Feminist Movement Essay: What, How and When


Feminism is relatively new phenomenon, but its roots go deep into Ancient times. We want to share with you information on feminism presented in this feminist movement essay, so that you have an idea of what feminism is, what stages of its development are, and what form it has now.

What is feminism?

Feminism is a phenomenon, which can be studied at least from two sides. First of all, it is political movement connected with woman fight for equality. This aspect is usually associated with classic feminism, in particular the movement of suffragists, who demanded to give women the right to vote. We think that such problems belong to past, but not so much time ago, in the beginning of the 20th century women did not have right to vote almost everywhere in the world. As a result of feminists’ victories we successfully forgot about this fact.

Second of all, feminism is intellectual movement, in fact it is philosophical movement, which by its content and argumentations is much more diverse than classic political feminism.

Origin of the term

Term “feminism” appear in the beginning of the 19th century. At that time the term implies combination of features characteristic to women. As well as there are specific male features or masculine features, also there is femininity or “feminism”.

Till the end of the 19th century in the context of suffragists’ movement a word “feminist” appears, originally French, which we use to call activists of female movement. In such a way, till the beginning of the 20th century the meaning of the term gradually changes. The last 100 year saying “feminists” we mean women who fight for their rights. The rights they fight for can be absolutely various, and fight is not always for formal political equality.

Feminism origins

Ideas close to feminism are present in west culture since the Ancient times. Plato  in his works used to say that there are no obstacles for a woman to become head of the country. If a woman is enough talented and intelligent, then she should have the same rights that the most intelligent and talented men. The elements of feminism can be found in Middle Ages and in the age of Renaissance.

It is considered that the first feminist was Englishwoman Mary Wollstonecraft, who lived in the end of the 18th century. In her tractate “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, which is one of the first works of feminist philosophy, she sets the questions connected with woman fate: how much woman differs from man, whether the statements that women are less intelligent are fair, how maternity and house labor influence role of a woman. The main Wollstonecraft’s statement that caused scandal was that woman can manage her life on her own. Another feminist Mary Estelle based on rationalist philosophy of Descartes, who did not make difference between man and woman. Wollstonecraft was under the influence of Russo and had polemics with him. When we read these early texts, caricature image of feminists falls apart: they offer diverse, often ironic and sometimes unexpected argumentation. For example, Estelle as an alternative to marriage and woman’s transition into man’s “owning” offered creation of female “secular monastery”.

Among first feminists there was at least one man, classic of liberal philosophy John Stuart Mill, who in 1869 published his essay “The Subjection of Women” to support women’s rights. Most men however were against feminism. Partially because they just could not understand what women wanted. Once a man-writer as a response to Wollstonecraft’s publication claimed that to demand protection of women’s rights is the same as to demand protection of pets’ rights. As a response to the movement of suffragists there was “classic refusal”: only the ugliest women who can not find decent husband become feminists.

The first and the second waves of feminism

It is easy to define the first wave of feminism. It is the fight of women for the political equality and opportunity to vote and be voted. The first feminists appealed to liberal ideas: people have equal rights regardless their sex.

Suffragists were very powerful movement of public politics in Great Britain and the USA, women united and succeeded. In 1920 in the United States there was adopted the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, according to which sex can not be an obstacle for taking part in political life and, in particular, in elections. After this event many people thought that feminisms stopped to exist, because women reached their main goal, and other problems could be solved by politicians whom women voted for.

The second feminism wave takes place in the 1960s and now it is much more complex phenomenon. Here oppression is not just about political life. It turns out that political equality does not eliminate oppression in family, at work. Feminists of the second wave criticize the idea that the main woman occupation is maternity, which implies career refusal, care about the house. They criticized the thesis that women should not express themselves outside their “women world”, that a man is natural extravert and woman is natural introvert, and this social work division is defined by some natural rules.

The list of issues associated with feminism becomes wider now: it is violence (real, house, symbolic – for example, boys say “do not be like a girl”, as if being a girl is something offensive), critic of gender roles, payment problem, unpaid house work are considered social problems. In general now we talk about problematisation of a woman’s role in culture.

The second wave did not fulfill all the goals, the problems that feminists of 1960s described, still exist in modern world. However during the second wave real social revolution happened: women on the West entered the labor market, what led to growth of society well-being and to absolutely new conception of gender politics.

The third wave of feminism

The third wave of feminism started in 1990s. it is an attempt to apply actual philosophical ideas to gender researches. On this stage it is difficult to talk about some theoretical unity of feminism ideas.

The key issue is an attempt to understand how gender roles, male and female, are being formed, how we become men and women. What makes us be man or woman? Here another question arises: can other gender roles exist? So called queer theory studies variety of gender identities.

In the third wave we should mention the movement called Riot Grrrl based on esthetics of not only free, but empowered woman who is able to be self-sufficient, talented, leading in the social world, and in this issue she is better than men. Riot Grrrl claimed that push-up bra does not contradict the presence of brains, and made it fashionable again to have aggressive make-up and high heels, which previously were considered a symbol of oppression from the side of men.

In such a way feminism of the third way tends to freedom from limits in general and from limits imposed by old feminism.

Liberal and radical feminism

Liberal feminism implies that feminism is first of all history about rights equality of men and women. Liberal feminism is mainstream and in the west world big political parties are oriented on it. West political correctness to women is also product of liberalism.

Radical feminism implies that anyway men are interested in keeping regime of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a special term that indicates the principal of cultural, political and economic domination of men. Man is a hunter, man is the one who acts, while woman is the one who waits, woman is free house and sexual servant.

Strong and at the same time weak point of radical feminism is that feminists are against not only different old forms of social system, but also against modern liberal democracy of west type. One of the numerous ideas of radical feminism is “lesbian separatism”. It implies that women should not have sexual relations with men at all, because any form of sexual relations with man continues the centuries old tradition of oppression.

Feminism has passed long way in its development and now still continues to develop. I hope this feminist theory essay helped you to understand this issue better. If this feminist essay is not exactly what you need, contact our supportive team on We will listen to you and do our best to write an essay according to your demands and remarks. Make your life easier and more pleasant with

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