on their life choices. Women who want to stay at home and take care of their families are not “lowly housewives” (Krolokke and Sorensen 24). They are empowered in a way that they were not before. Child-rearing is an important part of raising a family, and women are recognized for this role. Also, in connection with the family, the right to birth control and protests about pro-choice was brought up. Family planning has made an impact in how women are treated and their rights over their bodies. Although, I was raised in a Catholic home, therefore abortion is not something that we would support.
Like in the first wave of feminism, education was a recurring theme in this second wave. It is not only admission to schools, but also available education on women’s health. Women were able to learn more about their sexuality and their bodies after this movement. This helped women understand themselves, and therefore are able to take better care of their bodies. As a woman, this second wave allows me to know more about my physiology and what I need to do to take care of myself. Things such as birth control, yearly mammograms, the information available on women’s reproductive health has not only helped me, but all women across the globe. This information would not be readily available if it weren’t for the second wave of feminism.
Another issue that was brought about by the second wave was rape and violence against women. During those earlier times, no one really spoke about the issue of rape or violence (Krolokke and Sorensen 24). Domestic violence was an issue that the government had little control over. Without this movement, there would not be any battered women shelters in the nation. Personally, this would affect me because of the fear of safety. If an individual were to be raped in a society where there is no law against such a heinous crime, women would walk around in fear. Without knowing that you have the support of your legal system, it would be hard to go about your daily routine without thinking that something terrible might happen to you. The second wave of feminism has opened up the public’s eyes about the reality of rape and what it could mean for women, young and old.
The Third Wave Of Feminism
The third wave of feminism takes off from the second wave. The beliefs and ideas of women were expressed and feminism was no longer only a political thing (Gills and Munford 1). The personal lives of women can be seen through this movement. What was once a taboo topic, which was only spoken about behind closed doors became an issue with the public. Although the availability of courses such as women’s studies and gender studies were available during the second wave, the third wave produced much information and material that women can use. This wave is more about the freedom of expression that women have, which is what I can relate to the most about the third wave movement.
I strongly believe that women have equal rights as anyone else in society, no matter what their personal choices are. This also involves their race, social status and sexual orientation. The freedom of choice was something that the second wave did not tackle as much, however they did accomplish a lot during that movement. This third wave has a whole different way of empowering women in modern times.
Now, women are not constricted by gender roles. Women who stand up for themselves, work in a job considered only for men, know how to fight are not considered “masculine” (Leslie, Heywood and Drake). Women now have the right to know and understand their sexuality without being labeled or called names. The third wave is fighting stereotypes and abuse in the form of derogatory terms. This is the age that I live in, therefore it is what affects me the most. This third wave movement is closer to the world that I am living in now. My beliefs are aligned with the ones that many women are still fighting for. I think that women have the right to express themselves and their individuality. Just because a woman dresses in the way she wants, which society considered overtly “sexual”, it doesn’t mean that she is asking to be raped. Also, if a woman wants to become a pilot, a steel worker or anything considered “masculine”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is a lesbian. Although, lesbians and bisexuals are also supposed to be free to choose their sexual orientation. The third wave of feminism affects my life because the issues that the movement is fighting for are the ones that I, along with other women, face each day.
Freeman, Jo. "Waves of feminism." (2005).
Krolokke, Charlotte, and Anne Scott Sorensen. "Three waves of feminism: From suffragettes to grrls." Gender Communication Theories and Analyses: From Silence to Performance (2005): 24.
Gillis, Stacy, and Rebecca Munford. "Introduction: Harvesting our Strengths: Third Wave Feminism and Women’s Studies." Journal of International Women's Studies 4.2 (2013): 1-6.
Leslie, Heywood, and Jennifer Drake, eds. Third wave agenda: Being feminist, doing feminism. U of Minnesota Press, 1997.