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The Four Waves Of Feminism 

The United States has witnessed organized feminist movements calling for more freedom for women in politics, economics, and culture since the mid-19th century. Nevertheless, not all of these movements have undertaken the same goals, acted in the same ways, or included the same types of women in their causes. As a result of these generational differences, feminism is commonly divided into four distinct waves, each roughly corresponding to a different period in history.


First Wave: 1848 - 1920

At Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first organized movement to secure rights for American women in July 1848. They passed several resolutions, calling for specific rights such as the right to vote, and the attendees signed the Declaration of Sentiments affirming women's equality.


Second Wave: 1963 - 1980s

Betty Friedan published her book The Feminine Mystique in 1963, in which she argued women chafed against the restrictions placed on them as wives and mothers. 

She sold 3 million copies in three years, and the second wave of feminism was born. The second wave of feminists drew inspiration from the civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War. They called for an end to sexist discrimination and reevaluating traditional gender roles.

In the 1970s, feminism grew more potent as a political force as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Abzug came together to form the National Women's Political Caucus. The second wave resulted in the Equal Pay Act and the landmark Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade (1973) and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).

The second wave of feminism also drew criticism for its emphasis on privileged white women, and some Black women formed their feminist organizations, such as the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). In 1980, however, the women's liberation movement lost momentum when conservative forces elected Ronald Reagan to the White House.


​​Third Wave: 1990s -

Women had undoubtedly achieved greater equality and rights due to second-wave feminism. The movement that emerged in the early 1990s focused on problems that still existed (sexual harassment at work and the lack of women in positions of authority). Rebecca Walker, the daughter of second-wave feminist Alice Walker, announced the arrival of feminism's "third wave" in 1992. 

Third-wave feminists embraced a spirit of rebellion rather than reform, encouraging women to be authentic and express their individuality. Several embraced more traditionally feminine fashion and grooming to set themselves apart from second-wave feminists. 

As well as being more inclusive in terms of race and gender, third-wave feminism sought to be more progressive. The feminist movement of the third wave also drew inspiration from gender theorist Judith Butler, along with their support for trans rights.


Fourth Wave: Present Day

Despite the difficulty of defining fourth-wave feminism, as some believe it is simply a continuation of the third, social media has enabled a new wave of activism. 

During the fourth wave of feminism, women take responsibility for their actions and point the focus to the systems that enable them. As with previous feminist movements, they are also grappling with intersectionality and how to make the movement more inclusive and accessible to all, irrespective of sexuality, race, class, or gender. 

Resources : 

Pruitt, Sarah. “What Are the Four Waves of Feminism?” HISTORY, 2022, Accessed 20 Mar. 2022.

Soken-Huberty, Emmaline. “Types of Feminism: The Four Waves.” Human Rights Careers, 28 Feb. 2021, Accessed 20 Mar. 2022.

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