Thursday, April 5, 2012

Waves of Women's Rights Movements and Types of Feminism

Waves of Women’s Movements

Feminism is defined as “a movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women.” (Wood, 3)

There have been three waves of women’s movements in the United States. Under each movement there were different ideologies that came about. 

The first wave of women’s movements came between 1840-1925.  The main battles these women fought for were the right to vote, higher education, opportunity for higher employment, and the right to own property after marriage. In 1920, women finally won the right to vote. At this time there was also a movement called the cult of domesticity.  These women were not a part of the fight for women’s rights because they did not believe that women and men were alike and equal.  Instead they argued that women are more nurturing and moral than men and should therefore be given a voice in politics.  They fought to end slavery, ban alcohol, and enforce child labor laws.

The second wave of women’s movements was between 1960-1995. 
·      Radical feminism: Also known as the women’s liberation movement.  Radical feminists believe that the oppression of women is the doorway to all other forms of oppression.  These members are very committed to equality and utilize many techniques to make their meetings equal for all those in attendance.  They wanted to raise attention about the oppression of women and to demand changes in where women stand in society and in relationships.  Radical feminists often make big scenes such as protesting beauty pageants or having rallies in the street.  Their big slogan, which made a difference and is still remembered today, is “the personal is political”.  It means that if women are oppressed in social situations, they will be oppressed personally.  This form of feminism still exists today and they are now taking on the battle of women’s rights in other countries.
·      Lesbian feminism:  Lesbian feminists fight for women in all relationships to have the same rights to property, insurance, and legal rights as heterosexual spouses.  These women fight to defend their sexual orientation.
·      Separatism: Separatists build communities where women live together and respect each other.  Most but not all of these women are lesbian.  They believe that women are different than men and that there is no point in trying to fight the patriarchal society of America.  Separatists instead exit mainstream society and create their own places to live.  A place where all people can live in harmony with animals and nature.
·      Revalorism: Revalorists focus on appreciating women and what they give to society.  They want society to value what women have to offer in terms of women’s traditional roles.  Women who partake in being a homemaker should be valued and they learn important skills such as being nurturing, supportive, cooperative, and life-giving.
·      Ecofeminism: Ecofeminists see problems with domination, both the domination of women by men and the domination of nature by mankind. As long as oppression is allowed, anything that can’t or won’t resist will fall victim to being oppressed.  These feminists aim to change the way humans interact with each other and nature.
·      Liberal feminism: Liberal feminists fight for the equality of women in all spheres of life.  These feminists believe that men and women are the same and therefore should be treated equally.  They fight for the rights of all women regardless of race, sexual orientation, or social class.
·      Womanism: Womanists is a group of feminists that also believed that men and women are the same however took on another name to not be associated with the white, middle-class feminism.  These feminists focus not only on the rights of women, but the rights of poor African American women.
·      Multiracial feminism: Multiracial feminists want to raise awareness of the different ways in which men and women are oppressed. These feminists believe that race cannot be the only factor looked at when looking at oppression.  Economic class also factors into oppression largely. People should be talked about in complex categories taking into account race, sexual orientation, gender, and economic class rather than broad groups.  Multiracial feminists highlight the power of women.
·      Power feminism: Power feminists believe that the only thing making women oppressed is the fact that women are allowing themselves to be oppressed.  They see women as portraying themselves as victims, which takes away their power.

The third wave of women’s movements is still active today. It includes women of all backgrounds and economic situations.  This wave is less focused and less developed but there are six features that are a part of this wave.
1.     Recognizing differences among women: Fight for the rights of all women, women are not just one big group.  There are many differences between women including sexual orientation, class, race, body shape, and ability.
2.     Building coalitions: There is a want to find other groups to work with in the fight for women’s rights.  Alliances are built with men’s rights groups and other groups.
3.     Engaging in everyday resistance: The second wave passed many laws giving rights to women and to people of other races.  These laws are not being followed through upon on a personal level.  People still make racist and sexist jokes on a daily basis.  Third wave feminists challenge all sexist or racist jokes and comments.
4.     Being media savvy: Third wave feminists are able to use media both to learn information about what is happening but also to spread their ideas.
5.     Embracing aesthetics and consumerism: These feminists believe that women can be strong and be sexy at the same time.  It is not inherently bad for women to buy fashionable clothes and look beautiful.  They encourage women to explore their sexuality for themselves, not for others.
6.     Individualism: Third wave feminists focus on individuals having their own goals and identities. Women are very diverse and therefore there cannot be one political agenda for all women.


Wood, J. T. (2005). Gendered lives: Communication, gender and culture. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Author: Erin H.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome post! I just found your blog but it already seems very interesting! Keep on writing, I'll keep on reading! Feminism isn't just about Equality