Often, feminism is thought of and regarded as a monolithic ideal. A fluid process or school to buy into. This, however, is a false notion. Over the last hundred+ years, feminism has developed in different iterations and during three major waves. This, of course, adds onto the historic category of women always fighting for their rights, however for the purpose of this article I will be writing about what sociologists call “The Four Waves of Feminism.” The concept is far from monolithic, and varies geographically, chronologically, and even person to person.
In this article, I will provide a breakdown of the three waves and the most important takeaways from each.
The first wave of feminism was coined by Martha Lear in the New York Times Magazine, in 1968. This political movement was largely focused on inequalities faced by women that were not recognized or acknowledged by the law. It is primarily characterized by the achievements of gaining women the right to vote and own and control property. It primarily worked toward granting women legal individuality.
The second wave of feminism was thought to have begun in the 1960s and lasted approximately the next 20 years. It took a step outside of just law within the United States and aimed to bring women all over the world freedom and equal opportunity. It’s goals aimed outside of just those that were written into the legal system and aimed to empower women on the basis of family, sexuality, and work.
The third wave of feminism went from the 90s to early 2000s and aimed to achieve equality in the workforce, close the wage gap, and protect and develop reproductive rights. This wave also worked to end violence both in the domestic sphere and public sphere, nationally and internationally.
The fourth wave of feminism is the one that is currently happening today, and largely concerns reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, closing the wage gap, and liberation from entrenchment in disenfranchising systems. It is exciting to see how it will continue to develop and affect the welfare of women all of the world.