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Transcript of FEMINISM
First Wave Feminism
English writer and passionate advocate of educational and social equality for women.
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters
which spoke of her ‘horror of intelligent women being subject to rich fools’.
her employer came to stand for all that she thought was wrong in women; a frivolous nature, exaggerated weakness and complete dependence of men for identity.
A Vindication of the Rights of Men
in 1790 and
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Both were public letters in reaction to texts by men considered oppressors of women, which generally argued conservatively and proposed female education should be based on preparing girls to be ‘useful to and supportive’ of men.
She portrayed the position of an aristocratic woman as sitting at the apex of the class and gender systems; a failed mother, obsessed with appearance and living an empty life and thoughtless existence aimed at male admiration.
‘the wife, mother, and human creature were all swallowed up by the factitious character which an improper education and the selfish vanity of beauty had produced.’
Mary Wollstonecraft’s personal life played a significant role in the development of her feminist theory, as her complicated and at times dramatic relationships provided constant conflicts of ideas and contributed to Wollstonecraft’s private struggle with depression.
After two suicide attempts, Wollstonecraft published
Letters from Sweden
in 1796, which revealed contradictions between her own neediness and dependence and her longing for freedom and autonomy.
The Wrongs of Woman detailed a woman’s need for companionship, sexual freedom, intelligence and independence;
The novel was unfinished due to 38 year old Mary Wollstonecraft’s tragic and untimely death, following complications in the birth of her second child.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s philosophies were radical and controversial; her promotion of social and moral gender equality and discussion of female sexual desire earned her considerable criticism that resulted in quite a damaged reputation.
Wollstonecraft is now regarded as the grandmother of British feminism. Her ideas shaped the thinking of future feminists and brought attention to women’s issues in the eighteen century.
Even as the late as the early 20th century, women were barred from the right to vote and hold elective office across the Western world; they were prevented from conducting business without male representation, exercising control over their own children without their husband’s permission and has little and restricted access to education and employment.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century and extending to early twentieth, the first wave was an international movement primarily concerned with gaining women’s suffrage, or the right to vote, which would eventually extend to legal, political and educational equality.
All across The United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, women lobbied for the right to vote.
The first of the Western nations to grant women’s suffrage being New Zealand in 1893, with the State of South Australia following close behind in 1894.
Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 enabled all white, adult women to vote and stand for election for the federal Parliament.
In 1902, the newly established Australian Parliament passed the Commonwealth Franchise Act, which enabled all white, adult women to vote and stand for election for the federal Parliament.
Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany all granted women the right to vote in 1918, following Finland in 1906 and Denmark and Iceland in 1915.
The United States did not allow national suffrage for women until 1920. England enabled women the right to vote in 1918, but only for women over the age of 30; it was not until 1928 that all women over the age of 21 were given full voting and parliamentary rights.
(The Suffrage Movement)
A leading British women's rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote.
Married lawyer Richard Pankhurst in 1879; together, the Pankhurst’s founded the Women’s Franchise League before Richards’s tragic death in 1899; leaving Emmeline widowed with four children to support.
In 1903, Pankhurst, along with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, formed the Women’s Social and Political Union to campaign for women’s suffrage. The organisation first raised the issue through peaceful lobbying and appeals to politicians; however Pankhurst knew that in order to bring attention to her cause, a campaign of disobedience would have to be utilised.
Christened British suffragettes, their demonstrations included flour bombing, window smashing and arson, as well as using acid to burn ‘Votes for Women’ into golf courses. The suffragettes used shock to their advantage; they chained themselves to railings and planted homemade bombs in letter boxes, resorting to hunger strikes if they happened to be caught and arrested.
Pankhurst herself was arrested on numerous occasions and took part in hunger strikes, resulting in violent force-feeding that gained the arrested women much sympathy from the public. In one of her many trials, she referred to herself as ‘a prisoner of war’.
In 1913, WSPU member Emily Davison was killed at the Derby horse race. In protest of the governments continued failure to grant women the right to vote, Davison threw herself under the King’s horse, dying four days later from her injuries. Remembered as the martyr of the struggle for women’s suffrage, Davison’s funeral was one of the biggest suffragette demonstrations of the time.
On the outbreak of World War One in 1914, Pankhurst and the suffragettes turned their energies to supporting the war effort. Women filled the jobs of men as they left for war and worked alongside the ones who remained. As Britain emerged victorious, it was clear that society now accepted the idea of gender equality, and that women should be granted the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act allowed voting rights to women over the age of 30;
Pankhurst continued her more reserved support for women’s suffrage up until her death on the 14th June 1928, just weeks before the Conservative government's Representation of the People Act extended the vote to all women over 21 years of age on July 2, 1928.
Second-wave feminism was the movement that swept across the Western world throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, generating major progressive achievements for women in society.
Major achievements included the formation of many legislative guarantees for equal opportunities in the workplace and gaining unrestricted access to contraception for women as debates about gender, discrimination, and the nature of equality seized the attention of the Western nations.
the second-wave bought issues affecting women, most which were previously considered ‘private’ matters, into the public sphere; subjects like domestic violence and rape, contraception, divorce and the sexuality of women were exposed through various works from feminists and civil right activists alike.
Second Wave Feminism
Greer is widely regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the twentieth century and second-wave movement.
Greer’s ground-breaking feminist book, the Female Eunuch, was published in 1970 and became an immediate international bestseller.
The book, written while Greer was working as an English lecturer at Warwick University, declares that sexual liberation is the key to women’s liberation; the repression of female sexuality is undermining and the source of their inferiority, rendering them ‘eunuchs’- traditionally referring to a man castrated for the sake of disempowerment.
The Female Eunuch presents Greer’s belief that women had somehow been alienated from their libido; one of the main ideas represented surrounds the way women ‘embrace the stereotypical femininity produced by men’, resulting in women who are left powerless, isolated and sexually diminished.
Naturally, The Female Eunuch received as much criticism as it did praise from both men and women alike. Greer stated that she was prepared to lose all her arguments as long as the arguments would be raised and subsequently stir up debate.
The milestone book, translated in eight languages, had almost sold out in less than six months, with Greer having opened up a whole discourse of women’s emancipation from stereotypes and repression.
In 1984, she published Sex and Destiny – a condemnation of wester attitudes to sexuality, fertility and family – and The Change in 1992 as she experienced menopause. Greer then wrote The Whole Woman in 1999 at age 60, examining the lives of women in the late twentieth century and the problems that were yet to be overcome.
Seeks to challenge what the second-wave feminists deemed a universal female identity, which often over-emphasized the experiences of the upper-middle white woman.
The movement builds on the foundations put down by the previous wave; However, the third-wave theory also incorporates elements of anti-racism, women-of-colour consciousness, queer theory and artistic expression.
The third-wave also motivated women to rely more on their own voice to achieve change; they emphasized the importance of having the voices of individuals heard rather than a concrete political message. These aspects of new and old feminism combined to give rise to the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990’s; a movement that brought real, every day, down-to-earth issues and the people it affected into the feminist spotlight.
The Riot Grrrl movement began in Washington, USA and attempted to create a political and social climate where women could truly be equal citizens to men.
They worked to teach women how to utilize their legal, political and social power; what good were legal powers if women didn’t feel as though they were ‘good enough’ to exercise them?
The third-wave and Riot Grrrl movement also aimed to take back words that were used to refer to women in derogatory ways.
Rather than censoring the word from the English-language, modern feminists preferred to change the connotation; the most successful reclamation being of the word bitch, fuelled by 1994 single ‘All Women are Bitches’ by the Riot Grrrl band Fifth Column and the 1999 book by Elizabeth Wurtzel, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women.
With many legal barriers destroyed by the previous waves, the third wave sought to bring down the ideologies of the inferiority of women. The idea that white men had to grant women permission to the right of their own bodies fuelled modern feminists into wanting to remove men from the positions that gave them power over the rights of women.
I intend to scream, shout, race the engine, call when I feel like it, throw tantrums in Bloomingdale's if I feel like it and confess intimate details about my life to complete strangers. I intend to do what I want to do and be whom I want to be and answer only to myself: that is, quite simply, the bitch philosophy.
For both the first and second wave feminist movements, gaining rights for women was more about gaining rights for white upper-middle women, as women of colour and the lower working class were largely excluded. However, the third wave, which followed the creation of various anti-racism and anti-discrimination laws across the Western world, combined the factor of race into the aim of fully liberating and equalising the sexes.
Third-Wave Feminism and the simultaneous Riot Grrrl Movement worked to establish a society that would respect gender equality, not just on the political and legal stage, but in everyday life. The movements contributed to the creation of equal opportunities for women in education, employment and politics as well as cementing the idea that a woman controls her own body and matters concerning it; including increased access to various forms of contraception, the widespread legalisation and privatisation of abortion and the overall sexual liberation for women, regardless of race, class or religion.