In today’s era of reckoning, strength, and empowerment, it is important to remember the generations of powerful women who fought for equality and contributed to the victories that we have captured, as well as those that we will continue to pursue. Each wave of feminism - from the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century to the current Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns - has brought about social and economic change through the positive, effective partnership between the sexes and women’s support of each other. Let us take pride in the positive effects of today’s feminist movement while honoring the hard work of women’s rights activists that led us here.
Votes for Women
Within the 19th and 20th centuries, the First Wave of feminism primarily focused on legal issues, particularly a woman’s right to vote.
All-star feminist from this period: Alice Paul. An American suffragist, civil rights activist and one of the leading strategists during the campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. To demonstrate her support for her fellow female activists, she purposefully got herself arrested and began a hunger strike in prison.
The Problem with No Name
In 1963, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published, jumpstarting the Second Wave of the feminist movement. This phase of women’s rights focused its attention on “the problem that has no name,” as Friedan called it, referring to the widespread female feeling of discontentment and boredom with the traditional housewife and mother role. This became a critical precursor period for intersectional feminism, as identities of race, ethnicity, and social status influenced the individual experiences of women in America.
All-star feminist from this period: Betty Friedan. Author of The Feminine Mystique and co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which strived to bring gender equality to American society.
Following the coining of the term, “intersectionality,” by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, feminists in America began voicing their individual experiences through punk rock music and spoken word. In the early 1990s, the underground feminist punk Riot Grrrl movement began in Olympia, Washington. During this Third Wave, women began rocking out to loud, aggressive feminist music, belting out the issues plaguing women -- including domestic abuse, rape culture, and the patriarchy.
All-star feminists from this period: Riot Grrrl Bands. Some of the premier musical leaders of feminism’s Third Wave. They used their creative voices to highlight intersectional feminist issues -- like homophobia, ageism, and racism, to name a few.
On January 1, 2018, the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment was founded by a number of powerful women in Hollywood as an organized response to the accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread #MeToo trend, which was founded by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006. During the 2018 awards season, many honorees attended the events dressed in black to signify their solidarity with the movement, while many attendees also invited survivors of sexual abuse as their guests to the show. Since its creation, Time’s Up has raised over $20 million for its legal defense fund.
All-star feminist from this period: Nina Shaw. One of the founding members of the Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment and a strong representative for women of color in the movement. She has also voiced the immense importance of the male participation within the gender equality movement.
If we can remember the strong women who came before us, we can face today’s challenges with an informed perspective and gratitude for our past female fighters. With each generation, we have gotten closer to gender equality, while new issues appear as well. Along with the guidance of our feminist ancestors and support for today’s feminist leaders, we can continue to make strides in the right direction. As a young feminist, I have never felt more motivated.