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Feminism – The First, Second and Third Waves

Feminism and feminist movements are not a new-age phenomenon whatsoever. In fact, the feminism movement dates back to the eighteenth century when Mary Wollstonecraft published her ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1792. Speaking of feminism and feminists, the images that fill our minds are that of women shouting for their rights and protesting to protect their equality issues. Well, this was definitely the face of one phase of feminism.

Although this issue sans time, the way in which feminists have embraced and carried forward their movement has changed. This movement is no longer a rioting and picketing on streets act any more but, new-age feminists, who represent the third wave of feminism, are dealing with their respective issues quietly yet, powerfully. Let us peek into the birth and evolution of feminism.

The First Wave – The Right to Vote

Yes, the first wave that began in the year 1792 was about ‘women’s right to vote’. This wave led to the Twentieth Amendment of the US Constitution which both grants and protects a woman’s right to vote. The aim of the first wave feminists to make everyone understand that women were human beings as well and they were not to handled like mere properties.

The right (to vote) that was denied for so long, saw its dawn.

The Second Wave – We Are Equal

The second wave began along with the Great War, the WWII and it lasted for nearly 20 years. Feminists, during this period, were adamant about the ratification of the ‘Equal Rights Amendment Act’. The sole aim of the second phase was gender equality. Feminists demanded that until then male oriented fields like the Armed Forces, NASA, the Supreme Court etc be open to women equally apart from the right to draw an equal pay as men, right to abortion etc.

But the rights for which the second wave saw light was confined to the rights of white and straight women only. Afro-Americans, lesbians and trans-genders and women belonging to other races were not represented during this wave, the reason for which it is severely criticized.

The Third Wave – No More Post-Feminism

“I am not post-feminism feminist. I am the third wave.”, the quote that made a 23-year old Afro-American not just the voice of non-heterosexual and colored women in America but the entire world. That 23-year old was Rebecca Walker and she was the pioneer in seeing the surge of the Third Wave as Walker realized the drawbacks and the bias of the second wave.

While the first two wave of feminism were confined to the developed countries, this 1991 wave spread across frontiers and cultures to actualize women empowerment.

Many people do question the need for a third wave despite its efforts to include women all of races, colors, orientation and work. But the thing that has to be noted is that feminism is not a dead force and has only evolved from Gen X to Gen Y.

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