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Waves of Feminism

Table of Contents

    Feminism as a concept emerged during the suffragette movement west. This struggle for representation in the political arena laid strong foundation to this movement. Initially women were not recognised as independent individuals. Their existence was no better than slaves because of the curtailment of legal rights and liberty. This movement rose in phases or waves:

    First waveFeminism

    This primarily started with the demand of voting rights especially in Europe around the industrial revolution covering 1st and 2nd world war. It was not fully successful; but some parts gave political rights to women including having the entitlement to inherit property. In this phase, the women group did public march and protests all over the Europe, Australia and USA. The Asian, African and South American countries did not witness much of these struggles.

    Second wave


    This wave intensified in 1970s with the growing urban class. Some specific protests such as targeting the Miss America beauty contest, 1968. It gave the war cry of “personal is political”, which was focussing on the spheres of sexuality, reproduction, and cultural representation, to change their domestic as well as private lives. The egregious issues of marital rape and domestic flooded this phase. The women protest grew and more vocal and aggressive.

    Third wave

    This wave of feminism was not started abruptly; rather, it continued as the extension of 2nd phase. The reason for this separation was the issues on which this phase was defined. The core topic was individualism and it deviated with the approach of male bashing or criticising patriarchy for everything. During this phase, the fruits of modernity had been exhausted, revealing its darker side. The feminist also criticised modernity as an instrument of suppression of women. It regarded race, ethnicity, social class, sexual liberation and transgender rights as central issues. It also focussed on workplace environment such as the maternity-leave policies, glass ceiling, motherhood support for single mothers, etc.

    Fourth wave

    We are in this current phase. It includes issues such as online sexual harassment, casual sexism etc. The aggressive use of social media has been one of the key push factors for this phase. Delhi gang rape, Free the Nipple, #YesAllWomen and #MeToo are prominent examples for different campaigns that came up during this phase.