How Feminism Has Changed Over the Years

The original belief behind feminism had always been, the political, social and economical equality of the genders. It emerged in the late 19th Century because before that, women were often taken for granted, and were not seen to be as capable as men. At the time, it seemed natural to the society that men had more power than women and it was believed that women weren’t meant to get an education or be employed. They were often forced to look after their families and they would spend their childhood being trained to serve their future husbands. They did not have the same rights and the opportunities as men did, and were expected to behave certain ways, whether they liked it or not.

This all started to change with the first wave of feminism in the late 19th Century, when women from Europe and North America started to fight for their rights, regarding legal issues such as gaining women’s suffrage. By the early 20th Century, many countries had granted women’s rights to vote which led to a significant shift in women’s role in the society. Especially during the 1920s, women started to act out more and break the boundaries that had been set for them in the past. Even though, in most countries, women now had their political rights and the number of working women had increased greatly, in some parts of the world men were still considered to be the ‘superior’ gender. Therefore, in the late 1960s, the second wave of feminism, also known as Women’s Liberation Movement began. It focused mostly on the reproductive rights of women, workplace discrimination, domestic violence, rape and abortion. The third wave of feminism, which emerged in the 1990s, mainly revolved around sexuality.

These feminist movements have impacted women’s roles in society greatly and today women can get an education and work. However, although women have the same rights as men on paper, there still are many expectations and discrimination towards women in the modern society. For instance, even though women make up almost half of the world’s working population, many are still being paid less than men. The number of women facing sexual assault is much higher than men, and also the unrealistic expectations for women’s physical appearance and behaviour, still stand. Unfortunately, even
 though the actions against these still continue, in the eyes of many people of different sexes, the word feminism now means something completely different.

Over the years, as the idea of feminism evolved and became more common, it also started to be known as a negative movement. Pat Robertson once described it as “a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Eventually, the stereotype for a feminist became an ugly, uptight, aggressive, harsh, demanding and man-hating woman and it started to be considered as a negative movement towards men. For example, even though 82% of both men and women believe that the two genders should have equal rights, only 23% of women and 16% of men consider themselves to be feminists. This proves that feminism no longer carries the meaning it did a hundred years ago, and perhaps we need to change the word feminism to humanism, as feminism doesn’t seem to fit in with its initial purpose anymore.