I thought I should start the first post of this year by giving a theoretical background to feminism as some readers have told me that sometimes my posts can get too theoretical and thus not accessible to all. It is imperative that Feminism become properly understood by people in general and not just the students in some arts corner of a university.
The feminist movement has been divided into the First, Second, Third and the Fourth wave which is the ongoing one. The first wave feminism focused on legal inequalities and pressed for equal rights for women, most importantly voting rights. The second wave feminism moved on from there and focused on a wider range of issues such as sexuality, abortion rights, violence against women etc. The third wave which began around the 1990s, broadened the movement which had begun in the affluent western countries, to include women from different parts of the world. It recognized the fact that women cannot be considered as a unified whole and in different parts of the world and in different communities, their needs and ways of oppression are different. From here on feminism does not have a single definition. The movement becomes more individualized in the sense that a single voice of feminism does not attempt speak for all women, but women speak for themselves. This also means that a woman’s ability to exercise choice becomes more important than anything else. The Fourth wave which began around 2012 is majorly dedicated to abolishing the rape culture, justice for rape victims etc. #metoo campaign that we saw last year and the protests in support of the Delhi gang rape victim in 2012 are all part of the fourth wave of feminism.
While this is the path that western feminism has taken, in other parts of the world, the different waves of feminism are still in motion. As I wrote in an earlier post, Saudi women just won voting rights and they have a long struggle in front of them. In this context, a guardian article argued that feminism now prioritizes gender identity over bread and butter issues. Thinking in that vein, it can be said that feminism itself isn’t as important as bread and butter issues, right? It is this kind of ‘hierarchy’ among social causes that relegates feminism to some kind of elite activism, which it is not and should never be.
I also acknowledge all those people who do great work for women, but refuse to call themselves feminists. What is important is that the female condition gets better. However, I am still wondering what’s in a label? Exactly. Let’s hope that this year Feminism becomes a less threatening word.