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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Tai

A FEMINIST'S GUIDEBOOK

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

A collaboration with Boba Feminist, Emily Lin.


A Brief Introduction to the History of Feminism


Feminism [noun.]


“belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests”


— Miriam Webster


Over recent decades, the topic of feminism has founds its way dictating conversations in every sector of society. As it remains to be one of the major themes of modern history, the feminist movement has characterized the values of our generation, inspiring the establishment of new cultural boundaries along with revolutionary milestones of the sociopolitical fields. But behind the faces of radical protestors fighting in the frontlines of gender-based discrimination lie a great division that has become the crux of the movement’s strong opposition and slow progress. The polarized narratives of what makes a feminist has blinded humanity from feminism’s rawest definition: “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes”, a simple statement that could stand as a middle ground for people of diversified opinions.


“So many misconceptions caused by political polarization have held people back from joining the movement and I think that is the main reason why it has taken us so long to push for a movement that is so powerful in its essence… Despite being feminists, many women still separate themselves from one another because of political stances, religious beliefs, or other identities. The idea that the female population is a collective force when united should be brought to attention more.”


The feminist movement first gained momentum during its first wave in the mid 1800s when revolutionary leaders began introducing liberal ideas of universal suffrage for women. Not only did this groundbreaking celebration of unconventional ideas bring direct political changes to Western nations (such as passing women’s right to vote in the early 1900s), it further radicalized communities to greater tolerance towards gender equality, laying the ground of the second and third waves of the movement.



As the first wave of feminism awakened the world to a new perspective of women’s rights in politics, more and more people began demanding a solution to the historically unaddressed inequalities beyond universal suffrage. Through the second and third wave of feminism, the idea of equality between the genders started reaching the fields of education, domestic affairs (child-rearing, financial assets), and employment, furthermore ensuring legal equality through the letters of law. Not only did the movement revolutionize the role women plays in society, it recognized and empowered women beyond the superficial lines of race and religion, changing the narrative of feminism from that of a white, college-educated woman, to women of all identities.


Feminism Today


As the rising popularity of social media platforms and online forums created a groundbreaking liability on online resources in the early 2010s, new stories and information began circulating networks of people at an unprecedented pace with feminism being no different.


The fourth wave of feminism first took off in 2012 in an effort to raise awareness for topics in regards to sexual violence, body-shaming, and day-to-day misogyny through local initiatives like the women’s march, along with other large-scaled online projects such as the #MeToo movement. This not only jumpstarted conversations that have been censored for centuries, it became one of the keystone factors that gave voice and power to the female identity for what seems to be the first time in forever.


“Feminism is not only about women’s rights but (is) a very broad social issue. It impacts education, reproductive health, the economy, and even environmental issues… When we fight for gender equality, we are working on almost everything this world consists.”



The rudiments of feminism isn’t difficult to understand, but the movement’s nuances beyond the simple statements on protest posters has led to widespread division around the topic. With women’s rights and gender equality being present in every sector of our lives, it is ultimately inevitable for a simple topic as such to intertwine with larger themes of mainstream discussion. Thus, when heavily polarized themes like abortion, contraceptives, and other seemingly politically-charged subjects are brought into the conversation, the definition of what makes a feminist shifts from a belief in gender equality, to an unwritten set of qualifications based on one’s stances on these subjects. Subsequently, disagreements and moral conflicts have hurdled people from joining the movement, simultaneously blurring the shared goal and middle ground feminists once stood upon.



The Importance of the Feminist Movement


The extent to which sexism, misogyny, and gender stereotypes have been normalized in today’s world has come to exert immensely damaging effects on our society. From the disproportionality of females in leadership and political roles, to women’s inequitable access to healthcare and government benefits, to the unwarranted taxations on feminine hygiene products, to the infamous gender wage gap, to the rise of male suicides, to everyday transphobia, to workplace sexism… the list just never ends. Without the feminist movement, humanity will never be able to reach a place of equal opportunities.


“There are so many existing gender stereotypes based on traditional values in Taiwan and the younger generations are bearing the burden the inequality creates. Girls are extremely objectified in society. We are told to behave like ‘graceful ladies’, meaning to mute our opinions and listen to what the males in the room say, in order to not shame our families.”


Resolution


Every social movement has its loopholes, but the one motivation that has inspired activists to be a changemaker in the frontlines of injustice remains the same. Feminism isn’t just about the rights of women, it is about empowering and uplifting anybody, regardless of gender, that has been left in the gutters of society. By recognizing and moving past the flaws of mainstream feminism, the world can finally see the hidden figures buried in the shadows of ignorance and unfair supremacy.


“The power for change always lies within the people first, then the people create impacts that push for changes in the law. If rules and institutions that exhibit gender inequality are not recognized by the general public, then the first step of creating changes will never happen, so do all subsequent steps toward equality. It is the same logic as how democracy is theoretically explained. It is not the government who “creates” democracy but the people, because we ask for our voices to be heard, we fight for rights and freedom.”


Through arts, government, and the spirit of humanitarianism, the energy in which feminism beholds can shine through the conventional prejudice and introduce a new world of equality and kindness.


“All types of artistic expressions are amazing mediums when fighting for gender equality. I really love how pop culture is transforming from a toxic, misogynist environment to a more empowering, inclusive one. The film industry is more impactful than people think and it would be better if the art it presents can be more realistic (shows the real problems) and less Hollywood-ish. I also think that female artists, especially female artists of color, should be celebrated more upon!”


Read More!



Learn About the Detailed History of the Feminist Movement: https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/feminism-womens-history


References


"Feminism", HISTORY, February 28 2019, https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/feminism-womens-history. Accessed May 31 2021.

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