Feminism Over the Years
Sara Raubvogel, Holly Rusch
Feminism, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as “the theory of social, political, and economic equality between the sexes.” Throughout its many stages, proponents of feminism advocate this definition: from women’s voting rights to the pro-choice movement, feminists have worked to use feminism as a tool for women’s rights. However, critiques of the feminist movement- from men and women alike- have been active since its inception.
First-wave feminism began in 1848, as suffragette women marched for the right to vote and gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention. Many of these early feminists advocated for voting equality at the same time as black activists. Both of these movements set the stage for continuation of social progress, however, both -for the most part- continued to ignore advocacy for black women. However, as the 15th amendment in the 1870’s gave black men the right to vote, the women’s suffrage movement stagnated. With women divided racially and in disagreement about the movement’s next steps, the suffrage movement stopped short of the progress it aimed to make. But as a new century dawned, feminists renewed their efforts for ratification of a voting amendment, despite pushback from the Anti-Suffrage society, among other prominent organizations. As states began to ratify the amendment individually, the suffrage movement gained steam and the women’s right to vote was ratified at the federal level in 1920. This victory for feminism marked the end of the first wave.
After winning the right to vote, the women’s rights movement had become complacent. But by the 1960’s, women began fighting for more than just constitutional rights. The National Organization for Women (NOW) spurred on the fight for gender reforms in the domestic and social spheres along with the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. These feminists, the majority of whom were white, upper middle-class women, also protested the innate sexualization and domestication of women. While second-wave feminism failed in its attempts to pass this Equal Rights Amendment, it did bring mainstream attention to issues that were previously considered solely for inside the home, including work, childcare, birth control, and the right to choose abortion. The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that abortion was to be decriminalized marked one of the most tangible successes of second-wave feminism. But with feminism innately tied to the right to an abortion, pro-life advocates also became a strong voice against the feminist movement, creating some of the most lasting critiques against feminism. However, the movement had issues and fractures within itself: continuing the problems that first-wave feminism had with the marginalization of women of color, second-wave feminism paid no attention to the particular struggles of non-white women. From this, black feminism was born. Despite unsuccessful attempts for unification, black feminists who felt they needed their own space began to form their own organizations, which would continue in later waves of feminism.
Third-wave feminism has a less defined timeline, and bled into second-wave feminism. However, the 1991 Anita Hill case was a rare defining moment of the third wave. Anita Hill testified in front of the Supreme Court Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. This brought an avalanche of sexual harassment complaints from women all across the country in different spaces of work. Third-wave feminism also began the embracement of intersectional feminism, femininity and respect for all women in every aspect of their lives. Intersectional feminism is the idea that feminism must protect all women from the specific agressions they face, because women face more than just sexism, but also issues of racism, classism, and homophobia, among others, which third-wave feminism attempted to define. In addition, while second-wave feminism rejected the traditional aspects of womanhood that had been forced upon women, third-wave feminism fought for the reclamation of those aspects. From the coinage of the term girl power to female punk rock, third-wave feminism expanded the breadth of the movement in more ways than one.
Moving on from the late 20th to the early 21st century, fourth-wave feminism has been changed by the social and technological advances that it has developed along with. With the development of the Internet, activism has become more user-friendly than ever. Building from the ideals of third-wave feminism, fourth-wave feminism uses online media to spread immediate awareness and create a global movement. Most notably, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which advocate for female empowerment against sexual harassment, are being claimed as markers of fourth-wave feminism. And although critics of feminism also have a platform on which to spread anti- feminist ideology, feminists around the globe now have the tools to seek empowerment and education for women worldwide.
Feminism at Woodside
Holly Rusch, Sara Raubvogel
Feminists Throughout History
From the suffragettes to Beyoncè, feminism has spanned the decades. Click the white buttons at the bottom of the slides to see a variety of feminism’s famous figureheads.
Empowerment Throughout the Country
Since the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the gender pay gap is shrinking at a slow rate. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women in 1963 earned about 59% of the dollar that a man made. In recent years, women make around 80% of the dollar that a man makes in the US. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are 107 occupations where a women’s median earning is 95% or lower than a man’s, in contrast to about four occupations where a man’s is moderately lower than a woman’s median earning. Not only are men getting paid more for the same occupations in general, but “male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels” (Hegewisch and Williams-Baron, 2018). A key aspect of feminism has always been socioeconomic equality between the sexes, and many women feel that the gender pay gap is one of the most tangible reminders of antiquated standards between men and women.
Hegewisch, A. and Williams-Baron, E. (2018). The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2016; and by Race and Ethnicity | Institute for Women’s Policy Research. [online] Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Available at: https://iwpr.org/publications/gender-wage-gap-occupation-2016-race-ethnicity/ [Accessed 5 May 2018].
Pay-equity.org. (2018). Pay equity information. [online] Available at: https://www.pay-equity.org/info-time.html [Accessed 5 May 2018].
Feminism in America has rapidly gained support throughout the years, however there continues to be widespread criticism of the so called “aggressive” women. In the face of opposition, women around the world stand up for their rights as human beings. Hover over the pink markers to view statistics.