Feminism refers to the fight by women to be accorded equal rights in politics, economics, relationships and family responsibilities, social and all the issues related to women. In the United States, there have been long standing fights by women to have their issues addressed effectively in order to feel equally positioned as their male colleagues. The fight to liberation can be categorized into three main branches under the wave theory. There was the first wave, the second wave and the third wave.
All the above mentioned waves had their significant contribution to the liberation of women from oppressive governance, social aspects as well as economic issues. Through leadership of strong-willed women, these fights bore fruits which enable the modern women to enjoy their liberty without worrying about any oppressive consequences from the male colleagues. The feminism history began in the late eighteenth century, and through continuous fights, the women were finally accorded their rights but at varying durations in history.
The first wave feminism is remembered as one of the most plausible achievement by women activists. This is because, the wave brought into place important social and political changes that have so far influenced the sectors to-date. The main agendas in the first wave feminism included the rights to property, marriage relationships and the rights for women to vote (West 1). These issues seemed like big issues especially amongst the male population since the women were still considered as the weaker gender and they were seen as not fit to be accorded equal rights as the male colleagues. Some of the most influential figures of the first wave feminism were Elizabeth, Stanton and Susan Anthony. These women dedicated their lives to the liberation of the women population. Firstly, on realizing that the women were more in numbers than the men, these women mobilized the rest of the female population to come together and fight for equal recognition in the political and social issues (West 1).
The leaders of these women confronted the fact that the men dominated the political and social arenas, but they relentlessly struggled to ensure that their plights were comprehensively adhered to.
Family relationships were pointed out as being some areas where women were harshly and unfairly treated. The women were perceived as less significant and thereby mistreated without having anything to do about it. Female assaults perpetrated at home were not accorded the desired attention by the legal authorities. Hitherto, the women could be mistreated within the marriage institutions without the authorities reacting to it. This is because the women were regarded as less important and being battered in relationships was perceived as a ‘normal’ thing. The leaders therefore decided to come forward with all these sentiments in order for the government to realize these faults and address them accordingly.
The women were also disregarded from the voting processes. They were completely not required to vote and this meant that only men had the rights to participate in elective politics. The decisions on who was to be the leader of the country and other political posts were wholly under the responsibility of the men. It is for this reason that Elizabeth and Susan decided to fight for the rights of women to vote (West 1). This was the suffrage.
The women who came forward in support of the movement were known as the suffragettes. They dedicated their lives and their time in order to ensure that the women were accorded the right to vote. Although the Catholic Church detached itself from the whole liberation process, some of its followers showed strong support to the movement’s agenda. This fight for women’s right to vote lasted for a long time and despite being brought into the attention of the legal and political officials, a lot of time was wasted in making the proposals legal. Through a combination of all these grievances, the women managed to get their right to vote through the 19th Amendment in 1920 (West 1). After this victory, more women became active in politics, for example Alice Walker who went ahead and founded her own political party.
The second wave feminism occurred between the 1960s and the 1970s (“Women of the Left” 28). After the 19th Amendment, more women became involved in more feminist activities. Some of the issues that were involved in the second wave feminism were politically and socially motivated. The major issue associated with this wave was the fight for the right of lower and middle-class black women. The women activists were convinced that the political and social officials were oriented towards the upper middle-class women and they discriminated against the black woman. The issue of biological essentialism was also projected as one of the contentious issues that were supposed to be addressed by the government.
During this time, the feminists wanted their issues to be projected through the media and other public awareness forums (“Women of the Left” 28). However, the feminists differed from one place to another. These differences projected the time for the implementation of these proposals. Their goals were many. Some of these goals were that sisterhood was a powerful tool towards success of women. They also had beliefs that political motives were closely related with personal objectives. The abortion rights were also included into the agendas of women. De-sexing of the English language was also perceived as an important aspect for the women. This is because the language had hitherto been marred by patriarchal perceptions. Legislation of some feminists’-related issues was also an agenda that the feminists considered as worth towards the liberation of the women. Some of these Acts included the Equal Pay Act, the Addition of Sex Discrimination to the Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Rights Amendment (Nicholson 79).
In order to make the amends a reality, the women started by getting involved in the 1968 Miss America Pageant. The women believed that the pageants were commercialized and were filled with racism (“Women of the Left” 28). They therefore got involved in demonstrations in order to fight for the end of these racism and commercialization issues. In addition, there was the New York speak out of March 1969. Women were also involved in the August 1970 strike for equality. The women felt that they were treated in unfairness in many ways. These unfairness issues proved as the biggest barriers towards women liberation.
Other issues that were involved in the second wave feminism were the elimination of compulsory heterosexuality. This was the notion that had hitherto been accepted by the society that considered the men and women relationships as the only acceptable relationships. However, the feminists considered that there were other acceptable relationships between the women. Patriarchy was considered as the problem that had for a long time ruined the social and political standing.
The third wave feminism started towards the end of the 1980s and proceeded up to the start of the 1990s. The main issues that were to be addressed in this era were the class and racial discrimination. While the first fights were focused on biologically-inspired racism, the third wave feminism considered the racial lines to be founded on cultural differences. The cultural disparities between the different people of the society inspired the spread of the racial discriminations (Freedman 23). The women considered the racial and class disparities as being the major players towards segregation. Culturally-inspired racism and class segregation caused more women to feel far from attaining total liberty.
The people who were inspired to fight for this liberation were mainly those who never participated in either the first or the second liberation movement. They were mostly the women who assented to the prior formulated pro-feminism actions that were currently in operation throughout the country (“Statement” 65).
This wave was concerned mainly with fighting for reproductive rights which encompassed among other issues, the right to contraception and abortion services. The feminists argued, and still continue to argue, that it ought to be the right of each woman to control her femininity, which includes among other issues, fertility. Where the life of the mother was deemed to be in danger, the feminists perceived it as worthwhile to manage their rights of procuring an abortion and of taking other contraceptives (“Statement” 66).
The aspect of reclaiming some derogatory terms like bitches and whores was another issue that was of importance during this wave. Some of these words were perceived by the feminists as having had an impact on the welfare and behaviors of females. By reclaiming such words, the females felt that they could achieve a lot even through their male-female interactions since they couldn’t be held accountable for any negative behaviors or characters that may lead to improper branding of a woman. This process is considered to be proceeding to date. The current feminist activities are linked to this wave feminism. Although a lot has been achieved since the first wave, the feminists are still determined to see the full address of their plights. The social and political frameworks that exist do not illustrate female liberty in equal measures as accorded to men. There is still a battle for the women to fight in order to get the full attention as well as ensure that their issues are effectively handled and solved.
Freedman, Estelle B. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future
Women. London, UK: Ballantine Books, 2002. Print.
Nicholson, Linda J. The second wave: a reader in feminist theory. London, UK:
Routledge, 1997. Print.
“Statement”. Statement: Third World’s Women’s Alliance. The New Left. 1968.
West, Thomas. The History of American First Wave Feminism. 2010. Web. 16 March,
“Women of the Left”. To The Women Of The Left: SDS Women. Dear Sisters, 1967.