So after posting about the misrepresentation of feminism in my last post, I got some feedback from friends:
“You barely touched on what contemporary feminism is – you just wrote about what ideals it should represent.”
“Are gender equality and feminism the same thing? I mean, if feminists are just promoting equality between the genders, why not just have a gender equality movement as opposed to a movement strictly relating to females?”
“But I like Patricia Arquette…”
While the last one is kind of irrelevant to continuing the discussion, the other two points (along with some other comments) are actually significant things that I didn’t touch on in my last post. So, I figured that I could delve a little more into contemporary feminism…
A brief history: Feminism, despite popular misconception, has always been a movement aimed at creating political, economic, social, and cultural equality – specifically by addressing issues and barriers that women face. The First Wave of Feminism in the 19th and 20th centuries attacked the political side and women gained the right to vote and all that other fun political stuff. During the late 1900’s, The Second Wave was focused on a lot of the economic and social aspects, attempting to end discrimination in the work place and in schools. The Third Wave, which is going on now, has narrowed in on continuing to address remaining issues that the Second Wave feminists never “solved” and creating a large-scale change in the way that femininity is culturally defined and the manner in which women are viewed.
I guess you could say that the Third Wave (contemporary feminism) is less about concrete, tangible issues, and more about trying to address a larger mindset within society. And while a cultural mindset can’t be changed overnight, Third Wave feminists attempt to take on initiatives to create a sense of respect, empowerment, and comfort for women in society.
I interviewed a friend of mine to gain some more understanding of what feminism means to her. She said, “As a feminist, I am tired of watching women take a backseat in politics and the corporate world, yet I still want the women who wish to stay at home with their children to do so. I want women who choose to wear traditionally “feminine” clothing to dress that way and women who want to wear more masculine clothing to be able to do that. I want women who wish to be modest to be modest, and women who wish to dress revealingly to do so with gusto. I just don’t want any woman to feel like she is required to take a backseat to any man, or than she has to fulfill a certain role because society tells her to.”
Also, contemporary feminism is not intended to mean “females above others” – it’s just a movement aimed at creating equality through changing females’ stance in the world. Obviously, there are a lot of people trying to gain equality and feminism doesn’t ignore or dismiss that – feminism is just primarily focused on issues facing females. I mean, it’s the same deal with any movement. For instance, environmentalists care about other issues too – they are just primarily focused on the issues facing the environment, even if some of those issues aren’t as immediate or “detrimental” as some other issues.
And yes, the issues that females face in contemporary society might not be as obviously detrimental as previous female-related issues, but they still do affect a woman’s everyday life to a certain degree.
To sum up what feminism should be accomplishing, my friend said, “I want our ‘new’ feminist movement to not lump women together into a white, straight box. Contemporary feminism should celebrate the unique experiences of each woman, the ways in which her background, culture and ethnicity has influenced her life experiences as a woman. Society provides enough road-blocks for women in general, but adding in social prejudices against people of different races, religions, economic classes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities can add a whole new layer of difficulty in the lives of millions of women.”
Third Wave Feminism is about eliminating stigmatized notions attached to females, promoting overall gender equality (between all genders) in both a tangible and intangible sense, celebrating femininity rather than belittling it, and creating a society in which equality is the norm.
It’s not about creating a matriarchy or eradicating men. In fact, that would be contradicting what feminism stands for. Third Wave Feminism wants to create equality for all people, of any gender and any race/ethnicity/sexuality. Feminists are just primarily tackling woman-related issues by taking on initiatives to help promote the idea that women can pursue any field they want to (if they have the proper qualifications, of course), can dress any way they want to, and can receive equal respect and compensation for their work. They do this through grants, awareness campaigns, and other methods.
Basically, Third Wave Feminism relates to the idea that there is no role a woman has to or should play. Just like men, women and people of other genders should do what they’re best at and be who they choose to be. And that’s how they’ll be most beneficial to society.
Like I mentioned in the last post, feminism has been twisted into something it’s not lately…which is why people (myself included) are hesitant to identify as feminists. Feminism has become associated with man-hating, patriarchy-smashing, hairy-legged, self-entitled women. Really…all we want is equal respect, empowerment, and compensation for carrying out our part in society.
Feminism doesn’t demand more rights or special treatment of any sort. In fact, I think most Third Wave Feminists (leaving out the unbearably ignorant ones) would agree that women have the same tangible rights as men do. That being said, there are still some less-tangible roadblocks that exist for women in the workforce, higher levels of education, and society in general. And those are what Third Wave Feminism addresses.
If you have any comments or questions on Third Wave Feminism, gender equality, or anything else, feel free to leave them below!