Feminism is an idea and movement that has been critiqued by all groups of humans, and has been changing and evolving throughout history. Though there have been various waves and movements of feminism, there is one common goal; the established political, economic, cultural, personal, and social equality of women.
The first wave of feminism occurred in 1848, and is known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Humans in this movement actively fought for women’s right to vote among other women’s rights. In 1920, women finally won the fight for the right to vote through marches, rallies, and political work and engagement in other issues such as health reform, prison reform, and child labor law reform etc.
Women’s Suffrage Movement protests, photo from citelighter.com
The second wave of feminism occurred throughout the 1960’s. The National Organization for Women played a key role in this wave. Feminist activists in the second wave protested sex-segregated help wanted ads, fought for the repeal of abortion laws, lobbied for Equal Rights Amendment, among other protests.
Feminists in the third wave (1990’s-present) are critical of the previous two waves, but understand and appreciate the work that has already been done in the way of equality for women. Present feminists fight for equality of ALL women.
This concept was not heavily considered in the first and second waves of feminism. Equality for ALL women includes women of color, women of low-income status, trans* women, etc. This feminism recognizes that feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.
Inclusive feminism includes all races, photo from hellogiggles.com
Feminism is a spectrum, and current feminists fight for rights for all women regardless of any identity. Third wave feminism is about recognizing and being aware of the oppressive, patriarchal power systems in society for every identity, and being active about changing those systems.
After all of the fight put forth by women in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is now a real controversy in 2015: Women against feminism. Many individuals are disturbed by the misinformed and anti-feminist groups like Women Against Feminism who disregard the hard work that people went through to gain women’s rights and equality for our culture today. Not only that, but the group seems to lack understanding of the basic definition and ideals of feminism.
Women Against Feminism is a Tumblr account that displays pictures of women who give reasons for why they aren’t feminists, and why they do not approve or need feminism. There have been numerous responses to this claim, most individuals deeming the account as ridiculous and appalling, while others actually take light in some of the things that the account holders “got right.”
Photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com
Satirical responses were one type of response to Women Against Feminism that brought out the sarcasm and “are you serious” ideas, but another very real and well put argument was by an account user named I Wanted Wings. This user responded to the Women Against Feminism as a whole, to those women who posted their pictures with notes claiming that it’s the 21st century and that “we don’t need feminism.”
Satirical response to “Women Against Feminism”, photo from buzzfeed.com
This user brings to light that the feminism fight is not just for one woman, or for one culture; the user reminds readers of the women in the less developed and less equal countries who need feminism just to wear what they want, to be educated, to love who they want.
In an article on the Huffington Post (United Kingdom) blog, Louise Pennington responds to the Women Against Feminism Tumblr page, illustrating the sources of the movement’s failure as well as critiquing the way individuals may respond to the movement as a whole. Pennington is a feminist writer from the United Kingdom, who has academically written and spoken openly about topics ranging from women’s history to domestic and violence against women.
A woman shows why she does not need feminism, photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com
Pennington opens the article by listing several statements from the Women Against Feminism Tumblr and twitter account such as “I don’t need feminism because I’m a humanist.” It is clear from the images and statements posted by the Women Against Feminism group that the movement believes that a feminist wishes for women to be superior to men. Pennington points out that this misinterpreted belief stems from a lack of understanding of the term “feminist” and the overall goals of feminism.
Pennington then uses her knowledge of women’s history to list the demands of the 1970’s women’s liberation movement such as equal pay now and equal education and job opportunities. This information directly correlates to what women are fighting for today. She clearly lays out that feminists want to be seen as human equals to men rather than some power hungry group they are stereotyped to be.
Pennington identifies that many of these women posting on Women Against Feminism are young, white middle class women arguing for respect for a traditional family. Again, there is a lack of knowledge and inclusivity. The Women Against Feminism group is targeting the wrong enemy. Pennington points out the true source:
“The lack of understanding of the history of women’s work and the refusal to acknowledge that the ‘traditional family’ is a Victorian invention created for only white women is depressing. It is our capitalist economy which devalues the work of women within the home and engaged in childcare – not feminists.”
Another woman displaying why she “does not need feminism,” photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com
There are valid criticisms of feminism today such as racism or classism. However, the Women Against Feminism movement does not illustrate any of these issues, which shows the movement’s lack of understanding of feminism. Pennington uses this information to further explain why the Women Against Feminism movement is problematic:
“Feminism has not done enough to ensure that they have included women who are not white or middle class, but denigrating the work that women have done to help other women demonstrates the true power of the Patriarchy in dividing women. Feminism has made great improvements in the lives of some women and needs to work much harder to help others. Ironically, it is the women in the Women Against Feminism movement who have made the most gains from feminism.”
This leads Pennington to critique individuals who respond to the Women Against Feminism movement with insults. She states that by doing so, those individuals are becoming part of the problem replicate the patriarchal patterns used to silence women. Instead, Pennington calls for a real discussion to discover and question why women truly see feminism as a threat:
“Critiquing the Women Against Feminism tag…doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, and reproductive freedom…Instead of insulting the women who started the hashtag, let’s start a real discussion as to why women see feminism as threatening. Let’s start questioning their belief systems and pointing out the reality of the lives of women who do not have similar privileges.”
Feminists spreading awareness of white privilege and the misconception of reverse racism, photo from thefeministwire.com
Throughout the article, Pennington, like many other blogs all over the world, addressed misconceptions not only made by the Women Against Feminism but also many critiquing the movement in an unproductive way. Pennington’s closing statement give readers an indication that Pennington sees the Women Against Feminism movement as an issue that crosses all borders and an issue for all humans.
Feminism is not confined to any border. It is a major topic of discussion and life influence for people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and nationalities. In fact, a vast majority of countries received an address in 2014 by Emma Watson regarding her work with feminist ideals, and the founding of her foundation He for She, one that encourages the male population to stand up for inequalities of women.
Watson’s speech has experienced scrutiny in the months following, regarding its reinforcement of the gender binary, when so many of the people affected by the feminist movement don’t fit into “such tidy boxes,” as said by Amy McArthy, a blogger for the Huffington Post Women’s blog.
Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Stringer- Sociology.about.com
In Watson’s discourse, she discusses the gender stereotype pressures that men feel in today’s society as well, but just as the problem that McArthy had with the name of the foundation; the content of the address maintains the gender binary issues felt by the blogger, and other critics of Watson.
This is not the Huffington post writer’s only problematic highlight though. The post goes on to point out the focus of the “privileged white woman,” without observation of the much wider gap in equality felt by minority women, pointed out by McArthy: “When Watson speaks of equal pay, she’s talking about the white women who make 78% of their white male counterparts, not the 46% gap that Latina women face in the workplace.”
Numbers that were actually found incorrect with research where aauw.org reported that the gap for Latina women was actually found to be, most recently, 54%; though still solidifying the staggering difference in the minority woman’s pay. The author has a legitimate point, summing her position up with the fact that “He For She and Emma Watson are having fails to invite the people whose voices need to be heard most to the table,” in reference to transgender, minority, and women in less developed countries. Watson’s feminism seems to align more with first and second wave feminism, which were exclusive.
Author Team: Julia Schaller, Skyler Alderton, Connie Liou, Conner Slater