Feminism focuses on the overall development of a woman without considering her gender or sexual identity. It could be the most debated word on earth or rather the most interpreted and misinterpreted word. It has given rise to a range of social movements along with different ideologies, political views, and even gender conflict.
Feminist movements advocated and campaigned for women’s right including the right to vote, to hold public office to work, to earn fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage and to have maternity leave. It also worked for legal abortion and social integration and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Identifying women’s problems itself is a landmark as the efforts to liberate suppressed women began. This helped to focus on the marginalised women who never thought that they have also rights to claim.
Utopian Socialist Charles Fourier coined the word ‘feminism’ in 1837 and it took more than 30 years for the new word ‘Feminist’ and ‘Feminism’ to appear in any literary work. In 1852, Oxford English Dictionary listed these two words. The earlier feminist movements were denoted by the term ‘Protofeminist’ and were followed by three waves of feminism. The feminist movement started in France, and spread all over the world.
The first wave of feminism started in the 19th and continued to the early 20th century in the UK and gradually spread to the US. The first wave focused mainly on obtaining women suffrage or the right to vote and also advocated for the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting and property rights for women. Women’s suffrage movement led to the passage of the Representation of the People Act which granted women the right to vote. The contribution of Emmeline Pankhurst to this movement is noteworthy.
The subsequent phases of feminism stood for the overall development of women collectively by analyzing the social, cultural and political inequalities. Feminists also worked for the reform of unwritten family laws and male chauvinism. In the latest phase, the movement is powered by social media. It focuses more on the rape culture and sexual harassment on street, at workplaces and on campus.
The various types of feminism focused and found out the different reasons for oppression, though it would be difficult to seek here all the possibilities of feminism in the world. Liberal feminism focused individualistic equality of men and women in the political field, while radical feminism contemplated the male-controlled capitalist hierarchy. Conservative feminism studied the existing society, while separatist feminism opposed heterosexual relationships. Ecofeminism was a different notion through which nature of men and women and nature itself were considered. Materialist ideology focused on Marxist feminism which portrayed capitalism as the root cause of women's oppression.
Feminism is a big concept, varies from place to place, culture to culture and person to person. But despite the differences, feminism has changed many things, is changing many things and will change many more things in the future. We can divide feminism into different groups, types, and waves, but the focus remained the same -- the liberation of women. Feminism did not emerge simply as a child smiles, but took a lot many struggles to prove its objective and achieve its goals.
Feminism brought a new way of thinking through which all the women at least started to think themselves, some worked for their dreams and a very few achieved their rights. But considering the ages of suppression and oppression, that very few itself is significant. It is true that feminism has been misinterpreted many times, and still has to work more on it, but it has given a great deal of freedom and independence to women. Thus feminism is the best way to fight for the independence and liberation.